The best elliptical machines are favored over treadmills and stair climbers because they provide a low impact workout that’s gentle on the joints, but just as effective as other popular cardio machines. If you’re searching for an effective workout using a machine you won’t become easily bored with, then the elliptical machine can be the perfect solution.
In recent years, the elliptical trainer has enjoyed a whole new level of popularity as word has spread regarding the type of effective workout these exercise machines can provide. Now, considering the market is flooded with hundreds of models to choose from, it can be incredibly difficult to find a machine that’s reliable, equipped with the number of resistance levels you need and other important features and components that can ensure the machine is able to withstand heavy use.
How We Chose Only the Best
We’ve taken a look at dozens of the leading models, checking out certain specs such as brake system type, frame quality, and built-in features such as preprogrammed workouts and resistance levels, and reviewed each model based on certain criteria.
Considering the number of styles and different features to choose from, narrowing down your choices to find the best model can be a real challenge.
When we reviewed each model, we considered size, budget, ease of use, frame durability, resistance levels, brake system type, and extra features. Each of the models we chose rated high in specific categories, whether they were the best compact elliptical machine, a budget-friendly buy, a portable model, or the best commercial gym-quality elliptical. We’ve selected the best in each category in order to make it easier for you to choose a model that will fit your budget and fitness needs.
We’re confident that you’ll be able to find the exact model you’ve been looking for in our top five products.
If you’re not familiar with elliptical machines or how they measure up to other popular exercise machines you can learn more from our article on the recumbent bike vs elliptical machine, or check out our extensive buying guide which discusses all of the features and specs you should consider before you buy.
1. Best Overall Elliptical Machine-Precor AMT 835 Commercial Series Adaptive Motion Trainer Elliptical Machine
This model by Precor is our top-rated elliptical machine. It’s highly customizable and adjustable, so users of all sizes and fitness levels can enjoy a gym quality workout. The machine’s Open Stride technology ensures you’re using the perfect stride for an effective workout that’s gentle on your joints. We were impressed with the machine’s solid design, overall adjustability and the machine’s ability to mimic the movements of both a treadmill and stair climber. If you’re not on a tight budget, then the AMT 835 is a great buy if you want to enjoy a fun, tough workout in the comfort of your home.
2. Best Commercial Style Elliptical Trainer-ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer
One of the leading models on the market that can allow users to enjoy intense HIIT routines and low-impact workouts, we love that this model by ProForm is so versatile, making it a great choice for people of all fitness levels. Complete with an extra-large backlit display, this model’s user-friendly interface will allow you to quickly choose workout programs, resistance levels, and track your workout stats.
3. Best Inexpensive/Affordable Under $500- Fitness Reality E5500XL Magnetic Elliptical Trainer
You’re looking at a model that offers some great features at a reasonable price. Featuring a higher than average user weight capacity, heavier flywheel, and more resistance levels than competing models, this elliptical trainer by Fitness Reality is a great buy and a machine that’s designed to last.
4. Best Compact Small Elliptical Machine-Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine
This exciting elliptical machine by Schwinn features a compact design that’s perfect for buyers searching for an elliptical machine that won’t take up too much space. But despite it’s smaller footprint the 430 is still a machine that can offer the type of gym quality workouts you need in order to experience the results you want
5. Runner- for Best Compact Small Elliptical Machine-Fitness Reality X-Class 710 Bluetooth Elliptical Trainer
Popular for its compact design, heavy flywheel and perfect stride length, this mid-range elliptical trainer by Fitness Reality is designed for users of all fitness levels and features an easy to use interface and a wide variety of preset workouts. A solidly built machine you can really rely on, we love the compact design and overall quality that you won’t normally find on elliptical machines in this price range.
Elliptical Machine Buying Guide
The best elliptical machine can offer an effective, low-impact workout that can challenge both the upper and lower body, providing the ultimate fat burning workout, but it should also be easy on the joints as well.
The elliptical machine utilizes a drive system that creates a circular, smooth motion when cranked up at a higher speed, unlike a treadmill which will put plenty of pressure on the joints. Instead, the elliptical machine provides a smoother motion that you just can’t get when using a treadmill or running outdoors because with the elliptical machine your feet will never leave the ground. This means your joints won’t experience any type of landing impact.
Another huge bonus that you’ll enjoy with an elliptical machine is the ability to work both the upper and lower body. This allows you to achieve optimal calorie burn and increases muscle tone and the body’s ability to burn more calories.
But before you buy an elliptical machine, it’s important to take a closer look at a machine’s features, build, and reputation for durability.
We’ve taken the time to review the best-selling models available, looking at all the important features beginners and advanced users will enjoy.
Choosing a Feature-Packed Elliptical or a Budget-friendly Model
Your first consideration should be your budget. Is price a major factor? In order to know what price range to target you should also research the features, you can expect with basic vs elite models. As an example, do you want an elliptical machine that can handle daily use, but customizable features or fancy bells and whistles aren’t a priority for you? Focus on models that feature basic features and a durable frame. If you’re looking for advanced workouts, then higher end machines can offer many of the features you need in order to continue to challenge your body or maintain your current weight loss.
Compact Design or Full-Sized Elliptical Beast
If you have a dedicated space or workout room at home, then space may not be a major issue for you. But if you need a model that you can fold up or store once your workout is done, then you need to search for an elliptical machine complete with a foldable design and built-in transport wheels.
The machine’s design will mainly depend on the location of the flywheel. Some models will feature a flywheel on the sides, or on the back or front. In front drive machines, the flywheel is located in the front, allowing for a more compact design, while an elliptical machine with a rear drive setup is often much larger and cannot be transported and stored after a workout. Instead, rear drive machines will need a dedicated workout space. Center drive elliptical machines are fairly new and feature a flywheel on each side of the machine. This is another compact option and some machines even feature a foldable design.
Measuring the amount of space you have to work with before you buy can help you choose the design and style of the elliptical machine that will best work for you and your home. Keep in mind that machines with a higher user weight capacity are usually much larger than models with a lower user weight capacity and they’re not usually portable or foldable.
A heavier model can be impossible to maneuver, especially if they’re not equipped with transport wheels. If you need to store your machine after a workout, look for a lightweight model with transport wheels.
Flywheel and Resistance System
The weight of the flywheel and the resistance system type are the most important factors to consider before you buy an elliptical machine because both components will have a major impact on the durability of the machine, how loud it will be during use, and the overall feel of the machine during a workout.
Eddy current brake systems are the most commonly used style of resistance systems found on elliptical machines. This type of system uses magnets to create resistance. They also offer the smoothest resistance and brake system because they’re composed of three components: the computer board that sends a signal to the motor indicating when a magnet must be moved to decrease or increase resistance, the magnets, which create the resistance, and the servo motor which moves the magnets.
An electromagnetic brake system allows you to control the resistance by simply pressing a button on the display, while a manual resistance machine works via a tension knob which typically doesn’t offer as many resistance levels to choose from.
Basic magnetic resistance systems consist of a brake pad and magnets. This is the type of system that uses a knob to control the tension. The knob is attached to a cable, which is attached to a brake pad and magnets, so when the knob is turned right, the cable is tightened, and the magnets move closer to the flywheel to create more tension. When turned left, the amount of tension is reduced.
Because these resistance systems use magnets located on the flywheel to reduce or increase tension, flywheel weight is also important. Standard models often have a flywheel that weighs in at around ten to fifteen pounds, while higher end machines will have flywheels that weigh more than eighteen pounds. A heavier flywheel means a smoother workout.
Bells and Whistles
If you’re only interested in an elliptical machine that you can use reliably for an effective workout, then extra features won’t really matter to you.
A basic console that keeps track of your workout stats should be sufficient for most beginners. However, for some, extra features can help them to remain motivated during a workout. If you’re looking for advanced features, check out models that offer Android or Apple Compatibility, built-in speakers, internet connectivity, and more resistance levels. Top of the line models feature large backlit LCD screens that measure in at six to ten inches. Other features include a water bottle holder, media shelf, a built-in fan, and heart rate monitoring.
Resistance Levels and Preset Workout Programs
More resistance levels mean a more challenging workout and a machine you can use even when you’ve reached your weight loss goals. Fewer resistance levels can be a problem if you’re already in shape because they may not be challenging enough for you. The same is true if you’ve used the machine for six months and have found that the elliptical workouts aren’t really helping you to continue to make progress.
Preset workout programs are a great feature for beginners or advanced users who need more guidance during a workout. These programs can automatically increase or decrease the resistance level during a workout, based on the type of program you choose whether it’s for a low-impact workout or interval training. Of course, you won’t normally find preset workouts on lower-priced elliptical machines.
Adjustability and Customization Options
If there is more than one person in the home that will use the elliptical machine, then customization options are essential. This can include adjustable incline, foot straps, resistance levels, and customizable stride. Customizable stride is a must-have feature that allows users to set the length or stride of the machine, based on the user’s height. This feature is usually adjustable from eighteen inches up to twenty-four inches.