When searching for cardio equipment, finding a machine that has everything you need can be something of a challenge. Some machines can be too hard on the user’s body while others may not offer a challenging enough workout. Elliptical machines offer both challenging and effective upper and lower body workouts while going easy on a user's joints.
No matter what your budget, experience level, body type, physical capabilities, or space requirement, there’s surely an elliptical out there to meet your every need. We’ve also compiled a buyer’s guide listed below to walk you through all the basics behind these unique cardio machines.
Best Elliptical Overall:
A great elliptical are usually built to last with tons of programming options to keep your workouts interesting. However there’s more to these best elliptical machines than just some preset workout programs, as these were chosen based on considerations like durability, size, incline options, and most importantly price. You can easily go out and buy a gym quality elliptical in the thousands of dollars, but doesn’t necessarily mean that it will meet your needs. When it comes to the best elliptical overall you have to find a balance between all of these factors.
The Nordic Track 16.7 is easily the best overall elliptical because of what you get for the price. It goes above and beyond for its list price with not only a tablet screen but also an optional 15 inch TV for plenty of distraction while exercising. Read Full Review
The Sole E35 is a great all around elliptical because of excellent features and reasonable price. It offers a high amount of resistance and incline levels combined with 10 programs for ongoing physical challenges. All of this is offered at a budget friendly price for a middle class household. Read Full Review
The 1310e is impressive for a mid-level treadmill with high levels of resistance and incline. It comes with a ridiculous amount of workout options with 32 built in apps and iFit compatibility. Read Full Review
The Smooth Fitness CE5.5 is one of the most complete all around ellipticals especially for its price range. It keeps things simple where they need to be but offers more than you would need in places like resistance and workout programs. The CE5.5 will not leave you wanting when it comes to extra features either. Read Full Review
The AFG 4.0AE is a high quality elliptical that’s the perfect size for most home gyms and includes an easy to read multi-window screen and high levels of incline and resistance. The features on this machine are a little light but that serves the greater good of getting a solid machine at a reasonable price. Read Full Review
Best High End Elliptical:
Elliptical trainers have long been thought to be the Cadillac of exercise equipment, offering the upright cardio of a treadmill with the joint cushioning movement of a bike. When price isn’t a concern you’ll be surprised at the machines you find. The best high end elliptical models on this list are manufactured with the most durable parts, protected by strong warranties, and feature some of the most advanced consoles out there. Advancements in elliptical technology like side moving arms increase core and upper body involvement and Cross Ramp technology make these ellipticals strength training machines as much as they are cardio machines. Additionally, excellent safety features like oversized pedals and natural track movement protect the joints from stress.
The Landice CX8 is a magnificent machine packed full of features like speaker and a fan as well as supporting weights up to 400 pounds. If all that wasn’t enough users can control incline and stride shaper while working their core with an extra set of core strengthening arms. Read Full Review
The EFX 447 is a solid, impressive piece of equipment offering Cross Ramp technology makes this elliptical more than just a cardio machine. It offers a generous amount of preset programs and user IDs to keep the whole family happy and motivated. Read Full Review
The compact True Fitness ES900 is perfect for those who have the money but not the space to spare. Being small doesn’t make this machine any less durable thanks to its mostly metal construction. You won’t find a lack of extras on this device either with most of the standard features plus a console that holds 28 preset workout programs. Read Full Review
The Octane Fitness Q47Xi is a solid machine that comes with a wide array of preset workout programs thanks to its Smart Link technology. One of this machines coolest features is the above screen light which changes colors to inform you of changes to your program and other measurements of your machine. Read Full Review
Life Fitness is a staple in fitness clubs because of their quality parts and durability. This is a tank of a machine but you’ll love it more for its console options including unlimited workout programs and smartphone connectivity. Other stand out features include full color nature trails to watch as you exercise and resistance controls located right on the handle. Read Full Review
Best Budget Elliptical:
Ellipticals are incredibly popular pieces of cardio equipment because they’re easier on the joints than a traditional treadmill while still offering a great workout. Unfortunately ellipticals are made with many moving parts which usually make them more expensive and less durable than other forms of cardio. This can be an issue when you’re looking for a great elliptical on a budget.
The ellipticals on this list are all obviously affordable but they’re also made to last as long as possible despite the budget materials. They offer features you wouldn’t expect on a budget machine like fans and even a few workout programs, as well as being space friendly which is often a requirement with budget equipment.
The Schwinn A40 is one of their newest epileptical models and combines the features you want at the price you need. It supports a decent amount of weight and offers multiple levels of resistance combined with a surprising number of preset workouts. The A40 also comes with some unexpected features like speakers and a dedicated heart rate monitor. Read Full Review
Horizon traded in a bunch of gimmicks for a simple and solid elliptical in this case. The console is easy to read and simple to navigate through resistance and preset workouts. The RX-57 has a pretty small footprint too, making it perfect for those who are tight on space. Read Full Review
The Proform Hybrid Trainer is unlike anything you’ll find on the market today because it is two workout machines in one. Even as a standalone elliptical it is impressive because of its 350 pound user weight capacity and 14 preset workout programs. It does not go overboard when it comes to special features but the ones that it has are convenient like dedicated heart rate monitor handles. Read Full Review
Nautilus has been a trusted brand in fitness for decades and with the ingenuity of Bowflex behind them they can create awesome budget machines like this one. The console is amazing with a multi-window colored screen and easy navigation through a surprising number of preset workouts. They body is tough too with the size of a budget machine but the weight capacity of a much more expensive model. Read Full Review
The Smart Strider 535 is a great option for a bigger machine on a budget; it offers most of the amenities that you would want from a club quality machine, but folds up to save space when not in use. The console comes with 18 preset workouts and 18 digital resistance levels to provide an ongoing challenge. This machine is also one of the best looking budget machines out there, nice when it comes to complimenting the look of your home. Read Full Review
Elliptical Buyer's Guide
Choosing an elliptical can be a difficult task as they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and price points. You’ll also need to consider ergonomics, adjustability, and extra usability features. You also need to decide whether you are going to save a little bit of money up front with belt resistance or guarantee a lower cost of ownership overall with magnetic resistance. Yes, selecting your dream elliptical machine can seem a little overwhelming because of all of their moving parts but they don’t have to be if you know what you are looking for.
When it comes to ellipticals, size matters more than any other piece of equipment because of how tall and long they can get; therefore, make sure you measure your space for the stride length instead of the base length. Bigger ellipticals take up more room but they also offer a higher weight capacity and a sturdier base than their smaller counterparts.
Elliptical manufactures put a lot of thought into making sure their devices are ergonomically sound. This Features like oversized, textured foot plates, comfortable grips on the handles, and adjustable stride lengths allow for natural, comfortable movement during your workout.
Just like any other cardio machine today, there are multiple types of dashboards displays available. These include traditional LED readout screens which show only your key metrics all the way up to advanced touch screen monitors which show your metrics and offer other features like built in workouts. Some even function as fully functioning computing tablets which offer all of the preceding capabilities as well as video and internet capabilities. Depending on the model you’re also likely to find speakers, three speed fans, and USB ports to plug in your MP3 player.
Like most treadmills, some ellipticals allow you to change the incline of your movement which add difficulty to your workout and allows your elliptical to better serve you longer.
A quality elliptical machine should be backed by a solid warranty to ensure long, reliable service life. While a lifetime warranty is always the best option, always try to aim for three year minimum coverage which includes the frame and dashboard.
Types of Resistance
Ellipticals only offer two different types of resistance and even though one is slowly becoming obsolete, it’s good information to know regardless.
This resistance works by tightening and loosing belts around two separate flywheels and works fairly well but wears out the belts over time which adds to cost of ownership. Belt resistance is on its way out as magnetic resistance becomes the dominant resistance technology.
Magnetic resistance is popular because it’s smooth and quiet with easy transitions between resistance levels. This resistance works by polarizing different magnets at different times in order to increase or decrease the resistance level.
Using Your Elliptical
Ellipticals are an awesome tool for anyone looking to get in some cardio without putting the hurt on your joints. Always be sure you get an elliptical with a proper stride length or one which is adjustable in order to ensure proper comfort and form. Ellipticals are not great for sport specific training purposes, but if you are looking to lose weight and preserve your knees they may be your best option.