The arc trainer made by Cybex International is similar to an elliptical, but seems to solve all the problems I ever had with elliptical workouts. This article describes how I discovered the arc trainer and why it’s my new low-impact cardio machine of choice.
My Low-impact Workout Saga
After injuring my Achilles tendon over a year ago, I had to give up running. It was difficult, but I was able to find other forms of exercise that worked for me, including yoga and training on elliptical machines. Of course, the amount that I exercised went down drastically, because, let’s face it, ellipticals just aren’t that much fun compared to running. Recently, however, I discovered an alternative to the elliptical that I think might get me to go to the gym a little bit more often.
My local recreation center has a type of machine called an arc trainer that I had never seen before. Apparently this type of cardio machine is only produced by one company, Cybex International, and that could be one reason that they are rarer than ellipticals. I tried the arc trainer out and found that I really like it.
An elliptical machine, of course, has two “pedals” that you stand on. These pedals move around elliptical paths (hence the name of the machine). You can also use handle bars to get a small amount of upper body work in. The ability to go around the ellipsis in both directions (backward and forward) is supposed to give you the opportunity to work more muscle groups in more ways than running. And for people with stress injuries like Achilles tendonitis, elliptical workouts are an obvious choice because the machine is very low impact.
An arc trainer is very similar to an elliptical, except that instead of moving around an ellipsis, the pedals move back and forth in an arc. You can’t change directions, but both feet end up going backward and forward during every repetition. Like ellipticals, the arc trainer is very low impact, which means that I can use it with my injured tendon. What I like best about the arc trainer, though, is how much more natural it feels compared to an elliptical.
The Downside to Elliptical Workouts
I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but elliptical workouts feel very weird to me. It took me a long time to figure out what to do with my hips – should they buckle? Should they kick out to the side every time my feet come around the path? Should they stay in one place, isolating my upper body while my legs do all the work? Maybe I’m just the wrong size and shape for the machine, but it always felt very contrived and unnatural. On top of that, I never seemed to be able to get the same kind of satisfying, strenuous workout that I got from running.
Why the Arc Trainer is Better
The arc trainer, much to my surprise, solved all the issues I had with ellipticals. Because it goes back and forth like your feet do when you walk, it does a better job of simulating running or hiking. The adjustable resistance and incline give you the ability to feel like you’re trekking through the mountains, and you can lean into or away from the handlebars as if they were ski poles. This gives you a real upper body workout, unlike the ineffective upper body workout ellipticals seem to provide. Best of all, 30 minutes on the arc trainer feels like a good accomplishment, unlike elliptical workouts, which always leave me feeling like I should have worked harder.
A Call for Competition
I’m not one to advertise particular products made by particular companies. It would be nice if other companies would start making machines similar to Cybex’s arc trainer so they could become more widespread. I think most people – at least, most people who really want to workout – would prefer the arc trainer, and if there were more options, they might even come to replace the ever-present elliptical in gyms and weight rooms.