Arc Trainer vs Elliptical: Which is Better?

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The elliptical and Arc trainer are cardio machines that promote low-impact aerobic exercise. Since both machines offer similar movements, it makes you wonder which machine is better.

Find out in this arc trainer vs elliptical review.

arc trainer vs elliptical

As a personal trainer, I’m always keeping up with the latest trends in the fitness industry. And I came across the Arc Trainer when I talked to a physiotherapist.  

I have never seen Arc Trainers in gyms, but I think it can be an interesting option for you.  Especially when you want a low impact training for the upper part of your legs, with less force on the knees and ankles.

Compared to cardio machines like treadmills and bikes, arc trainers are relatively new innovation in the fitness world.

The main difference between the elliptical machine and the arc trainer is the pedal path. On the elliptical machine, the pedaling path is on an elliptical shape. While the pedal path is an arc for arc trainers.

Of course, there are more differences between the two machines than just their pedal paths.

So keep reading to find out how the elliptical machine and arc trainer compare, and which one is better for your fitness needs.

Table of Contents

Arc Trainer vs Elliptical Comparison

Type of motion

Although both the elliptical machine and the arc trainer provide a low-impact and fluid motion, they exhibit slight differences in their movement patterns. 

The elliptical machine’s gliding motion and elliptical pedal path simulate a natural walking or running stride. While the arc trainer has a more pronounced forward and upward motion that follows an arc pedal path (hence the name). 

The result is that you use more muscles in the upper part of your legs (hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes), while putting less force on your knees and ankles.

Regardless of your choice, the arc trainer and elliptical machine ensure a smooth, natural, and low-impact exercise experience.

Winner Type Of Motion Comparison

There is no clear winner, it depends on the type of movement you are more comfortable with.

Calories burned

Ellipticals are effective calorie burners. According to a Harvard Health article, ellipticals can burn the following calories in 30 minutes of activity.

Gym Machine125-pound person155-pound person185-pound person
Elliptical Trainer: general270324378

As for arc trainers, Cybex Research Institute found that you may burn 16% more calories while working on an arc trainer than on an elliptical [1]. 

However, it is important to note that Cybex is the primary manufacturer of arc trainers. So we need more third-party studies to confirm these findings.

Due to this, I am more confident in recommending elliptical machines when it comes to burning calories. Of course, I am open to changing my recommendations if more research emerges. 

Winner Calories Burned Comparison

The winner is the elliptical machine.

Muscles worked

Since both the elliptical machine and the arc trainer have moveable handles, they provide a full-body workout.

Healthline says an elliptical machine engages the following muscles: glutes, hamstrings, quads, chest, back, and biceps. It also works your triceps and core muscles [2].

On the other hand, an arc trainer can target your hamstring, quadriceps, calves, arms, chest, and glute muscles [3].

Winner Muscles Worked Comparison

The elliptical machine is the winner, because it targets more muscles.


Both the elliptical and arc trainer offer stationary and movable arms. So they engage both your upper and lower body.

Both machines also allow you to pedal forward/backward, and they come with various resistance levels.

  • At the lower incline levels, the Arc Trainer glides gracefully, resembling the motion of a cross-country skier.
  • Transitioning to the middle incline levels, the Arc Trainer takes on the stride of an elliptical machine.
  • As you dare to push to a higher incline level, it’s like a climber.

Winner Versatility Comparison

The arc trainer is the winner, because it is more versatile than the elliptical machine.

Impact and intensity

Both the elliptical and arc trainer are low-impact cardio machines. Your feet remain on the pedal during the exercise, so you won’t feel sudden jolts on your joints like you do with running or jumping.

As for the intensity, both machines can be both high and low intensity. It depends on how hard you pedal and how fast you move.

Winner Impact and Intensity Comparison

The impact and intensity comparison is a draw, because both machines provide a low-impact exercise, and the intensity varies depending on how you use them.


Both machines can occupy a significant floor and headspace. Ellipticals are known for their space-efficient design, making them a smart choice for compact home gyms. They offer a small footprint, ideal for those working with limited space.

Elliptical trainers are typically 68.1 inches long, 28.5 inches wide, and 65.5 inches high [4]. So they occupy around 1,940 square-inch of floor space.

Arc trainers are also relatively compact, ensuring you get a powerful workout without sacrificing too much floor space.  

The arc trainers from Cybex have the following dimensions and occupies the following floor space:

Arc TrainerDimensions (LxWxH)Required Floor Space
Cybex R Series Total Body Arc Trainer77 x 36.5 x 60.5 in2,810.5 sq. in.
Cybex 525at Total Body Arc Trainer76 x 30 x 62.5 in2,280 sq. in.
Cybex R Series Lower Body Arc Trainer77 x 33 x 60.5 in2,541 sq. in.

So arc trainers occupy more space than an elliptical machine. Additionally, some elliptical machines are foldable, while arc trainers are not.

Winner Space Comparison

The elliptical machine is the winner, because it saves more space and is foldable for storage.


The cheapest arc trainer I found on the market is more or less $3000. While with elliptical machines, you get a decent one at around $300. So that is a huge price difference.

Since the elliptical has been around for a long time. And undeniably, they are more famous than the arc trainers. Repairs are more available for elliptical machines.

Winner Cost Comparison

The elliptical machine is the winner, because it is more affordable than arc trainers.

Arc Trainer vs Elliptical: The Winner

Upon comparing the two machines on factors like calories burned, type of exercise, muscles worked, versatility, impact and intensity, space, and cost, the elliptical machine is the winner in most situations.

  • The elliptical machine has significant evidence of how much calories you burn when using it.
  • The elliptical machine targets more muscles.
  • The elliptical machine provides a low-impact exercise.
  • The elliptical machine has a foldable design and takes less floor space than an arc trainer.
  • The elliptical machine is more affordable.

The elliptical machines are superior in factors like cost and calories burned, because arc trainers are relatively new equipment. 

As more and more users start using arc trainers, it is possible the verdict will change. There will be more research done on an arc trainer, and affordable models will emerge.

Which machine is better for you?

Which is best for bad knees, elliptical vs arc trainer?

Both the elliptical and arc trainer provide a low-impact exercise. When you use these two pieces of equipment, your feet do not leave the pedal, so there’s no sudden impact on your joints.

Which is better for your budget?

You can get a decent arc trainer at around $3000 and a decent elliptical machine for $300. Since elliptical machines are more popular, secondhand equipment and repairs are more available on the elliptical. Therefore, elliptical machines are better for your budget.

Which are better beginners?

Elliptical machines have been around longer than arc trainers. So users are more familiar with it and most gyms have elliptical machines. And more tutorials are available when using an elliptical machine.

You can actually use an elliptical right off the bat. This exercise machine is pretty straightforward.

As for the arc trainer, unfamiliarity might make it intimidating to use for beginners.

Is the Arc Trainer or elliptical better for weight loss?

When using an elliptical, you can burn from 270-378 calories, depending on your body weight. As for the arc trainer, there is not enough research on its effectiveness for weight loss. 

FAQs About Arc Trainer vs Elliptical

What is an arc trainer?

An arc trainer is a cardio machine that aims to provide a challenging HIIT exercise without putting too much pressure on your knees. Like other cardio machines, you can adjust the resistance, incline, and stride rate.

What does an elliptical look like?

Generally, elliptical machines look like stationary bikes, except they don’t have a seat. So you have to use it while standing. The pedaling motion follows an elliptical path, and in some modes, the handles are moveable.

What to do next?

The Arc trainer may be a new innovation in the fitness community, but that is not enough reason not to try it. If you are looking for an alternative to traditional cardio machines, the arc trainer might be what you are looking for.

I hope this article has helped demystify which cardio machine is better. If you need any more information, please drop me a comment below.

Check out our other articles about Elliptical Machines:

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Inge van Haselen is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritional Coach. For over 17 years, she has been coaching hundreds of clients in her gym. Inge published several programs on health and fitness. It is her passion to help you have the best Home Gym for your needs, so you can be in the best shape of your life. More info: About Us

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