Arc Trainer vs Elliptical: Which is Better for Your Workout?

The arc trainer and the elliptical machine both provide a low-impact workout, however, there are some key differences between them that may make one a better choice for certain individuals or fitness goals.

Here is a quick comparison:

Comparison FactorsArc TrainerElliptical
Range of MotionArc motionCircular motion
DesignLarger and heavier, harder to move aroundSmaller and more compact, easier to store
Muscle EngagementGlutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps, coreQuadriceps, calves, glutes (some models engage arms and shoulders)
Calorie BurnBurns more calories (486 calories in a 45-minute workout)Burns fewer calories (418.5 calories in a 45-minute workout)
Workout IntensityProvides intense full-body workout targeting multiple muscle groups simultaneouslyOffers effective cardiovascular workout with adjustable resistance and incline settings
Impact on JointsLow-impact with arc motion that is gentle on jointsLow-impact but slightly less gentle on joints compared to the arc trainer
CostMore expensive (better for gyms/fitness centers) with lower maintenance costsMore affordable for home use but higher maintenance costs due to complex design
Cleaning/Sanitizing EaseEasier to clean and sanitize with fewer nooks and crannies where dirt/bacteria can accumulateRequires more effort for cleaning due to its more complex design

Design and Functionality

The Arc Trainer and Elliptical are both popular machines in the fitness industry, but they have different designs and functionalities.

The primary difference between the two is their range of motion.

Ellipticals have a circular motion, while Arc Trainers have an arc motion. This difference in motion affects the muscles used and the overall workout experience.

Arc Trainer

The arc trainer is a cardio machine that combines elements of an elliptical trainer with a stair climber. It has adjustable resistance levels and incline settings that allow users to tailor their workouts to specific intensity levels. The arc motion mimics natural movement patterns while minimizing stress on joints.

The Arc Trainer has a more functional motion than the Elliptical. It simulates hill climbing and involves driving your knee to the handlebar from the bottom of the pedal stroke. This motion engages more muscles and provides a more challenging workout.

The Arc Trainer is larger and heavier than the Elliptical, which makes it harder to move around. However, it also has a higher weight capacity and can accommodate larger users. The Elliptical is smaller and more compact, making it easier to store in smaller spaces.

arc trainer

The Arc Trainer has a more balanced loading design, which distributes the weight evenly between the arms and legs.


On the other hand, an elliptical machine replicates walking or running motions without placing excessive strain on joints. It offers adjustable resistance and incline settings as well but typically has a more straightforward design compared to the arc trainer.

Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine

  • The E95 elliptical machine has been awarded “Best Elliptical” in its price category.
  • It has adjustable ramp angles and handlebars for targeting different muscle groups.
  • The machine includes built-in pulse sensors and a heart rate chest strap for monitoring heart rate.
  • It features oversized foot pedals with foam cushioning and adjustable angles for comfort and reduced stress on ankles and knees.
  • The E95 also includes a tablet holder, USB port for charging, and Bluetooth audio speakers.

Workout Intensity

One of the essential factors to consider when choosing a cardio machine is workout intensity. Let’s dive into how the arc trainer and elliptical compare in terms of calorie burn and overall workout intensity.

Arc Trainer

Due to its unique combination of movements involving both legs and arms, the arc trainer provides an intense full-body workout.

It engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, resulting in higher calorie burn. The arc trainer is also known for targeting the glutes and hamstrings, making it a great option for lower body strength development.


While the elliptical also offers an effective cardiovascular workout, it might not provide the same intensity as the arc trainer. However, with adjustable resistance and incline settings, you can increase the level of difficulty to make your workouts more challenging.

The elliptical primarily targets the quadriceps and calves but still engages other muscle groups to a lesser extent.

Woman Working out on a Cross-Trainer

Muscle Engagement

Understanding which muscles are engaged during your cardio workout is crucial for achieving a well-rounded fitness routine. Let’s compare how the arc trainer and elliptical engage different muscle groups.

Arc Trainer

The arc trainer engages various muscle groups simultaneously due to its unique movement pattern. It targets muscles such as glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, biceps, triceps, and even the core.

This full-body engagement allows for efficient calorie burning while toning multiple muscle groups at once.


Similarly to the arc trainer, an elliptical machine engages multiple muscle groups during a workout. However, it tends to focus more on lower body muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes.

Although there is less upper body involvement compared to the arc trainer, some models come equipped with moving handles that engage the arms and shoulders as well.

Calorie Burn

When it comes to calorie burn, the Arc Trainer is the clear winner.

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At the gym, you can burn 486 calories on the arc trainer or 418.5 calories on the elliptical trainer during a 45-minute workout.

That’s nearly the caloric intake of a small container of fresh blueberries.

When it comes to muscle engagement, both machines work the lower body, but the Arc Trainer engages more muscle groups than the Elliptical.

The greater activation of the glutes and hamstrings means increased energy demand, oxygen consumption, and calorie burn. Those muscles also stabilize and protect the knee, so there’s less stress and improved comfort during your exercise session.

While the Elliptical is a great low-impact option for those with joint issues, the Arc Trainer provides a more intense workout that engages more muscle groups and burns more calories. Ultimately, the choice between the two machines depends on your fitness goals and personal preferences.

Impact on Joints

Both the arc trainer and the elliptical are known for their low-impact workouts. This means that they are easier on your joints compared to other types of exercise equipment, like treadmills or stair climbers.

The arc trainer’s unique movement pattern, which involves an arc motion, is often touted as being especially gentle on the joints.

This is because the arc trainer’s motion is more natural and less jarring than the elliptical’s motion, which involves a circular movement.

When comparing an Arc Trainer with the Elliptical, the Elliptical is even more softer then an Arc Trainer, and has minimal impact on your joints.

However, it’s important to note that both machines are still weight-bearing exercises, which means that they put some stress on your joints.

Cost and Maintenance

Arc trainers are generally more expensive than ellipticals.

Arc trainers can cost many thousands of dollars, making them a better fit for gyms and fitness centers rather than individuals. On the other hand, ellipticals tend to be more affordable and accessible for home use.


In terms of maintenance, arc trainers tend to require less upkeep than ellipticals. This is because arc trainers are built differently and are designed to withstand more wear and tear.

They also have fewer moving parts, which means there are fewer components that can break down or malfunction.

As a result, maintenance costs for arc trainers are typically lower than those for ellipticals.

Ellipticals, on the other hand, require more maintenance due to their more complex design. They have more moving parts, such as pedals, flywheels, and resistance systems, which can wear down over time and require replacement.

This can add to the overall cost of ownership for an elliptical machine.

It’s also worth noting that arc trainers tend to be easier to clean and sanitize than ellipticals.

This is because they have fewer nooks and crannies where dirt and bacteria can accumulate. As a result, arc trainers may be a better choice for fitness facilities that prioritize cleanliness and hygiene.

Conclusion and final thoughts 💭

Both the Arc Trainer and the Elliptical machine offer low-impact workouts and have their own unique benefits.

The Arc Trainer provides a more intense workout, engaging more muscle groups and burning more calories. It is a better option for individuals looking for a challenging exercise routine.

On the other hand, the Elliptical offers a smoother motion that is gentle on the joints, making it ideal for those with joint pain or injuries.

Additionally, the cost and maintenance requirements differ between the two machines, with Arc Trainers being more expensive but requiring less upkeep.

Ultimately, the choice between these machines depends on your fitness goals, personal preferences, and any specific considerations such as joint issues or space limitations.

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