Top 5 Best Ellipticals - A Quick Comparison
|Model||Rating||List Price||Resistance||Stride Length||Programs||Flywheel||Pricing|
|$2,699||20 levels||20"||10||27 lbs||See Best Price|
|$2,699||24 Levels||0" - 38"||35||20 lbs.||See Best Price|
|$1,699||16 Levels||n/a||n/a||n/a||See Best Price|
|$3,499||20 Levels||20"||10||30 lbs||See Best Price|
|$2,499||Multiple||20"||10||17 lbs||See Best Price|
Best Elliptical Trainers by Category
To ease your search for the right trainer, we organize elliptical reviews into useful categories: price, drive type, size and more. Click a category link for part-by-part reviews of the best ellipticals in the bunch..
Best Ellipticals by Price
What's your home gym budget? On the dropdown menu up top, our elliptical reviews are divided into several price brackets. Here are summaries for a few price popular price ranges:
- The cheapest ellipticals are in the under-$500 category. hese are entry-level cross trainers with short warranties. You can see our top rated ellipticals under $500 here. Keep in mind though, a machine over $500 could last much longer. When you move out of the cheapest elliptical category, you get much better value per dollar.
- Most shoppers choose machines sale priced from $999 to $1999. These tend to be the best ellipticals for overall value. We break the choices down with elliptical reviews for the $1000 - $1500 range and $1500 - $2000 range.
- Elite home ellipticals cost $2500 or more. Some are strong enough for light commercial use. See a list of our top rated high end ellipticals.
Best Ellipticals by Drive Type
Elliptical machines are also categorized by where their drives (big metal flywheels) are stored. With a quick glance you can tell whether a trainer is rear drive, front drive and center drive. The drive location can influence machine size, durability, noise level, and your exercise posture.
- The classic elliptical design is the rear drive. The best rear drive ellipticals are quiet and dependable. This is partly thanks to their suspended pedals...Cheaper rear drive machines have pedals that glide along rails, so they’re more prone to noisiness and wear.) But a possible drawback of choosing a rear drive is the machine size. Unless you choose a fold-up elliptical, you'll need to dedicate a good amount of floor space.
- Front drive ellipticals are sometimes preferred because they cost less than rear drive ellipticals and need less floor space. A possible drawback though is that these machines could be noisy in comparison. Also, some front drive ellipticals encourage you to lean into the console, which isn’t your best possible training posture. To get an idea of how your body would be positioned on a trainer, you can see how a model uses the machine on a sale page or in a YouTube demo.
- center drive ellipticals are the third category. Like rear drive trainers, these promote good posture -- and compared with rear drive trainers, these machines have small footprints too. When you actually use one of these machines though, your arms and legs will likely extend far beyond the base of the unit. Despite being compact these trainers tend to support long strides.
Best Ellipticals for Small Spaces
As just mentioned above, center drive ellipticals require the least floor space. Front drive trainers take a moderate amount of space, and rear drive machines need the most room.
- Folding ellipticals might have shock-assist for very quick folding that requires little upper body strength.
- Bowflex Max Trainers look similar to center drive ellipticals and support especially high intensity exercise. With a Max Trainer you can burn calories at about double the rate compared with using a more traditional elliptical cross-trainer.
Best Club-Quality Ellipticals
Fitness machines are categorized as light commercial, commercial or residential. Light commercial ellipticals are typically under warranty for up to three hours of use per day. Commercial ellipticals are designed for up to six hours of use per day.
Choosing a Home Elliptical Machine
Elliptical machines are quickly becoming one of the hottest choices for home gym equipment. People everywhere, both men and women are loving the results that they get with this machine and also enjoy how good it feels on their body. While treadmills used to be the gold standard in home gym equipment, now, the elliptical is quickly moving into the spotlight.
The really great thing about the elliptical is that unlike the treadmill, it’s going to work the entire upper body as well, plus, give you even better calorie burning potential. This is thanks to the fact that it’ll work more muscle fibers with each minute of exercise performed. You get all of this and no impact. What more could you really ask for?
All of this said, you do need to choose the best elliptical to see these payoffs. Understanding how to select an elliptical that works with your body and goals is essential. Here are some quick tips on how to best do just that.
The Importance of Adjustability...
As you go about your search, you should remember one key thing: the best ellipticals out there are adjustable. This means that no matter what your own measurements are, the elliptical can be custom fit to your body.
This is important because if you fall outside of the ‘typical average’ height range, you will very likely find that as you go about using a non-adjustable elliptical, it feels kind of off. You feel as though the movement pattern just doesn’t come naturally. This is because the machine is not catering to your own measurements.
Likewise, the key features that make up your workout should also be adjustable so that way you can custom design a program to your needs.
It can mean the difference between a so-so workout and a truly great one.
Here are the main types of adjustability to look for.
Adjustable Resistance Level
First you have resistance level. It’s vital that you can go up or down in resistance on your machine so this way as you get stronger, you are able to progress.
It also allows you to easily perform interval training, where you alternate very intense bouts of exercise with less intense ‘active rest’ phases.
Resistance is important for two things: the amount of challenge you feel and the smoothness of your ‘ride’ so to speak.
The way resistance works is that there is a flywheel inside the machine that spins whenever you move the foot pedals. This flywheel also comes equipped with a magnetic breaker, which moves closer and closer to the flywheel as more resistance is applied.
The best elliptical machines typically have 20 levels of resistance, while lower quality machines have far less. This allows you to challenge yourself more and use the machine longer as you experience progression.
Additionally, the heavier the flywheel is, the smoother the machine is going to feel. If the flywheel is very light, as you work up to higher speeds and become more advanced, the elliptical is going to feel shaky and may even start to feel like it could topple over if you go much faster.
Therefore, you want to look for two things here: the total number of resistance levels offered and the weight of the flywheel. The heavier the flywheel, the better. Beginner machines typically have a 20 pound flywheel, however those who are more advanced should look for a heavier one.
Adjustable Stride Length
Another important point of adjustability you’ll want to look for when shopping for ellipticals is an adjustable stride length. What you are going for here is a stride length that is going to feel natural and not like you are straining to maintain it. Sometimes people will get to a point where their stride length feels so unnatural they feel a deep stretch in their hip flexors, which can sometimes even lead to pain. This is precisely what you do not want, so if you ever feel this at any time, that’s your cue to that your elliptical needs to be adjusted.
You want the pedals of the machine to stay in constant contact with your feet, which is going to enhance the non-impact nature of the elliptical machine. When your feet begin to lift off, that’s when you start having impact again as the weight has to transfer down through the foot.
The most frequently used stride length (measured from the front of the foremost pedal to the heel of the back pedal) is 20 inches. Certain machines will allow you to adjust this however, which can then be very beneficial for those who again are taller or shorter.
Usually the commonly given ranges are those under 5’3” will feel best with a stride length of between 18 and 20 inches while those who are 5’7” to 5’11” will want to use a 20 inch stride. If you are over 6 feet, then you will probably want to be bumped up to a 22 inch stride.
Your body will quickly tell you if the stride isn’t what you need it to be as everything will feel very choppy or awkward when using the machine.
One brand, Octane Fitness, has a patented SmartStride ergonomic feature, which lets these ellipticals adjust the stride length automatically depending on how you are pedaling as you begin. It is definitely a more expensive feature, but one that some people may be interested in if they can never feel comfortable on the machine.
Another point of adjustability with some machines is an adjustable incline. This you’ll typically find on treadmills that are in the medium to upper price ranges and helps you not only add more resistance for challenge, but add hill training as well. It can be great for those who are really looking to see maximum progress and who may want to have more variety in their workout program.
If you typically find that you get quite bored with the same old routine over and over again, you’ll want as many different variables as possible, so this will really help you out.
By using a higher incline, you’ll also increase your calorie burn, gain more strength, and improve your cardiovascular fitness level even further. It’s parallel to walking on an incline versus walking on flat ground.
By moving between the inclines, you can also target your body differently, customizing your workout to what you wish to target. Use a flat incline and you’ll hit your quads more while a steep incline will work your quads and hamstrings to a larger degree.
Another feature that many ellipticals come with is multi-grip handlebars. This allows you to change how you are holding the handle bars, which in turn allows you to work the muscles slightly differently as well.
The elliptical in general will work your back, biceps, triceps, and shoulders (particularly the rear and front delts), but by changing position, you can stress each of these muscles slightly differently.
On basic ellipticals, you’ll find just one hand position, whereas the ones that are more advanced give you handlebars that curve at the end, which lets you grip in multiple ways. Most people will find these far more comfortable to use as well as ergonomically they can choose whichever position feels best to their body.
Another factor to consider when looking for the best elliptical is how it will be to actually live with the elliptical that you are using. Is it going to be comfortable to have in the home?
More advanced ellipticals that offer magnetic resistance are completely silent, so these will be far more ideal if you are exercising with other people around, especially if they are sleeping when you do it.
Cheaper ellipticals typically have a friction break pad system, which can get to be very noisy.
On top of that, keep in mind that a heavier flywheel also translates to less noise as the heavier it is, the less movement of the actual machine you’ll get. If the flywheel is too light, the machine may sway back and forth as you go about the movement pattern.
Cheaper machines also aren’t made of the same quality material and may experience bolt loosening over time. This can further make a lot of noise and lead to you having to constantly retighten them.
Also look at the drive feature. Rear drive and center drive ellipticals tend to be more quiet than front drive ones, so if this is a big concern for you, make sure you invest in one of those two.
Be sure you think about how you are going to fit the elliptical into your home. Measure out your space beforehand so you can picture how that elliptical will fit.
Different models do have different dimensions, so this is a point that should not be overlooked. A smaller model may be far more appealing to someone with a tight space. If you want something really compact, center drive is usually the best way to go.
For recommendations see our chart of best compact and folding ellipticals.
Also consider whether the elliptical in question is portable or not. Do keep in mind that sometimes just because a machine is label ‘portable’ doesn’t mean you can easily carry it up stairs or move it from one room to another.
For maximum portability, look for an elliptical that comes with wheels so you can easily move it around. When it has this feature, you will be amazed and how much lighter and easier that elliptical feels to move.
Also consider a folding elliptical if you really want to move it around easily.
Any elliptical that you look into should be comfortable to use. This may mean it has cushioning on the pedals to give you an extra bit of shock absorption or it has a climate control feature with a built in fan.
While these may seem like ‘extras’ and things you don’t need, you may find you really come to appreciate them when you are using the machine. The more comfortable you are while you use it, the more likely you are to get those workouts in and the better results you’ll see.
Internet access during workouts can be a wonderful motivator to exercise. Imagine how much longer you might train with on-board email access, social media, breaking news and so on.
In just about any price range, you can buy an elliptical with a touch screen and Android browser.
But the most cost-effective choice might be a "BYOC" fitness machine. That is, bring your own computer. Save money on elliptical electronics by docking your own tablet computer to the console. NordicTrack and many other brands let your own tablet serve as a secondary console for workout programming as well as entertainment and multitasking.
Do you use FitBit or a similar mobile app? Many people are using mobile apps to log daily step counts, heart rate and other health/fitness data. Thus it's becoming more common for exercise equipment to be app-friendly. Sole Fitness is one of the leading fitness brands that added Bluetooth connectivity to their ellipticals for 2017. If you use an elliptical with Bluetooth, you can automatically sync your workout stats with FitBit, iHealth, MyFitnessPal and countless other mobile apps.
Many fitness equipment manufacturers have their own mobile apps and wearable trackers too. The most popular example might be the iFit Vue that's advertised with NordicTrack ellipticals.
Wireless Heart Rate Monitoring
When we say that an elliptical is a "cross trainer" we mean that it delivers both strength and cardio workouts. With cardio in mind we recommend ellipticals that have wireless heart rate receivers. These are common on ellipticals in the middle and high price brackets.
With a constant stream of accurate heart rate data, you can train more efficiently by always staying within your target heart rate zone. Also with good data, you can keep track of your pulse from month to month -- and when you see improvement, that’s excellent motivation to keep up your healthy lifestyle.
Contact heart rate monitoring is also an option. This feature is included on most trainers, even very cheap ellipticals… but a common customer complaint about cheap ellipticals is that their heart rate monitors are inaccurate and therefore useless… possibly even dangerous if you trust their "alternative facts!"
Built-in elliptical workout programs automate your trainer, helping you get smartly-designed workout sessions with minimal need for set-up. Basically an elliptical workout program controls the machine’s speed and resistance. If applicable, it can control incline and stride length too.
Programs can be customized in different ways (e.g., time, distance or calories), and on a good elliptical the general selection is varied. For example:
- Common categories on elliptical workout menus are Cardio, Interval, Performance, Strength, and Weight Loss.
- Generic program names are Manual, 5K, Rolling Hills, Interval, and Heart Rate Control.
Besides the above categories, advanced cross training elliptical workout programs are supplied by Octane Fitness, NordicTrack and a few other manufacturers. These prompt you to perform cross-training exercises on and off the machine.
Displays for elliptical workout programs are extremely varied. At one extreme, many brands still use classic dot matrix displays. At the other extreme, various leading brands use full-color touchscreens and can show high-definition workout video programs. With WiFi connections they might allow unlimited new workout downloads too. And in any price range, you can buy an elliptical that has a bracket to hold your tablet computer. For many fitness equipment brands, your tablet can interact with the machine and serve as your control panel.
Take time to read elliptical reviews and compare your workout program options, as these can significantly shape the price and your exercise experience. In our part-by-part reviews you’ll see other popular elliptical features too: USB charging ports, wide-screen TVs, iPod-compatible speakers and more.