Pros: Superior Quality, Quiet, Intuitive and Outstanding Design
Cons: Expensive, but an exceptional deal for the quality provided
The Ideal Elliptical: Precor EFX 5.23 or Life Fitness X9i?
I have searched for the perfect elliptical trainer for about 3 months. I sampled machines from Sears, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Sams Club, Costco, Fitness Resource and Leisure Fitness. I also researched and evaluated many websites related to elliptical trainers. I would like to share some of my findings in the hope that it might make someone elses search easier.
My Goal: The Landice treadmill that I have used over the past 2 years began to take a toll on my ankles and I decided that I wanted to get an elliptical trainer that would provide a low impact cardiovascular workout.
Quality Construction: I quickly discarded the notion of an inexpensive elliptical trainer after trying a number of them; I realized that they were not built to last. More importantly, I was concerned that the less sophisticated ergonomics would cause damage to joints, bones, muscles, etc.
Cardiovascular Conditioning: The perfect elliptical trainer needs to have an emphasis on sustaining a low impact cardio workout with a low level of perceived exertion. (This basically means that you are working out harder than you feel that you are.)
Quiet mechanism: There are five members in our family (three teenagers, my husband and myself) and our fitness equipment is in the main living area of our home. When it was in a back room, it was never used. It was out of sight, out of mind. I like being around my family when I exercise. Since the equipment is centrally located, it is important that the working mechanisms of the machines are as silent as possible so that others can read or do homework, etc.
Ease of Use: The ideal elliptical should have an intuitive interface and display only the meaningful (to each user) information.
Versatility: Although the main goal is cardiovascular, versatility is also important; it keeps exercise from becoming mundane and boring. It is also important that the machine can be used effectively by all the members of the family.
After eliminating the cheaper models, it really boiled down to two machines that fit my overall criteria the Life Fitness X9i and the Precor EFX 5.23.
Here is my analysis of the two machines based on the above Criteria:
Life Fitness vs. Precor (both retail priced at $4200.00)
Quality: I found 3 construction idiosyncrasies with the Life Fitness product. For example, one problem was that the right footplate would catch slightly through each revolution. I was told by the salesman that this problem tends to even out after 20 hours of use. That just doesnt sound good. If that is true, then Life Fitness should make sure that each machine is used at least 20 hours before the general public uses them. Or, better yet, fix the design problem. I could not find a single design or construction problem with the Precor. The product warranties are also different. Warranties often reflect the quality of a product. The LifeFitness warranty covers 5 years for parts, Precor warrants parts for 10 years.
Cardiovascular Conditioning: Both models excel in this area. The biggest difference is probably that the Life Fitness model has moving arms. I dont put a lot of emphasis on moving arms. I watch movies often when I exercise and so the arms are more of a distraction. Also, because the leg action is actually responsible for moving the machines arms, it is a misconception that the arm muscles actually get any type of meaningful workout. In other words, there is no resistance involved in moving the arms and therefore provides very little benefit. I also like not having arms because I can routinely practice perfect posture by tightening the abdominals and standing straight. This stance works the abdominal muscles and it is great for improving balance. Furthermore, I like to spend about 10 minutes of a 40 minute workout rotating the footplates backward. This requires the use of different muscles and also diversifies the routine. The backward movement changes the way you need to stand. You have to "sit back" more on your heels. It would be very awkward to try to do this and also use mechanical arms.
Here is an excerpt from the following web resource regarding the lack of arm motion. http://www.mercola.com/nutritionplan/exercise.htm
Elliptical machines are generally less expensive and far quieter than treadmills and provide a complete lower body workout by rotating the use of the different muscle groups on your legs. However, you will have to be sure to use the elliptical that can incline throughout various levels. Some models have a fixed based and handles that allow you to exercise your arms, but I believe it is more helpful to exercise the different leg muscles as they are much larger than your arm muscles.
I was impressed with how the Life Fitness X9i felt and the automatic resistance feature is nice. However, the total body workout option on the X9i is a joke for the simple reason that the arms do not have resistance. It is equivalent to someone whispering in your ear, Push your arms or Pull your arms.
I had heard from a fitness dealer that the Life Fitness X9i was known to cause numb feet. Personally, I did not experience the numb feet but I did find an article that supports this claim and also gives some tips about avoiding this tendency.
Excerpt from the article http://www.ellipticalhome.com/elliptical-trainer-sleepy-foot-article.html
Try an incline: I've noticed some improvement when switching to a Precor elliptical trainer that has an incline. For me, elliptical foot numbness seems to be worse when using a Life Fitness elliptical with a very flat elliptical arc.
Although the Life Fitness ride is smooth, the Precor is just even more so. Bottom line, both the Life Fitness and Precor models will provide a smooth ride and efficient cardiovascular workout. If you absolutely must have arms you might want to lean towards the Life Fitness model. If not, I believe that the Precor is the superior model.
Quiet: No question here. The Precor is so darn quiet a librarian would not have reason to complain. Even when I got it home and away from the busy showroom, it was amazingly quiet. The Life Fitness X9i exhibits a noticeable noise in the rear drive mechanism. I asked the salesman why the Life Fitness X5 is quieter than the X9 and he said that the X5 uses magnetic resistance and the X9 uses an alternator. I dont really know why someone would want to pay more for a machine that makes more noise.
Ease of Use: I found both models to be very easy to use. I do prefer the display on the Precor and I love the SmartHeart feature that visually lets you know when your heart is in (and out) of range. It did take me a while to figure out how to automatically scan through the statistics on the Precor. Once set this is a great option. It enables you to view only the statistics in which you are interested.
Versatility: Hands down Precor excels in this category, the cross ramp technology allows you to tailor your exercise routine or just mix it up a bit. This truly is one of the distinguishing features of this machine. Since my main goal is cardiovascular, I will probably only use it to mix it up a bit. to keep the exercise from being too routine and as an added benefit work additional muscles. My son, on the other hand, will use this feature to train extensively for track and field. Both machines offer a wide selection of predefined and modifiable programs.
There is no question that the The Life Fitness X9i and the Precor EFX 5.23 are the top of the line consumer targeted elliptical cross trainers. Precor is the ultimate elliptical trainer manufacturer. The outstanding design, versatility, user interface, durability and quiet mechanism illustrates why the Precor is considered to be the best elliptical trainer that money can buy.
Of the various commercial and consumer Precor models. My preference is the EFX 5.23 based on the multiple user option settings, mid range cost and the cross ramp technology. You just can't go wrong with this product. The following is a URL to a site that evaluates a number of elliptical review sites. It is impartial and comprehensive. http://www.consumersearch.com/www/health_and_fitness/elliptical-trainers/index.html
Excerpt from this article: Precor elliptical trainers remain reviewers' favorite brand, as well as the most expensive.