To make the most out of a workout on an elliptical trainer, you need to choose the correct stride length. The stride length is the longest total width of the elliptical motion that can be achieved, according to AllEllipticals.com. To avoid overstretching and pulling on muscles, elliptical users under 5 foot 3 generally require a shorter stride length, about 16 to 18 inches, than those who measure from 5 foot 4 to 6 foot 7, for whom an 18- to 21-inch stride is appropriate. Users who are even taller may need special elliptical trainers with a stride length of up to 26 inches.
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Determine whether the elliptical is front-drive or rear-drive. Locate the flywheel and the foot pedals. A front-drive elliptical has the flywheel in front of the foot pedals; a rear-drive elliptical has the flywheel behind the foot pedals.
Extend the front and back pedals as far apart as possible. Use the measuring tape to measure the stride length, which is the distance between the toe of the front pedal and the heel of the back pedal.
In the case of a front-drive elliptical, subtract 2 inches from the measurement, since front-drive ellipticals provide a flatter motion. A 20-inch stride on a front-drive machine is about the equivalent of an 18-inch stride on a rear-drive machine.
Measure your height with the yardstick.
Match your height with an elliptical machine that has an appropriate stride length by using the guidelines mentioned in the overview. If you are using an adjustable elliptical trainer, adjust it to the appropriate stride length by following the guidelines.