Many people in the market for an elliptical trainer often ask if they should purchase an elliptical trainer with an adjustable ramp. Precor was the first manufacturer to introduce ramps on elliptical trainers and they probably also first applied the term “cross trainer" to elliptical trainers.
Precor’s “EFX" elliptical trainer brand stands for “elliptical fitness cross trainer". Personally, I think that this use of cross trainer is a big departure from the original meaning of cross training, but I understand what they mean by it. An elliptical trainer can be used to target a wide range of muscles –- both in your lower and upper body (providing the elliptical trainer also has upper body handles).
The use of an adjustable ramp, otherwise known as an incline, can go even further to more precisely target the individual muscles in your lower body. The steeper the incline, the more emphasis that is placed on the hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Also, by recruiting more of the muscles in your lower body, the greater the intensity of the exercise and the greater the cardio effect.
Many of the Precor ellipticals don’t come with upper body handles. However, they do have a line that combines a ramp and upper body handles. You will need to decide if you can get by with just the cross ramp. Some trainees increase the intensity of their workouts by not holding on to the side rails and just pushing off with their legs. This will give you a great workout, but it takes some practice to remain balanced.
It’s hard to go wrong by purchasing a Precor elliptical trainer. After all, Precor did invent the elliptical trainer and they’ve been at it longer than anyone else. Of course, this quality comes with a fairly high price tag and Precor commercial grade ellipticals built for health club use are too big and heavy for most home applications.
When it comes to elliptical inclines, the only other major brands that offer them are Reebok and NordicTrack, which are manufactured by ICON Health and Fitness. These are much cheaper ellipticals (many under $1000) and as a result, the quality is nowhere near that of Precor.
All things considered, my choice would be to pass on the incline if shelling out over $3000 for Precor is not possible and go with a solidly-built elliptical in the $1000 - $2000 price range. There’s a lot more to choose from in this group and you can still get an excellent workout without a ramp.
Rich Rojas writes unbiased Elliptical Trainer Reviews and articles on health and fitness at http://www.ellipticalhome.com