At first glance, arc trainers, produced by Cybex International, look much like front-drive elliptical trainers: Both have two pedals that move through a running stride and moving handlebars for an upper-body workout. But the arc trainer moves your feet through an arc, not to be confused with the pendulum-swing stride of an air glider, instead of an elliptical path. Arc trainers also feature stationary side rails and a hooked handlebar design that allows you to use several grip positions.
Motion, Resistance and Intensity
A small study conducted by the kinesiology staff at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte indicates that working out at the same intensity level consistently feels easier on the arc trainer than on an elliptical trainer. But the actual workout method for arc and elliptical trainers is very similar: You select the resistance level and incline settings with push-button controls, then pedal. All arc trainers offer eddy-current resistance, which is considered the highest-end resistance system available for elliptical trainers.
Differences aside, arc trainers and elliptical trainers offer a number of similar benefits. Both machines provide a low-impact, weight-bearing workout. You can easily modify the exercise intensity to suit your fitness level, and the moving handlebars allow you to work all the major muscles groups in your body at once, which means greater cardiovascular load and more calories burned.
Cybex arc trainers offer a range of features familiar to anyone who has used an elliptical trainer. These include a built-in reading rack and water bottle holder, an accessory storage tray, a built-in cooling fan, handgrip and wireless heart rate monitoring and preprogrammed workouts, including heart-rate-control workouts and user-customizable programs.
Capacity and Size
Arc trainer maximum user weight capacities range from 300 lbs. for the home and light commercial models to 400 lbs. for heavier-duty commercial models, comparable to typical weight capacities on high-quality home- and commercial-use elliptical trainers. Arc trainers measure between 69 and 77 inches long by 28.5 to 36.75 inches wide by 62 to 62.5 inches high, about the same as mid-size to large elliptical trainers.
Price and Warranty
Like elliptical trainers, the arc trainer is available in both commercial-use and home models. But retail prices from about $3,000 to $8,000, as of November 2010, make it clear that arc trainers lack the competitive pricing you'll find in the crowded elliptical trainer market. High-end elliptical trainers start at about $1,200, according to the Exercise Equipment Expert.
Arc trainers come with a 10-year frame warranty, a three- to five-year parts warranty and one year of labor coverage. Most quality elliptical trainers offer comparable or better warranties, including a lifetime frame warranty.