Elliptical Trainer

Arc Trainer vs. Elliptical: Which Machine Should You Get?

You can use various kinds of gym equipment, but nothing gets your heart rate up like cardio devices!

Arc trainers and ellipticals are two devices that fill a similar niche and provide similar benefits, but we’re here to explain which is better in different cases in this guide.

Put your best foot forward and get ready to start your fitness journey. Read on!

Arc Trainer: An Overview

Arc Trainer Overview

Arc trainers are a relatively newer piece of exercise equipment from Cybex International designed to reduce the stress on your knee joints.

At first glance, they may look just like strangely-shaped elliptical trainers, but their biggest difference is in how they move.

Cybex arc trainers move in a more forgiving arc that involves pushing down with your feet without putting additional stress on your joints.

This arc motion helps you get more done in the gym and reduces your risk of injury so you can pursue fitness safely.

There are two styles of arc trainers depending on what you’re looking for: the normal version has large foot pedals that offer mild resistance for your hamstrings, glutes, and quads.

On the other hand, some arc trainers include moving handlebars for a complete range of movement for both your lower and upper body.


  • Works out the glutes, hamstrings, and quads
  • Adjustable inclines for greater resistance


  • Typically more expensive than an elliptical machine
  • It fulfills the same purpose as the elliptical

Elliptical: An Overview

Elliptical overview

The idea behind elliptical trainers was to improve on the classic treadmill: instead of simulating running along a path, ellipticals put less stress on your joints.

Moving in a gentler motion allows you to burn more calories and take the weight off your knee joint for a safe, low-impact workout.

Traditional ellipticals move in an ellipse-like pattern and provide a decent workout. If you’re interested, browse through some top-tier elliptical trainers!

Other ellipticals have moving handlebars that can help you get in a full-body workout.

Elliptical trainers often have a heart rate monitor so you can keep pushing yourself until you reach your preferred heart rate zone.


  • Less perceived exertion helps you work out for longer
  • Good for physical recovery


  • It builds muscle slower than other workout machines
  • Slight learning curve because of unnatural movement

Arc Trainer Vs. Elliptical Trainer: Comparison of Features

Arc and Elliptical Trainer Comparison of Features

Here we’ll be breaking down what makes an arc trainer different from an elliptical.


An arc trainer moves in an arc motion, which produces less stress on your lower body than, say, a treadmill.

This balanced loading design is similar to an elliptical, which moves in an ellipse. Unfortunately, the elliptical is slightly unnatural, which creates a slight learning curve.

Using an elliptical involves forcing down the pedals to move forward because of the motion, which is an issue that the arc trainer eliminates.

WINNER: Arc trainer! A more natural motion helps beat the elliptical trainer.

Calories Burned

Everyone wants to know, “Which of these machines burns more calories?” Each exercise session counts, so you’ll want to choose the best machine for the job!

Despite wanting to improve on the elliptical, an arc trainer only burns slightly more calories than its rival, so both machines are even here.

Like any other piece of equipment, the more time you put in, the more results you’ll see, so remember to prioritize resistance and the length of your workout sessions over anything else.

Increased calorie burn also translates to increased oxygen consumption, so remember to take it easy if you tire out too quickly.

WINNER: Tie! Neither device is significantly more efficient.

Machine Weight and Footprint

This feature is more relevant if you’re gearing up for a home gym, but it’s worth mentioning just in case your local gym is too far from you.

If you’re caught between ellipticals and arc trainers because they look the same, the size and weight might tip you over.

Arc trainers are usually 69×28 inches in size or larger because they’re designed for commercial use, like larger gyms, compared to the 38×27 inches of an elliptical.

There’s a bigger discrepancy with weight, too. Ellipticals can weigh anywhere from 40-250 lbs, but arc trainers are 400+ lbs. on average.

WINNER: Ellipticals! They’re more compact, lighter, and (slightly) easier to fit at home.

Fat-Burning Capabilities

Since arc trainers and ellipticals offer similar benefits, they’ll help you burn fat if you use them enough.

Both arc trainers and ellipticals are adjustable and can provide greater resistance with the right settings, so they’re even again.

You can also boost your calorie burn by adjusting the resistance level for a better workout. This will help you lose more weight in a shorter period.

WINNER: Tie. Both pieces of equipment can burn fat equally depending on your exercise sessions.

Workout Intensity

As you might have guessed, both arc and elliptical trainers provide a more low-impact workout, especially when compared to treadmill running, for example.

That’s because they’re more geared toward slower workouts, but you can push yourself on ellipticals and arc trainers if necessary.

However, since an arc trainer doesn’t feel as intense as an elliptical, it’s easier to push further and exert yourself more on an arc trainer. This gives them a slight edge.

WINNER: Arc trainers feel easier to use, so you can get more done without feeling it.

What Are Good Alternative Machines for Cardio Training?

Good Alternative Machines for Cardio

We’ve mainly focused on the arc and elliptical trainers, but there are other machines you can incorporate into your workout routine for better results. Here are a few.

Cross Trainer

Cross trainers may look like elliptical trainers, but they have one main difference: moving handlebars!

A standard elliptical trainer lacks moving handlebars, so an elliptical will only exercise your legs. In comparison, a cross trainer also gives you an upper body workout.

Stationary Bike

Nothing says “fitness” like biking, but sometimes you don’t have the space to ride a bike. Fortunately, stationary bikes are available!

Stationary bikes are like the “original” arc trainers and work out your leg muscles just as effectively.

Things to Remember When Choosing Between the Arc Trainer and Elliptical Machine

Here’s a quick guide on which to pick if you’re stuck between these cardio devices!

  • Which Muscles Are You Targeting? – A typical Cybex arc trainer will usually only work out your lower body, but multiple types of elliptical can help you target your entire body.
  • Are You Recovering From Injuries? – Both arc trainers and elliptical machines are designed to offer low-impact workouts. Still, an arc trainer is generally better for recovery because of the natural motion your feet will take.
  • What’s Your Ideal Rate of Exertion? – Arc trainers have heart rate monitors, similar to ellipticals. You can use these to monitor your ideal exertion rate to ensure you’re pushing yourself within safe limits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Check out this section before you start burning calories and getting some exercise in!

Is an Arc Trainer Hard on Your Knees?

You can reduce the force you place on your knee joint using a Cybex arc trainer since you never have to move your feet past the pedals.

Arc trainers aren’t as harsh on your joints, thanks to the motion of the pedals, so you don’t have to worry about hurting yourself while exercising.

What Cardio Machine Is Best for Belly Fat?

Both ellipticals and treadmills are great if you want to lose fat since they can simulate walking, which is perfect for weight loss.

Ellipticals are especially useful because of their lower perceived exertion, which means you can practice hill climbing with all of its resistance but with “less” of a burn!

So if you ever wondered whether the elliptical is a good workout or not, the answer is YES.

Which Cardio Machine Helps Build Muscle?

All the machines we’ve discussed so far have been geared toward cardiovascular fitness, not necessarily for building muscles. They’re great if you want to burn more calories.

Unfortunately, none of these machines will help with bodybuilding, whether you’re using Cybex gear or not. If you want bigger muscles, stick to a proper workout and diet routine instead.

Final Verdict: Which One Should You Get?

Aerobic exercise is an important part of any fitness routine and can help you lose weight just as much as curling iron.

If you want to skip what we’ve discussed above and just want to pick between these two machines, here are some quick tips:

Go for an Elliptical If:

  • Your home gym doesn’t have the space for an arc trainer
  • You’re on a tighter budget
  • You want a leg and hip workout

Go for an Arc Trainer If:

  • You want your machine to maintain a consistent resistance level throughout your workout
  • You have the space and budget for an arc trainer
  • You want a more comfortable and natural-feeling workout session