Front drive elliptical machines have a front drive mechanism. This mechanism, also known as the flywheel, is located at the front of the machine and the user pedals are behind it. Front drive models are quite popular mainly due to the fact that they have been around the longest. Having a front drive system also makes the elliptical more compact.
Although front drive elliptical trainers are more than capable of delivering an intense, heart pumping workout that assists in fat burn and muscle development, front drive models have their drawbacks. A major one is unnatural movement since users tend to lean forward during use. Since users have difficulty standing up straight on the machines, additional effort has to be put into maintaining proper form. Otherwise the workout can be uncomfortable. Along with the posture issue, some describe front drive elliptical trainers as having a flat movement that isn’t as smooth as other types of elliptical machines. This flat movement is often experienced with front drive models that do not have pivoting (articulating) pedals that allow ankles to move naturally. Although true, this really depends on the elliptical selected. A quality front drive machine can deliver a smoother, more comfortable workout.
The distinguishable aspects of front drive elliptical machines include the front flywheel (of course) as well as rollers and tracks. The rollers and tracks make this a high maintenance machine. Due to the fact that there are more moving parts, the machine has to be taken care of. Dust and dirt can easily become trapped in these parts preventing the elliptical from gliding smoothly and parts may have to be replaced over time. Although more maintenance is required, front drive models have more moving parts which also include moving handles (that is always a plus). Moving handles are very important for those that regularly train on an elliptical. You never want to neglect the upper body.