Ellipticals are the perfect way to stay active, lose weight, and clear your mind from the comfort of your own home. The only problem is, when it comes to buying one, there are way too many options to choose from, especially for first-time buyers.
We put together this buying guide to help you find the best elliptical for your particular needs. Check out the table matrix below or read on for key features, the most popular brands, and in-depth product reviews.
Let’s get into it!
Precor AMT 835
NordicTrack C 7.5 Elliptical
SOLE Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
Octane Fitness Zr7 Zero Runner
ProForm Cardio HIIT Trainer Pro
Precor AMT 835
NordicTrack C 7.5 Elliptical
SOLE Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
Octane Fitness Zr7 Zero Runner
ProForm Cardio HIIT Trainer Pro
Benefits of an Elliptical Machine
- To get a cardio and toning workout simultaneously: Ellipticals are one of the few fitness machines out there that offer a two-in-one workout. They provide a full body resistance workout, working muscles in both your upper and lower body, with a cardio component to boot.
- To protect joints: The elliptical offers a low-impact workout thanks to its smooth motion. Most physical activity puts strain on your hips, knees, and ankles; the elliptical minimizes that strain. This is especially good if you struggle with injuries, as the elliptical will give you a great workout with low injury risk.
- Easy and effective at-home workouts: Since ellipticals offer such a comprehensive workout, having one at home will make it easy to get your daily sweat session done without having to drive to the gym. That saves you time and money in the long run.
- They’re low maintenance: Most ellipticals don’t require a lot of maintenance, making them an ideal choice for your home gym. At most, you’ll need to keep parts lubricated and check that screws and bolts are tight.
- To vary your workouts: If just the thought of walking or running on a treadmill bores you to tears, an elliptical could be a great choice because it’s easy to mix things up. You can catch up on work with your smartphone, crank up the incline to hit those glutes, or even read a book as you work out.
Types of Ellipticals
Your typical elliptical has foot pedals for you to stand on and a stationary handlebar. The concept is simple: stand on the pedals and push. The resulting movement looks and feels like something in-between walking and pedaling a bike. A trainer works mainly your lower body.
Some ellipticals have two metal arms. When using one of these cross-trainers, you push and pull the arms, alternating as you pedal your feet. Elliptical cross-trainers provide a true full-body workout, and if that’s what you’re looking for, a cross-trainer is a good match for you..
These ellipticals work your legs through a knee and hip extension. The pedals don’t move in a circular motion; instead, they’re angled backward as they go up and down. Elliptical gliders do not have moving arms. If you want to give your legs a little extra work, try a glider.
Compact and Folding
These tend to be smaller than traditional ellipticals, designed to be set up in areas with limited space. Desk ellipticals also fall under this category. Lacking arm handles, desk ellipticals are designed to fit under desks and tables, and are meant to be used from a seated position.
These are elliptical trainers that can be used in a standing or seated position. The hybrid approach offers a walking and jogging experience when standing, and a more bike-like experience while sitting.
Heavy-duty ellipticals of various styles are designed to take on the daily abuse common in gyms. Most often, these ellipticals have many of the same features as residential ellipticals. These come at a much higher price point, thanks to their high-quality construction.
Since an elliptical is a pretty big piece of equipment, it can get expensive. When buying for home use, the average elliptical will range in cost from $1,000-$2,000.
- Around $500: Some ellipticals can get as low as a couple hundred dollars. But be careful, as with such a low price, it’s important to check that the elliptical is durable and well-made so you’ll stay safe while exercising.
- Around $1000: At this price point, you’ll get a product that’s sturdy, durable, and has a great range of features (think a touch screen and multiple workout settings). It will also come with a good warranty–Sole, NordicTrack, and ProForm offer a five-year parts warranty and a two-year labor warranty.
- $1000 and up: Here, you’ll get a product that’s well-made with lots of extra features. Many machines in this price range offer up to 40 resistance levels, have an eco-friendly feature where the machine generates its own energy, or come with accessories such as resistance bands that hook on the elliptical’s arms.
Things to Consider Before Buying an Elliptical
The placement of the motor will affect the workout experience and the overall design of the elliptical machine. In front drive systems, the motor is located in the front, providing the experience of climbing stairs. This is great for intense workouts. Rear drive systems have their motors in the back, providing a better jogging and walking experience. Center drive systems are common in desk ellipticals, to keep these balanced.
The length of your walking or running stride will affect the proper setup of your elliptical. Most modern ellipticals can be adjusted for proper fit, but some compact models are set to one stride length only (sometimes as short as 11 inches). We recommend an elliptical with a 21-inch stride length to get the most out of your machine.
The heavier the flywheel, the smoother the ride. During your more intense workouts, a heavier flywheel will also offer more stability. If you’re a beginner, we suggest looking for an elliptical with an 18-pound flywheel.
Foot Pedal Size
The foot pedal size matters, especially if you’re taller. The larger foot pedals offer more stability and decrease toe and foot numbness. A more comfortable workout experience means that you can focus on achieving your fitness goals, without annoying discomfort caused by your machine.
Different models and brands range from being really loud to almost completely quiet. The more expensive models tend to be quieter, as all the components are built-well and optimized for running smoothly. If noise is a factor for you, keep this in mind.
Most ellipticals are fairly easy to assemble, taking anywhere between 15 minutes and 3 hours to set up. The majority of machines arrive mostly assembled, with only accessories or smaller parts detached. You should be able to complete the assembly with common household tools.
Since ellipticals are delivered mostly pre-assembled, the packages will be heavy. If you end up selecting a compact or folding elliptical, the weight will be somewhat less. This is a heavy item, so don’t be surprised if the boxes are a bit beat up when they make it to you. Your machine should still be undamaged.
Typically, ellipticals will come with a lifetime warranty on the frame, a 1-year warranty on labor and a 1- to 3-year warranty on parts. The higher-end and commercial-grade machines often come with better warranties.
Best Elliptical Brands
Precor was established in 1980, invented the elliptical in 1995, and has been providing workout equipment to gyms, hotels, and homes ever since. Their most popular ellipticals are the EFX 221 Energy Series Elliptical Crosstrainer, the AMT 835, and the EFX 833 Crosstrainer.
Octane Fitness has been improving elliptical technology since 2001. They also invented the recumbent elliptical. What they’re known for: the ZR8 Zero Runner, the Q37 elliptical, and the Lateralx elliptical.
ProForm focuses on creating in-home workout equipment with the latest technology–such as the Cardio HIIT Trainer Pro, the Endurance 520, and the 895 Smart Strider, a few of their most well-known ellipticals.
Built-In Workout Programs
Most new ellipticals will have a variety of built-in workout programs. The number and quality of them will vary, with lower-end machines having only a handful, and higher-end ellipticals boasting 20 or more. Some ellipticals can download new programs from the internet or an app, as well.
You’ll want to look for a large console with a backlit screen to make things easy to see and adjust while working out. Most monitors offer real-time stats tracking and control over workout settings at the touch of a button.
Most ellipticals will allow you to adjust the resistance settings, increasing or decreasing how hard you need to pedal, thereby varying your workout. Some ellipticals also have an incline or ramp feature, allowing you to change the angle of the pedal pathway up to 20%, likewise increasing or decreasing the difficulty of the exercise.
Some ellipticals can be folded down for better storage, and have transport wheels to make moving them around easier. The downside to folding ellipticals is that they can be less sturdy due to the increased complexity and hinge points.
Heart Rate Monitor
A built-in monitor makes it easy to keep track of your workout stats. Some machines can automatically adjust settings to keep your heart rate in the target zone. A number of ellipticals come with bluetooth capability to sync up stats.
Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity makes it easy to update workout programs, upload statistics, use exercise accessories (i.e. wireless heart rate monitors), and use interactive video workouts. iFit compatibility is usually enabled in ellipticals with WiFi.
Warm Up and Cool Down
A number of ellipticals have built-in warm up and cool down features that can be activated at any time with the touch of a button. These pre-programmed periods make using your elliptical safer by reducing the risk of injury.
Some ellipticals offer a safety pin or key that prevents the device from being used. This is especially useful if you have kids running around, who may otherwise use the machine without supervision.
Best Ellipticals for Home 2018 Product Reviews
Best Elliptical Overall: Precor AMT 835
- Naturally adapt stride length from 0 to 36 inches. Open...
- 20 resistance levels (20-375 Watts). Heart Rate sensors...
- Readouts: Heart Rate: Current, Average, Max, Target;...
- Equipment dimensions: Length 80 inches, Width 35...
- 10-year warranty on parts (mechanical and electronic)....
20 resistance levels are available on the Precor AMT, so you can adjust the settings to suit your training needs. Like other ellipticals reviewed here, the Precor has heart rate sensors located on the handlebars.
Since this elliptical is meant for commercial use, it’s big (422 lbs) and well-made. It has a 10-year parts warranty and one-year labor warranty.
The AMT can be used as an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or stair climber. To use as a treadmill, hold the outer handles. For a movement that mimics climbing the stairs, grab the handles in the middle.
If you tend to get bored with your workouts and want to switch things up, the AMT 835 is a good choice for you because of its versatility.
The Precor elliptical only has one con: it’s expensive. Be prepared to dig deep into your wallet.
Best Value for the Money: NordicTrack C 7.5 Elliptical
- 26 work Apps. Get the training you want with built-in...
- 20 lb. Flywheel. Engineered for incredibly smooth...
- 22 digital resistance levels. Quick, responsive, one...
- Front drive elliptical. Placing the drive mechanism at...
- One touch controls. Quick, responsive controls adjust...
The C 7.5 has a twenty-pound flywheel, giving you a smooth and even ride. This elliptical also offers silent magnetic resistance, which helps the machine run quietly, making it great for smaller and shared spaces.
It offers 22 resistance levels to mix up your workout. You can even sync this elliptical with your choice of 26 workout apps featuring exercise programs designed by certified personal trainers. It also comes with a fan, an acoustic sound system, and transport wheels.
The C 7.5 doesn’t offer an advanced console, which means it doesn’t have built-in entertainment readily available. Its other downfall is that you can only track your heart rate through hand grip sensors, not wirelessly.
Best Front Drive Elliptical: SOLE Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
- Elliptical machine provides challenging cardio workout,...
- Adjustable pedals and console and power adjustable...
- Pulse grip and chest strap heart rate monitoring; LCD...
- Measures 27 by 58 by 83 inches (W x H x D), with...
- Includes the following manufacturer's warranties...
A front-drive elliptical has its flywheel in the front. It’s a common type of home elliptical, and the SOLE Fitness E35 elliptical is a great example. The technology used in the E35 — the 25-pound flywheel, quiet drive system, and power incline — gives you a smooth and easy ride.
The LCD console is equipped with a variety of customizable features, and the 2018 E35 can even sync with your smartphone and connect to Bluetooth.
The E35 isn’t perfect: it tends to make noise during high-intensity workouts, and is comparatively difficult and time-consuming to assemble. But once you get it set up, the E35 meets many of your workout needs with its adjustable pedals and incline.
Best Center Drive Elliptical: Octane Fitness ZR7 Zero Runner
- Replicates a true running experience with zero impact...
- Simulate walking with shorter strides or increase speed...
- Monitor the health of your stride with stride tracing...
- Self-powered and whisper quiet
- Console displays all essential workout data
Center drive ellipticals are quickly becoming the new trend, and the Octane Fitness ZR7 Zero Runner is a great place to start. Although it’s much more expensive than other ellipticals listed here, don’t let that turn you off.
The ZR7 uses Bluetooth to connect to the SmartLink digital fitness platform to track your workouts and progress.
It comes with resistance bands and has a place for you to attach them, giving you a different upper-body workout than the other ellipticals reviewed here.
Gait Analyzer technology lets you know if your form is slipping; if good form is something you struggle with while exercising, the ZR7 can help you stay on track.
Unfortunately, the ZR7 can’t be folded up, so it could be difficult to store in your home. The high price might also be a drawback.
Best Rear Drive Elliptical: Exerpeutic 1000XL
- DESIGN: Natural Elliptical motion eliminates any...
- TENSION RESISTANCE: 8 Level magnetic tension resistance...
- COMPUTER: An easy to read large window LCD display...
- TARGET ZONE MONITOR: Pulse pads on the additional...
- QUIETNESS: The precision balanced flywheel and V- belt...
The Exerpeutic 1000XL has a carefully-balanced flywheel located in the back of the machine. It offers eight levels of resistance. The elliptical has an LCD display that tracks distance, heart rate, calories burned, and more. It even includes an extra set of pulse pads on the handlebars that also monitor your heart rate.
For such a low price, this elliptical offers an impressive variety of features. From the non-slip pedals to the transport wheels to the dual-direction flywheel (you can go both forwards and backwards, working your muscles in different ways), Exerpeutic knew what they were doing when they designed this model.
A drawback of this elliptical is that the assembly instructions are difficult to follow and the machine’s stride length maxes out at 13”, which will make things tricky if you’re tall.
Best Hybrid Elliptical: ProForm Cardio HIIT Trainer Pro
- Unlike other stepper machines, the cardiohiit Trainer...
- Our ever-growing workout library offers programs made...
- IFit ready, 10 inch Full-color touchscreen, 34 workout...
- 30 lb. Effective Inertia-Enhanced flywheel, 26...
- The ProForm cardiohiit Trainer Pro is protected with a...
ProForm’s hybrid elliptical is the best cross trainer machine for home use. It’s a cross between an elliptical and a stair machine, giving you max cardio and toning benefits while protecting your joints.
The HIIT Trainer Pro falls into the mid-range, and offers a wide range of exciting technological features: 34 workout apps, a tablet holder, and an EKG grip pulse to measure your heart rate.
The ProForm is smaller than other ellipticals on this list: it comes in at 39” long, 29.25” wide, and 66.7” high. Its compact size plus transport wheels make for easy storage.
The elliptical offers 26 resistance levels and has a lifetime frame warranty, five-year parts warranty, and a two-year labor warranty.
This elliptical gives you a high-intensity workout, so keep that in mind going in. And similar to other options, you may find the ProForm difficult to assemble.
Best Recumbent Elliptical: Octane Fitness XR650
- The xR650 ride recumbent elliptical offers the high...
- Unique Power stroke technology uses a longer elliptical...
- Exercisers can combine cardio and strength workouts...
- The Active Seat Position accommodates different size...
- Multiple workouts, including several interval training...
Recumbent ellipticals let you sit down as you pedal with your feet while pushing and pulling with your arms. If you struggle with back pain or you’re new to working out, a recumbent elliptical is a great choice for you because it supports your back.
The XR650 is by far the most expensive elliptical on this list, but it’s a good quality, well-made machine with excellent durability. The seat is also extremely comfortable, and the PowerStroke technology engages your muscles.
The console can’t connect to the Internet, and the entire machine weighs almost 300 pounds, making it difficult to move. The arms can’t be locked–if the pedals are moving, the arms are moving. A sound system, a fan, and an HR chest strap are also not included with the elliptical.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Elliptical
When using an elliptical, there are a few handy techniques that can be used to maximize your workout potential:
- Stand up straight. Not only is bad posture rough on your back, but slouching doesn’t engage your core. You’ll get a better workout if you stand up straight and focus on engaging all of your muscles. And don’t lean your weight on the handlebar!
- Monitor your strides per minute. Faster SPMs are better for cardio workouts.
- Keep your feet flat. For proper body alignment, you’ll want to keep your feet level on the pedals.
- Enter info into the machine before you begin workout. Most ellipticals tell you how many calories you’ve burned in a given time, but this number won’t be accurate unless you’ve entered your body specifications.
- Put more weight on your heels than on your toes. This will up your endurance and work bigger muscle groups.
- Keep some lubricant handy. Lubricant prevents annoying squeaking sounds as you work out. Check your elliptical owner’s manual for suggestions on which brand to use.
- Place a foam mat under your elliptical. A mat will protect your wood floor or carpet and prevent the elliptical from sliding.
Q. What’s the weight capacity of most ellipticals?
A: Most ellipticals are safe for users who weigh up to 300 lbs, but be sure to check the specifics of the make and model you’re looking at.
Q. Does an elliptical offer a better workout than a treadmill?
A: This depends on what you’re looking for. Both ellipticals and treadmills provide a good cardio workout. Most ellipticals offer resistance for your arms as well, however, and they’re safer for your joints than running on a treadmill would be.
Q. Are ellipticals noisy?
A: Sometimes ellipticals squeak. If you make sure to completely tighten all the screws and apply lubricant to moving parts, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Q. Do ellipticals require a lot of maintenance?
A: Ellipticals don’t require much maintenance once they’re properly set up. Your owner’s manual should tell you what’s needed, but it’s always a good idea to check the screws and bolts once in a while and make sure they’re tight. Keep parts lubricated and clean your elliptical with antibacterial wipes once in a while.
Q. Will my elliptical help me lose weight?
A: Consistent elliptical workouts paired with good eating habits can burn calories and help you lose weight.
Q. How important is stride length, and how do I know what stride length is right for me?
A: It’s pretty important. Stride length refers to the distance from the toe of the front pedal to the heel of the back pedal when they’re at their widest separation. A natural stride length equals a safe and comfortable workout. If you can, test out different stride lengths before making your decision; if you’re purchasing online, the manufacturer can probably help you decide what’s best.
There are dozens of ellipticals on the market, but the Precor AMT 835 emerges as the clear overall winner because of its quality make and three-in-one feature (use as an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or stair climber).
If you’re on a budget, the NordicTrack C 7.5 offers the best value for your money.
Are you a diehard elliptical fan or a newbie? Which type of elliptical is right for you? Let us know in the comments below.