My Review of the Cybex Arc Trainer (“The BMW of Elliptical Trainers”)

by David Eckoff · 67 comments

It was curiosity at first sight. And love at first workout.

That’s the response I had after first seeing – and then trying out – the Cybex Arc Trainer at a client’s fitness center last year.

I was so impressed with the Cybex Arc Trainer that I decided to purchase one for my home gym.

After a false start with the home version of the machine (the 350A Home model, which I didn’t like – more about that after the jump), I upgraded to the top of the line Cybex Arc Trainer 630A  (now the 750AT) – the same commercial grade equipment at the gym.

The Cybex Arc Trainer 630A is far and away my favorite cardio fitness equipment. Here’s my assessment of the Cybex Arc Trainer – and why I think it is the best elliptical trainer / cross trainer on the market.

What I Like:

  • A great workout and not hard on the joints: The unique  “reverse arc” motion moves your legs in a biomechanically correct pathway – reducing stress at your knee. The arc never places your toe behind your knee (when your toe moves behind your knee there is significantly more stress applied to your knee joint).
  • Adjustable stride height: This is where the Cybex Arc Trainer really shines. With other elliptical trainers, your stride height remains fixed in the same position.  With the Cybex Arc Trainer, the stride height – how high your knees come up as you stride – is adjustable. As Cybex describes: “At the lower incline levels, the ‘glide’ is a cross country skier. In the mid-range levels, the motion is a ‘stride’ (like an elliptical except with proper positioning). At the high levels, the ‘climb’ of a stepper or climber.” I like the variety this provides in my workouts, both physical and mental. Especially during the “Hill Profile” programmed workout.
  • Natural movement of legs and arms: With the Arc Trainer, as your right leg moves forward, your right arm moves forward at the same time. This allows you to always maintain optimal posture during exercise, which virtually eliminates stress on your back. And it tracks similarly to the way your legs and arms move same side when running (which I prefer). With other cross trainers, your arms and legs move in opposite directions.
  • Display: The digital display is easy to use and easy to read. The upper display shows distance, calories, calories/hour, METs, watts, strides per minute and heart rate; lower display shows time, incline and resistance level.
  • Solid feel: everything about the fit and finish of the Cybex Arc Trainer is solid and well put together.
  • Smooth ride: The Cybex Arc Trainer is the BMW of elliptical trainers.
  • Self powered: does not require a power cord (one less tangle of power cord = simplicity).
  • Wide cup holder: Accommodates even my relatively wide CamelBak bottle.
  • Cybex employees: The employees I spoke with on the phone were helpful, friendly and professional. Particularly Bill Domineau, Vice President of Customer Service, who enabled me to do a paid upgrade from the 350A Home which I hated, to the 630A which I love. Dear Cybex,  you have a winner with Bill!

What Could Be Better:

  • Tray: the “magazine rack” lacks a good place to put your iPod, the shelf is too narrow. In an otherwise well designed high-end machine, this is an oversight, given that most of users have MP3 players.
  • No cool down function: The Cybex Arc Trainer doesn’t have a cool down function. You can get around this by starting another 10 minute workout in Manual program, with low level and low incline. But on a high-end machine, I’d expect the work out programs would have the option for a cool down.
  • Safety of children and pets: the way the hinged parts move, you MUST be 100% sure that children and pets are kept out of the room while you workout. This is not optional, this is otherwise potentially extremely dangerous. A child or pet investigating the machine while you exercise could be seriously injured or worse by the force of the moving parts near the base of the machine. While there is a warning sticker on the machine, I’d like to see Cybex engineers design a machine that has more safety space between the base and the moving parts.

After the jump:

  • My mini-review of the Cybex Arc Trainer 350A Home

So what do YOU think? What’s your favorite exercise equipment? What do you like best about it?

My Mini-Review of the Cybex Arc Trainer 350A Home:

The 350A Home (now 360A Home) version of the Arc Trainer machine is not the same as the commercial version. Not even close. It’s sort of like the difference between a Chevy and a BMW. Both are cars and will get from point A to point B. But the BMW has the far superior ride.

While they look similar, there are many key differences between the home and commercial versions. At the time I purchased, Cybex marketing materials did not adequately explain the differences. So I’ll detail the differences here:

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The control panel buttons look and feel cheap, like they are from a science fair kit.
  • Resistance levels go from 1-20, but at maximum setting of 20, the resistance is merely 50% of the 630A model.
  • Incline level of 1-10 on the 350A Home does not equate to incline level of 1-10 on the 630A (approximately 70% less stride height – this is a BIG difference, and IMO makes the 350A a non-starter.)
  • The arms of the machine feel too far forward, causing you to lean in to reach them and taking you outside of the ideal position Cybex describes with the 630A.
  • Not as smooth as the 630A.
  • While doing a programmed workout that includes changes to incline, the display doesn’t show the incline number changing as the inclines changes (unlike the 630A model).
  • Cupholder is too small.
  • The unit I received came with backlevel firmware, and the wireless heartrate monitor did not work correctly.
  • The unit I received had a backlevel manual.
  • Set up issues: the arm bolt wouldn’t fit as intended, and as a result a service call by a technician was required; there was a loud vibration inside the motor housing, that required yet another service call by a technician.

What I liked:

  • The tray is well-suited to place an iPod on it.
  • Functional
  • Less expensive than the 630A.
  • Design looks good.
  • Despite the things I didn’t like, it is still better than a standard elliptical trainer.
  • While I’d prefer to never have to meet a service technician, the independent service technicians I met with outstanding. A+