There is a controversy: which elliptical trainer is mre effective, rear or front drive. Some time ago rear drive machines were superior and more expensive (Precor and Life Fitness). But then, some premium manufacturers, like Vision Fitness and Octane, began to produce front drive ellipticals.
It should be mentioned that rear drive machines provide more motion like jogging or walking. Front drive equipment is similar to working out on a stair climber without the the abrupt reverse motion. Due to the nature of the motion of front drive look for a model with articulating foot pedals. This helps keep your feet aligned with the motion and reduces strain.
On rear drive ellipticals you tend to be centered while on front drive machines you have a tendency of leaning forward.
Some experts say that rear drive machines provide a better workout but it depends upon individual. When the resistance of a front drive machine increases you can get you heart pounding to a level equivalent to the rear drive machines. But it is not recommended to buy cheap front drive machines without articulating foot pedals.
The Mechanics of Rear and Front Drive Ellipticals
The advantage of rear drive elliptical machines is that they contain less moving parts which may require service with time.
For example, most front drive ellipticals include foot pedals that run on rails in the rear, often the rollers will wear out with constant use, especially in case of machines with single wheel rollers. Single rollers are also unstable. Look for machines with dual wheel rollers which can give a more solid and stable feel.
The other important factor in considering rear vs. front drive ellipticals is the relative location of pedals and the upper handlebars. Inexpensive models have a very close proximity between the two, where the handlebars appear to sit right on top of the pedals. This can restrict the upper body motion during your workout.
Before you buy the machine go to a local health club and test different designs: find out more about their quality and overall reputation.