Center Drive Ellipticals- Which is Best?

3 Benefits and 1 Drawback of Center Drive Elliptical Trainers


Nordic track elliptical trainer
Nordictrack ACT Elliptical

One of the most popular Nordictrack ellipticals is the ACT – so popular that NT actually introduced two upgraded ACT models – the Commercial 7 and Commercial 10 (as they still wanted to keep the original to under $1000).

Why is the ACT so popular? Mainly because it’s a center-drive design.

This is something you don’t usually find in an elliptical under $1000 – although the design has been in the commercial elliptical market for a few years now.

So what makes center drive elliptical trainers so popular? What benefits does it offer you? Here are the 3 main benefits:

#1 More Compact

center drive elliptical trainers baseA center drive machine is more compact and takes up less space lengthwise than a standard elliptical. It’s more of a box shape than a long rectangle.

That means if you don’t have a lot of space in your home gym, it’s ideal. It’s also great for apartments or condos too.


#2 You Stand More Upright on the Pedals

nordic track act ellipticalBecause you’re placed in a more upright position on these machines, you’ll lean less on the handrails – and some people feel that this burns more calories.

I’m not sure if this is the case – but the more upright position does feel more comfortable for many people.


#3 Pedals Closer Together

Because the pedals are closer together on these machines, this more accurately mimics your body’s true running motion.

Nordictrack ACT 10 footpedalsAnd again, this can feel more comfortable and cause less stress on your hips.

And again, if something is more comfortable, you’re more likely to stay on the machine longer – which means more calories burned.

So those are 3 of the main benefits of center drive elliptical trainers. Are there any drawbacks?

Well the main drawback is that because of the dual side flywheel design, you don’t get incline options on these ellipticals. Many people prefer incline as it changes the slope of the elliptical and challenges different muscle groups. But it’s not necessary to have to get a great workout.

You can find incline on front or rear drive trainers like the Elite 12.7 or Spacesaver SE9i.

If you don’t care about incline – and need to save space, you may really love the center drive design on the ACT. And if you want the design with a full-color web browser to make your workouts a lot more enjoyable, you’ll probably want to go with the ACT 10.

Center drive elliptical trainer with web browser
Nordictrack ACT10 Web Browser Console



2 thoughts on “Center Drive Ellipticals- Which is Best?

  • at 4:56 am

    I’m looking around at various machines online but am having a hard time comparing them to what I’ve used in gyms. Understandably the gym equipment isn’t the same as home machines, but there are certain “elliptical” machines that have true elliptical strides, and others that are more cross-trainer and the motion is more up and down (harder on knees) than a forward stride. If that makes sense?? Are any of these center drive, similar to the ones at major gyms that allow a true forward elliptical stride, or a stair step motion? Any tips on being able to tell the difference without trying them all in person? or recommendations of where to go to see machines in person? It’s such a huge purchase, I want to be happy with it!

    • at 10:12 pm

      Hi Renee,

      Thanks for your questions. I’m not sure what you mean exactly by “true elliptical stride” but my guess is that you need a longer stride (shorter strides can often feel more up and down – and harder on the knees because they are not as natural as a longer running stride).

      I don’t tell anyone what to buy, however you may want to look at the Nordictrack Freestrider in your search. This is a center drive machine but instead of a set stride length, you get variable stride of up to 38 inches (standard stride lengths are 18 – 22 inches). Plus its design is a bit different than a regular elliptical – it’s a lot less impact on the joints.

      You can see how it works with this video:

      Or you can see our review on the newest Freestrider model at

      I hope that helps!

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