Fitness Equipment Reviews

Compare Cybex Arc Trainers, Precor Ellipticals & Life Fitness Ellipticals

The elliptical trainer is one of the most popular forms of cardio for weight loss, cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength that exists. A new variant on the elliptical is the Arc Trainer from Cybex. The Cybex Arc Trainer is lauded by many as being more joint friendly than such ellipticals as the Precor or Life Fitness. But is it really a better overall option? In this article, we compare the Cybex Arc Trainer with the Precor Elliptical and the Life Fitness Elliptical so that you can make an informed decision.

Cybex Arc Trainer

The Cybex Arc Trainer is a variation of the elliptical trainer that has the pedals moving through an arcing rather than an elliptical motion. Cybex have been making Arc Trainers since 2003 and there are two types available; lower body and whole body. The lower body arc trainer involves pedaling with the lower body, while your upper body remains stationary. The whole body version brings the upper body into the movement with a skiing type action. There are a number of Cybex models for both home and commercial use.
Cybex Arc Trainers are designed to be more joint friendly than elliptical machines. Because your foot is moving in an arcing rather than an elliptical motion, your toes don’t move behind your knee, reducing stress on the knee. The arcing motion is claimed to be more natural and user friendly. The back and forth motion of the arc trainer also simulates our everyday walking action making it more functional than an elliptical.
The Arc Trainer allows you to increase the intensity of your workout by adjusting the resistance level, increasing the incline and upping the stride rate. As the incline becomes steeper, the trainer becomes a stepper rather than a walker. It is, therefore, a combination of three machines:
  • Arc Trainer
  • Skier
  • Stepper
One of the most popular in the Cybex Arc Trainer range is the 770AT. This is a commercial high end cross trainer that features a Cybex E3 view embedded monitor that provides 3 distinct viewing modes on a 15.6” high definition screen.
This is a good option for trainers who are after a HIIT style workout as well as those interested in general fitness and fat loss. It features 21 incline levels, a 24-inch stride length, moving arms with curved multi grip handles and a range of inbuilt training programs.
  • 3 machines in one
  • More natural motion
  • 21 incline levels
  • 24-inch stride length

Precor Elliptical

Precor is a high end fitness manufacturer with more than 30 years of industry experience. In fact, they are the inventors of the elliptical trainer. Their EFX range of ellipticals was introduced in 1995 and are today one of the most popular in the world. Their top of the range 2021 offering is the EFX 835 Crosstrainer. This is a commercial level trainer that features Precor’s CrossRamp technology which better mimics a person’s converging range of motion.
The incline angle on the EFX 835 ranges from 13 to 40 degrees and it provides 20 different levels of resistance. There are 15 preset training programs on this machine. The patented reduced impact elliptical motion delivers a very smooth hip action and reduced muscle and tendon stress compared with other brands. This machine also provides reverse motion to allow you to focus more on working the glutes and hamstrings. It also features a natural converging stride path for a more natural elliptical motion.
The EFX Elliptical, and any elliptical differs from the Precor AMT, which uses adaptive motion technology by which the elliptical adjusts to your movement pattern. Their latest innovation is Open Stride which allow you to adjust both the length and height of the stride.
The EFX 835 is a self powered machine that does not require proximity to a power outlet.
  • Cross Ramp Technology + natural converging stride path for smooth, natural motion
  • Incline from 13-40 degrees
  • 20 resistance levels
  • Reduced impact

Life Fitness Elliptical

Life Fitness is another major player in the home and commercial cardio equipment market. Their Club Series of ellipticals are designed for commercial use, featuring the X1, X3 and X5 models. The stride length ranges between 18 and 24 inches, with the X5 allowing for stride length adjustment to the maximum of 24 inches. Life Fitness ellipticals are known for their durable frames as evidenced by the lifetime frame warranty that you get with every model.
Most Life Fitness Elliptical models provide both Android and Apple compatibility on their consoles, along with a range of inbuilt workouts (The Club Series + provides 10 training programs). The Club Series features a rear drive design to allow you to move in both directions. The maximum user weight on the majority of the Club Series ellipticals is 400 pounds.
  • Adjustable stride length to 24 inches
  • Lifetime frame warranty
  • Rear drive design
  • Synchronized upper and lower body movement

Which is Best?

So how does the Cybex Arc Trainer compare with two of the most popular ellipticals on the market? Back in 2012 the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Wisconsin – La Cross compared the Arc Trainer with the Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT) 100i elliptical in terms of joint friendliness. The researchers concluded that the arcing motion of the Cybex machine was less stressful on the knees of users than the elliptical motion of the Precor machine.
Another study conducted by the researchers at the University of Wisconsin – La Cross focused on the effectiveness of the cardio workout achieved on the Cybex Arc Trainer compared to two precor ellipticals; the Precor AMT and the standard Precor elliptical.
Study participants were told to train at the same intensity on all 3 machines. Even though the perceived rate of work was the same, the participants burned 16% more calories on the Cybex than on the standard Precor and 9% more than on the Precor AMT.
In another study, all three machines – the Cybex Arc Trainer, Precor and Life Fitness Ellipticals – were compared in relation to their joint friendliness. The study results led the lead researcher, Dr Graham Caldwell of the University of Massachusetts to state that “… athletes with anterior knee pain may wish to avoid the higher patellofemoral force and eccentric knee power associated with Precor and Life Fitness exercise…” It was found that the knee stress of the elliptical motion is like lunging, whereas that of the arc motion was like walking. As a result, there was significantly more stress on the knee joint when using the Precor and Life Fitness machines.

The Bottom Line

The Cybex Arc Trainer produces less knee joint stress than either the Precor or Life Fitness ellipticals. It also burns more calories and allows for a more intense, natural and functional workout. Those factors make the Cybex a better training option than either the Precor of Life Fitness Elliptical.

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