When it comes to buying the a cross trainer, one often overlooked yet crucial factor to consider is the stride length of the machine, particularly if you are tall. Check out our comparison article on the best ellipticals for a tall person.
Stride length is important for the effectiveness of your workout, if you have a good stride length it will feel like a natural fluid motion without any noise.
But what is the ideal stride length for an elliptical? The ideal stride length is 20 inches. This stride length has been shown to fit most elliptical users comfortably. Most elliptical manufacturers report that people between 5’3″ and 6′ can use an elliptical with a 20 inch stride length. Although 20 inches is most common it does depend on the users height.
In this article we will go through stride length in detail and show you how to find the best stride length for your dimensions.
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How to measure Stride Length for Elliptical?
The length between the pedals on an elliptical trainer when they’re at their furthest point away from one another is known as stride length. Stride length impacts the effectiveness of your workout as it determines how comfortable the movement is for you as you pedal forwards and backwards.
Elliptical trainers or cross trainers are designed to provide a low impact workout that simulates either running or walking. With this in mind, the stride length should be similar to the stride you take when you walk.
The reason being is you will feel uncomfortable and cramped if the stride length is too short. On the other hand you will be stretching too much if the stride length is too long. For these reasons it’s important to get the stride length perfect so it feels like a natural and comfortable movement.
People with short legs typically have a short stride length when they walk, compared to people with long legs who have a long stride length when they walk. On this basis, its important to understand that certain ellipticals are more suitable for shorter users and other models will be better suited to tall people.
Check out this useful video on how to determine the stride length for elliptical machine
What is the optimal stride length?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this question. As everyone differs in height it is a direct correlation to stride length so it would be impossible to give a universal optimal stride length. With different elliptical trainers being better for individual needs.
Generally speaking, 20 inches is the most common stride length found in popular elliptical trainers for commercial and personal use. This stride length of 20 inches is comfortably designed to suit those with a height of 5’ 3 – 6’.
Elliptical Stride Length for 5’9
If you are 5’9 and want the most comfortable stride length for you, 18”-20” is a good starting point.
If you are looking to buy an elliptical for home use you can choose the one that’s most comfortable and caters to your needs. Remember the above stride length of 20 inches is often found in ellipticals in the gym so they have to cater for as many people as possible.
This is because they have a flatter motion so you will need a longer stride length to get the same feel and comfort from a rear drive system. In comparison, a 20 inch stride on a front drive system would equate to around an 18 inch stride on a rear drive system.
Choosing the right stride length for elliptical
When purchasing an elliptical for home use you have the chance to consider all options, features and make the right choice for you. Stride length is one of these important options and they can vary between elliptical trainers.
A good rule of thumb is to know that larger ellipticals have a longer stride length while compact ellipticals offer a shorter stride length, so take this into account.
To estimate the ideal stride length for an elliptical, use your height as a guide. Below is detailed average stride length by height. It’s important to note that this is a general guide and gait patterns, leg length can differ between each height category.
With this in mind the ideal stride length for an elliptical can vary what’s suggested in the table, but only by 1-2 inches. Use this table as a reference point when making a decision.
Best Stride Length For Elliptical
The below table is considered a universal recommendation for the optimal stride length based on your height.
Optimal Elliptical Stride Length for Your Height Chart
Optimal Stride Length
5’0” – 5’3”
5’4” – 5’8”
5’9” – 6’0”
Now that you have found the range of stride length you are applicable to its time to test out some elliptical trainers. If you don’t have the opportunity to physically test a machine a good alternative is to simply measure on the floor what the stride length will be, you can step between the stride which will give you a good feel for whether it is comfortable or not.
Remember, an elliptical trainer simulates walking, so if it feels comfortable to walk on the measured space it will feel comfortable on an elliptical stride. It’s important to get the stride length right because if you suffer from shin splints, it could put unnecessary strain on them.
Unsure on your stride Length? Go Bigger
If you’ve applied your own height to the above table and are still unsure whether the stride length is right for you, it’s best to size up. By sizing up you’ll have a comfortable stride and allow for extra room for more flexibility.
It’s unlikely you will tell the difference between an additional 1-2 inches in stride, particularly if you are shorter you do not want to have a stride that is too short which will be uncomfortable and affect your elliptical workouts.
In addition to this, research shows that a longer stride length on an elliptical promotes greater activation in the glutes. So not only will a longer stride length be more comfortable and accommodating but also help further stimulate the muscles in your legs and burn extra calories.
Benefits of Choosing the Right Stride length
As we’ve already established there are a number of benefits to taking the time to find the optimal stride length for you. Getting it right will dictate the feel of your workout. If the stride length is either too long or short it will feel uncomfortable.
At the end of the day you are getting an elliptical to provide you an effective, full body workout. You want this to be the focus and you want to feel comfortable getting the best workout possible every time.
Once stride length is optimised you can start to focus on specific muscles in the body by pedalling backwards or forwards. Doing this you can tone your weaker areas and get a higher calorie burn.
How to Adjust Stride Length on Elliptical
Many elliptical models have the ability to manually change the length of the stride. Some more expensive models also offer power adjustments. To check your specific model requirements, check the manufacturers manual but here is a quick overview on how to change the stride length:
Manual – Turn the adjustment knob at the located bottom of the pedals. There are usually a number of knobs that allow for adjustment. The rear drive adjustment knob, dual adjustment knobs and arm combos. On rear drive models, pull the adjustment knob out then slide the bracket forwards or backwards which will lengthen/shorten the stride. Make sure when doing this manually both sides are adjusted to the same length.
Power – Many expensive ellipticals offer power adjustment to change the length of the users stride. To make the adjustment you can press the power ramp increase or decrease button. This button is located on the console. Changing the level of the power ramp automatically adjusts the stride length.
Elliptical Machine Stride Length
Stride length on the elliptical machine is an important consideration when purchasing one. Finding the optimal or at least comfortable stride length if you want to focus on a safe, low-impact workout consistently. If you haven’t determined the correct stride length for you it won’t only put you off working out on it but also may cause injury.
As long as your strides do not feel overstretched or cramped and you can maintain proper form then you are in the right range. Its important to test the machine prior but use our guide if you do not have the opportunity to do so.