Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike: what’s better for HIIT-loving fitness fans?

Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike: what machine is best for burning fat, building muscle and keeping you fit at home?

Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike
(Image credit: Assault Fitness/Taurus)

Elliptical trainer vs air bike may not quite be Godzillah vs King Kong. However, for those in search of a full body workout from one machine – most of us, after all, don't have space for more than one machine at home – it's an important question.

With limited space for home gym equipment, choosing between the best elliptical trainer and the best air bike is a common conundrum. We’ve already covered the battle between elliptical and treadmill but many might be in the market for something like an AssaultBike, which often considered one of the most punishing high intensity workouts known to humankind.

Both an elliptical machine and an AirBike are rather large pieces of kit, so you’ll have to ensure you have a decent amount of room at home, although ellipticals often come in variants that either fold or stand up against a wall to save on space.

Above all else, both machines offer an excellent all-over workout, while the movement of both legs and arms means the heart rate can be raised and lowered much quicker than other machines, such as a treadmill or exercise bike. This is great for bouts of High Intensity Interval Training, where the aim is to work as hard as you can for a short burst and then recover equally as quickly.

JTX Fitness

(Image credit: JTX Fitness)

Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike: what are they and what do they do?

An elliptical trainer is inspired by the movements of cross country skiers and sees two rotating foot platforms attached to an elliptical plate or flywheel at the front or rear of the unit. The user moves the foot platforms forwards in a natural rolling motion, a bit like running in mid-air.

There are also handles, which allow the user to effectively pull the plates forward, giving a solid workout to the major back muscles, biceps, triceps and more. This skiing motion is also incredibly good for getting the heart rate beating.

Some elliptical machines use a fan or air resistance, meaning the harder you work, the harder things get, while others favour a mechanical set-up that enables the user to manually adjust the resistance either via a digital display or an old school dial.

AirBikes are far more industrial in their design and are essentially an exercise bike with a giant fan on the front, with the added bonus of two handles that also allow the user to push and pull to increase the cadence of RPM of the feet.

Seeing as there’s a whopping fan strapped to the front, the air resistance offered here is mighty, and the harder you work, the harder everything gets. It’s insane how punishing an AirBike can be when used properly. 

What is an air bike?

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike: workouts

An elliptical machine is arguably the gentler of the two, as it is perfectly possible to merrily glide along using the handles and platforms without spiking the heart rate to unbearable levels. If gentle cardio is for you, then an elliptical trainer could be perfect.

What’s more, an elliptical is very easy on the joints, as that gliding motion ensures no thumping impact is sent up through the legs and to sensitive areas, such as the knee and hip joints. With that in mind, it is also a little harder to achieve extreme heart rate fluctuations unless the elliptical machine offers some kind of manual control over the resistance levels.

Even when that is the case, the resistance levels sometimes jump to the point where it is unnaturally difficult to get the platforms moving, no matter how hard you pull with your arms and push with the legs.

An AirBike, on the other hand, offers a more demanding workout and it’s a lot easier to put in full effort without things starting to feel synthetic. This is due to the fact that air is the one thing pushing back against your efforts and the more force you put through the handles and pedals, the more it gives back.

Because of this, it’s not the nicest thing to sit on and pedal while bingeing on a favourite box set. You’ll unlikely be able to hear it for a start, because the giant fan attached to the front of the bike is very noisy. This should be a consideration if you share a flat or intend on housing the bike in a living room.

Regardless, the workouts are intense yet offer the same kind of minimal impact on joints as the elliptical trainer. Yet it is the fact that a 15-minute bout on an AirBike can be so unpleasant that the longevity of these pieces of equipment can be limited. Sometimes you don’t want to sweat several pints onto the floor. 

Uno Fitness Fitness XE5.1 Cross Trainer

(Image credit: Uno Fitness)

Elliptical Trainer vs AirBike: price and availability 

Prices vary wildly when it comes to elliptical trainers, with cheaper options from brands like Profrom and Marcy costing around £450. These are readily available from Argos and Amazon, with both outlets showing good availability.

Things can get quite expensive as you opt for the larger, more feature-packed options, with the gym-quality Life Fitness E1 costing over £2,000 and Technogym’s absolutely stunning but utterly massive Cross Personal coming in at a whopping £11,890.

There aren’t as many brands out there producing AirBikes, so the choice and budget range isn’t as extensive as the elliptical trainer. Sitting at the very top of the tree are models from Schwinn and Assault Fitness, Schwinn’s awesome AD8 is currently available from Fitness Superstore for £1,099, while Wolverson Fitness stocks a good range of Assault products, including the AssaultBike Elite, which costs £1,249 and is arguably the daddy of the AirBike world.

Of course, you can spend as little as £150 on an AirBike, but the build quality isn’t going to withstand a lot of power being put through it and the fan itself tends to be smaller, so lacks resistance. That said, the cheaper models are usually smaller, so could be good for tight spaces and those who perhaps only want a mild HIIT session, rather than the full fat CrossFit experience. 

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.