- Comparison Chart: Best Elliptical Machines 2021
- 1. SOLE Fitness E35: A Durable Powerhouse for Intense Workouts
- 2. Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine: A Fun, Versatile Performer
- 3. ProForm Smart Strider 735: A Bit of Everything, for Everyone
- 4. NordicTrack C 7.5: An Awesome Home Elliptical Machine
- 5. Nautilus E616 Elliptical Trainer: Really Packed for the Price
- 6. Bowflex Max Trainer M5 Cardio: A beautiful, rules-breaking Device
- 7. Horizon Fitness Evolve 5 Elliptical: A Compact Trainer For Space-Aware
- 8. Exerpeutic 1000XL Heavy Duty Magnetic Ellipticals: Exercise for Any Budget
- 9. Body Champ Cardio Dual Trainer from Body Max: Two Birds with One Stone
- 10. Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3609 Elliptical Machine
- A Complete Buying Guide for Elliptical Machines
- Q. Can my body handle an elliptical workout?
- Q. How much space do I have for my Home Elliptical Machine?
- Q. What is my budget for the Top Rated Home Elliptical, compared to my needs?
- Q. What sort of peripherals do I want on the perfect elliptical machine?
- Q. How important are ‘Elliptical Metrics’ to me?
- Features to consider when selecting an elliptical machine
- 1) Stability
- 2) Tension Resistance Levels
- 3) Types of Resistance
- 4) Elliptical Computer
- 5) Pre-programmed Workouts
- 6) Incline Adjustment
- 7) Stride Length
- 8) Adjustable Foot Pedals
- 9) Flywheel
- 10) Hybrid Trainers
- 11) Warranty
- 12) Ease of Assembly
- 13) Home Elliptical Workout
- 14) Other Elliptical Machine Considerations:
- Benefits of Elliptical Machines
- Care and Maintenance
Hello again, and welcome to my review of the 10 most interesting elliptical machines I tested and reviewed for 2021. I really did find a lot to enjoy about these devices, and each one earned a place on my list for a particular reason.
I will clarify with a few thoughts about my review process, so you can understand where I’m coming from.
I did not choose the machines solely based on price. Some devices here push close to $2000, others can be had for less than the cost of some personal electronics devices. Higher price does not equate to a higher place on my list.
Comparison Chart: Best Elliptical Machines 2021
Here’s the list and comparison chart of some of the very best elliptical machines for 2021 and beyond.
We have classic ellipticals in spades in this review, but also a few unique machines that take a new approach to elliptical-style training.
1. SOLE Fitness E35: A Durable Powerhouse for Intense Workouts
SOLE Fitness is a relative newcomer compared to more established brands like Bowflex and Nordic Track, but they have been flexing their muscles and are seen as something of a hot new commodity in the home training fitness community.
SOLE showed their chops by providing a wide array of different fitness machines used in hotels worldwide. This was a solid strategy, because providing for the hotel market meant exposure to a wide variety of people who would become familiar with their machines while working out at these accommodations. Now, they’ve moved into the home fitness market, providing models that are the same as or similar to their more popular hotel-provided equipment.
The specific SOLE I want to mention here is their SOLE E35 Elliptical. This beautiful machine has already established a very solid reputation for itself in the consumer market. It won awards as a “Best Buy” in 2014, and when you first look at the E35 it’s easy to see why. It’s very well-designed, both from a standpoint of ease of access and from one of durability. It’s solid and flexible, providing the same standard of workout you would expect in any good fitness club’s equipment.
Let’s take a second to talk about that durability. Most hotels that provide exercise equipment for their customers don’t really have dedicated gym staff, so the equipment tends to see a lot of use between maintenance cycles. The E35 takes this fact to heart; where a less well-designed machine will shiver and shake with heavy use, the E35 absolutely would not move any way I didn’t want it to.
The upper threshold on user weight also speaks to the durability of the E35’s design. They’ve engineered this elliptical to support a max user weight of 375 lbs. Given that the average weight is probably closer to the middle 200s, this indicates a strong confidence in their elliptical’s durability.
The E35 also showcases a powered incline option. In short, you can use a convenient control on the handlebars to adjust your incline rating. The adjustments don’t require interrupting your workout, meaning you can make dynamic changes to your routine. Further, the incline goes up to a whopping 30 degrees. With the industry standard closer to 20 degrees, that’s a very nice way to get an intense workout.
There was very little I didn’t like about the E35, but I would be lying if I said it was absolutely perfect. For such a well-designed machine, it just isn’t terribly adjustable in terms of stride length – the stride only varies between 20″ and 22″. This means it isn’t so great for accommodating the wide range of leg and body types out there.
The sturdy construction also comes with a cost, in that this is a very big machine that doesn’t fold or become more compact. You have to dedicate a space to it and understand that it lives there now, with no room for company.
- Variable, Powered incline
- Easy to Assemble
- Great Incline Range
- Definitely on the expensive side
- Huge, and not easily stored
- Restricted stride adjustment
2. Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine: A Fun, Versatile Performer
Schwinn is a natural company for the elliptical market, because they have a great deal of experience with both mobile and stationary bicycles. The basic technology behind an elliptical is a variation on the idea of a bicycle; it’s simply been adapted to incorporate the arms and a standing motion as you work the pedals, rather than a sitting position.
Schwinn has developed a strong reputation for high quality exercise equipment, and their ellipticals are equal to the status of their excellent bicycles.
Specifically, I’m talking about the Schwinn 430 elliptical machine. This is a really lovely device that I enjoyed working out with for this review, and a runthrough of the features will show you why I liked it.
First, let’s talk about the preset workout routines. The lavish console offers users access to 22 different preset exercise programs. This also includes 20 different resistance levels to keep each of the routines fresh and challenging as you improve your fitness levels.
I mentioned the console, so let me elaborate there. It has an interesting little dual-screen display, and allows you to set up two user profiles. I honestly would have preferred more options there, but to be honest there probably aren’t more than one or two people per household who would dedicate a lot of time to fitness, so your mileage may vary. The console tracks calories, distance, and heart rate through the stationary handlebar sensors common to many machines.
This last bit I have to admit is a definite con. It requires you to change your workout slightly be releasing the standard bars to hold the stationary sensors instead. Admittedly it’s only for 10 seconds, but it is still an interruption to the upper body portion of an elliptical workout.
The reason this is a con to me is that many of the better machines out there are chest-strap heart monitor compatible, and it confuses me that the Schwinn isn’t, with so many otherwise excellent electronic options.
Speaking of those options, you can connect to either the MyFitnessPall or Schwinn Connect apps in order to track your overall performance during workouts. This makes it easy to compare your workouts over time, and help you visually understand your fitness progress. You can also charge most USB powered devices. I like to have some music on an MP3 player while I work out, so this is a handy plus. You can even run your MP3 player through the device’s onboard speakers, eliminating the need for headphones.
Sadly, the incline adjustment is not powered. You have to stop to adjust the incline if you want to change your targeted muscle groups or workout type. The variable resistance of the exercise programs makes up for a lot, but if you want to simulate hilly terrain, this machine isn’t going to do that easily.
- Ample preset exercise routines
- Generous electronic support
- Extremely sensibly priced
- Oddly noisy compared to other ellipticals
- Manual adjustment for incline
- No Heart Rate Chest Monitor Support
3. ProForm Smart Strider 735: A Bit of Everything, for Everyone
ProForm is a company offering a wide variety of elliptical machines for home use. Perhaps most interestingly, they have made a serious effort to offer a variety of entry-level machines, priced at affordable rates for people who need a compromise between workout capacity and budget sensibility.
The 735 is touted as the “middle” entry in ProForm’s entry level training devices. It isn’t intended to be a high-powered device for the physical training devotee, but to make a worthwhile, useful elliptical trainer available at lower price ranges, without compromising overmuch on performance. In this aspect, it succeeds admirably.
Unlike the Schwinn 430, the Smart Strider 735 offers powered adjustable incline. It only goes up to a 10 degree incline, but it doesn’t require stopping your workout in order to change things. This makes it very useful for adapting your workout on the fly, allowing you to keep up the pace. I found the adjustment easy and straightforward when I tested the 735 out, and it definitely made keeping to my planned exercise much easier.
As to the workouts, the Smart Strider offers 22 preprogrammed workouts in its console, allowing for a similar range of workout activities to our top two entries. The variable resistance is solid, making it possible to build very flexible, challenging workouts that take full advantage of what this elliptical offers.
It’s iFit compatible, meaning you can download customized workout routines built by other users, allowing even more options and flexibility from your purchase. Combine this with Google’s street view, and you can have the experience of visually tracking your progress without the hassle of getting outside with the bugs and the dust. Since I live in California’s Mojave, I appreciated the ability to “escape without actually escaping.”
The foot pedals are quite adjustable as well, allowing for a wide range of foot sizes and types. Compared to more restrictive options, this one is very comfortable to stand and move in.
With all that said, there are a few quirks I wasn’t thrilled with.
The electronic tracking capability doesn’t include a wireless function for heart rate receivers. Part of this is that the wireless chest strap is still fairly new, so many machines haven’t adopted it, but it’s been around long enough that not having it is a mark against a device.
The flywheel is quite light, which impacted the stability of the elliptical. It felt a bit “shaky” at times, and it was definitely noisier than it needed to be. Listening to music drowns most of it out, but it would definitely distract from watching a show on your streaming service of choice.
- Powered incline
- Variable Resistance
- Comfortable, adjustable footrests
- iFit Compatible elliptical machine
- Very, very noisy elliptical trainer
- Somewhat unstable and shaky
- Not wireless heart rate monitor compatible
4. NordicTrack C 7.5: An Awesome Home Elliptical Machine
NordicTrack is one of those companies I grew up hearing about. I remember commercials for their home-fitness “skiing” machine playing on my grandparents’ little 24″ tv. They’ve established themselves as a serious player in the home fitness market. They might not have quite the shame cachet as Bowflex, but the name is respected, because they provide very high quality products with a variety of solid, useful features.
NordicTrack’s C 7.5 is another of the “middle entry level” trainers we’ll be discussing. Priced similarly to the Smart Strider, it has a very high confidence rating from user reviews on sites like Amazon.
The C 7.5 offers some truly excellent peripheral support. It’s MP3 player compatible, has a built-in fan that adjusts its intensity based on the intensity of your workout, and even has integrated speakers built into the console so you can access your workout jams as you get ripped.
The console itself is quite nice too, with decent storage space for drinks and devices. The screen has a very generous viewing angle, meaning people of differing heights can all enjoy the screen without need for adjustment or craning the neck.
Once again, I enjoyed the fact that the incline was adjustable, and it adjusts to a full 20 degrees, which is much more in line with industry standards than lower incline rates. The preset workout routines were also dynamic and enjoyable, taking advantage of resistance and incline training options alike.
It isn’t designed to fold up for storage, but it takes up less space than a rear-wheel design, and does have rollers to move it about, so it isn’t going to sit down and permanently occupy a space if you don’t want it to.
However, the viewscreen may have a nice wide viewing angle, but it’s still quite small at 5″. I didn’t have to adjust my angle of viewing, but I did have to squint a bit to read while working out. This can detract from a good workout routine, and it did from mine. You should be able to read a display naturally, without taking yourself out of the workout headspace.
Once again, budget machines just don’t seem inclined to include chest-strap compatibility. I really am big on heart rate measurements as a benchmark for fitness, and I can’t understand why more devices don’t take advantage of this option.
The adjustment for the incline, if trying to do so manually, really should have been on the hand grips, instead of the console.
All in all, I quite like it, but a few odd design choices and the omission of a heart rate chest strap analysis did feel like strikes against it.
- Wide array of peripheral support options.
- Very reasonably priced, especially for what it offers.
- iFit compatible
- Controls require the console, without handlebar adjustments
- Range of motion felt stiff at times
- Lack of heart rate monitor support
5. Nautilus E616 Elliptical Trainer: Really Packed for the Price
Nautilus is another old standard in the training community. They produce a wide range of home and gym fitness options, and their equipment tends toward the “quietly competent” side of things. They don’t bury you in slick advertising, they just put out machines that work well.
The E616 is basically Nautilus’ entry into the low-price, entry level home workout market. At a hair over $600, it’s one of the most affordable entries on my top 10 for this year. Yet it doesn’t use the low price as an excuse to skimp on safety or general quality. It may not be the high-end trainer’s dream, but it is a great choice for the home workout crowd.
Let me start by saying I really liked the ability to set up 12 custom workout profiles. These can be geared toward pure calorie burning or toward endurance training, making this machine surprisingly versatile in its price range.
The console is very easy to read on the go, featuring a blue backlit screen. It’s still a bit on the small side, but with 2 separate displays it’s fairly easy on the eyes and makes tracking goals and progress comfortable enough. It didn’t quite take me out of the workout headspace like other displays would, though it could stand to have a little more screen real estate to work with.
Next, let me state that the workout was astonishingly smooth. I’ve gotten used to entry-level machines being a bit noisy and a touch jerky during my research into these models, but the E616 was both smooth and quiet to workout with.
The speakers were also really nice. Most workout speakers are just average little things, with nothing to recommend them except that they obviate the need for headphones. These offered a surprisingly pleasant playback to my music. Honestly, if you’re going to work out with an entry level machine and need some music, this is a serious winner.
App support was also generous, synching to both MyFitnessPal and and Nautilus’ own training and fitness apps. Between this and the 12 customizable profiles, the E616 does a decent job of substituting for a personal trainer. You won’t get everything in the world out of it, but it can help guide a newcomer into fitness training territory fairly easily.
The incline is motorized, which is very nice and frankly surprising on a purely entry-level machine. In this case, it’s interesting to see a lower-tier piece of equipment offer something higher tier machines sometimes neglect to include.
That said, there are of course a few little niggles I would like to point out.
First, the incline is only about 11 degrees. It’s nice to have, and makes the machine worthwhile, but this limit is still going to put a cap on the benefit you’ll get out of the training. Pass a certain threshold, and you’ll probably just leave the incline set at maximum.
The setup of this thing was an absolute bear. I hate to bash on something that you only have to deal with once, but it was utterly unpleasant assembling the Nautilus. 25 different parts to assemble coupled with a frankly sub-par instruction manual? Definitely a hard strike against it. Not enough to void a recommendation, but be aware this will not be fun to put together. If your delivery service has an assembly option, I recommend taking it.
The warranty is a joke at 10 years for the frame. Most companies offer a minimum of 15, and lifetime warranties aren’t uncommon.[/su_note]
- Smooth and Quiet
- Excellent Peripheral Support, including chest strap
- Strong App Support
- Powered Incline
- Limited incline range
- Obnoxious to assemble
- Absurdly short warranty
6. Bowflex Max Trainer M5 Cardio: A beautiful, rules-breaking Device
Speaking of company names I grew up with, Bowflex is rightly regarded as one of the companies that sets the industry standards for home exercise equipment. They sell a wide variety of devices in the home gym style, but their M5 is an interesting little departure.
The first thing that struck me when I got it set up was that it was a lot more vertical than most elliptical machines. This is because it’s not exactly an elliptical. Rather, it combines the row/stride motion of an eliptical with the vertical stepping motions of a stair machine. The core mechanics are still virtually identical to ellipticals, though, so I felt it warranted a place on our top 10 list here.
Let me tell you up front, this is a device for the serious trainer. The control system starts with 16 levels of resistance, which might seem low compared to other offerings. However, it can be configured with a variety of options. Eight training programs including interval training, calorie burning, fat burning, and fitness evaluation provide a wide variety of options aimed at pushing users to their limit. I work out almost every day, and I still felt pushed by the workouts on the M5.
As a first among our top 10, the M5 comes with a wireless chest strap heart rate monitor included! As vital as this tool has become, it’s gratifying to see it properly incorporated “out of the box,” so to speak.
The foot pedals are quite adjustable, and are actually generously cushioned. The M5 is comfortable, smooth, and quiet. Using this device felt like an absolute treat from the moment I stepped on.
However, once again the warranty on this device is a shocking joke. Max coverage lasts an appalling 2 years! 2 years for a machine clearly geared to the intense, regular user. That’s utterly ridiculous, and is a big part of why I couldn’t rate this machine any higher. An investment in exercise equipment is for the long term, and this feels like a money grab for people who either will work their machine apart, or buy it and not put much into it.
Also, it’s odd for such an expensive machine not to include integrated speakers and Mp3 player support. It won’t even support an iPod. For this much money, such an inclusion would have been trivial, and its absence is obnoxious.
- Innovative workout method
- Smooth and Comfortable
- Extremely Challenging workout and resistance ratings
- Lack of Peripheral support
- Virtually nonexistent length of warranty
7. Horizon Fitness Evolve 5 Elliptical: A Compact Trainer For Space-Aware
I have to be honest, I’m not hugely familiar with Horizon Fitness’ other lines of equipment, and I couldn’t tell you from personal experience how their other machines stand up. I did like what I got out of their Evolve 5 Elliptical Trainer, however.
The first feature I really liked about the Evolve is that it is very storage-friendly. As a front-wheel design, it’s on the compact side of Elliptical machines to begin with. The real benefit is that it comes with a really nice hydraulic-assist folding mechanism. A touch and a lift, and it folds up into a relatively compact space. It won’t go into the average closet, but it can be folded up to make room if your workout space is fairly limited. It takes up less than 4 x 3 space when folded up to store, making it a great choice for the space-conscious.
The workout suite is pretty generous, with the usual solid array of training programs, variable resistance, and tracking support.
Also, this one has the warranty a good machine should, with a lifetime warranty on frame. The 5 year warranty on parts and 1 year on labor are less spectacular, but are also fairly close to industry standard.
The setup for the Evolve 5 is also pretty easy, consisting of a short, 3 step process. You can be up and running in 15 minutes with a little work, making it a good “out of the box” workout option.
So, if it’s such a lovely machine, why didn’t I rate it higher than the Bowflex?
Well, first of all the incline isn’t adjustable. That isn’t to say you can’t adjust it on the go, you cannot adjust it. That seriously limits the upper levels of training, which is odd in a machine that seems so geared toward the dedicated elliptical enthusiast.
The stride is also fixed, and is fixed at a fairly long distance. I’m not a very tall guy, I measure in at 5’7″. I actually found the length to be slightly uncomfortable. I could adapt, but it wasn’t the most pleasant machine, and shorter people than I wouldn’t find this an easy machine to use.
The emphasis on compact size comes at a cost of stability. There was a noticeable bit of sway and wobble when I was pushing the higher workout settings. Given that the machine boasts a 300 lb max support weight, this makes me question how stable it will be for heavier users.
It’s a machine with versatile, great potential, and is easily accessible in a lot of ways, but the drawbacks and compromises that come with the compact folding design definitely detracted from the experience.
In addition, there was no allocation for wireless heart monitoring. As I’ve said before, this really should be industry standard soon, and machines that don’t adopt it should either be bottom-line budget options, not high-priced fullweight trainers.
- Powerful, challenging workouts
- Compact/folding elliptical, easily stored design
- Solid base warranty
- Somewhat unstable
- Lack of Wireless peripheral support
- Uncomfortably fixed unnatural stride
8. Exerpeutic 1000XL Heavy Duty Magnetic Ellipticals: Exercise for Any Budget
Before I get too far into this review, let me say that none of the ellipticals I’ve looked at through this whole thing have had such a polarized reputation. This genuinely is a machine you either really love, or really hate, it seems.
Me, I didn’t have either reaction. Instead, I see a machine that, for what it costs and what it does, is a worthwhile choice. It isn’t for everyone, but it definitely has a place, and I’ve included it for that reason.
Let’s get the “cons” out of the way first, since they are genuine and do deserve a frank discussion.
This machine is not made from top-quality parts and equipment. It’s a super-budget choice, and at under $200, it doesn’t make sense to make it out of high end gear. I can understand that choice, but it does mean this elliptical can be a bit unstable and wobbly at times. It’s also slightly flimsy – if you’re used to going all out like me, expect parts to shake loose.
The resistance settings are very limited, with a total of only 8 choices. Given that the standard is 20 resistance settings, this is almost painfully few. It’s not going to max out anyone’s workout for very long.
Setting the Exerpeutic up was also annoying, with a lot of parts and fairly limited instructions. Further, the low-end quality of the parts means that this thing requires a good deal of maintenance – tightening parts, adjusting straps, etc.
So, if it’s so problematic, why did I include it on my top 10?
This thing is absurdly affordable. It costs less than the cheapest laptop computer I saw for sale at WalMart the other day. This makes it very accessible to people who have extreme budget considerations.
I am a firm believer that exercise is for everyone, not just people who can afford to spend a lot of money. Everyone can benefit from being stronger, improving their cardiovascular health, and raising their endurance levels. The Exerpeutic makes in-home elliptical exercises accessible to even the most budget-conscious, and that makes it a beautiful thing.
Further, it does offer some decent features. The console has basic progress-tracking functionality, and even includes heartrate sensors in the grips. Sure, it isn’t wireless chest-strap support, but in this case, the fact that they offered any kind of monitoring equipment at this low price speaks well.
I can see this as an accessible option for parents with early-teen children who want to work out more often, or for students operating on a very tight budget.
- Supremely affordable elliptical machine
- Modest options for exercise routines
- Very limited resistance settings
- Low-budget construction
- Almost painfully difficult to set up and get working
9. Body Champ Cardio Dual Trainer from Body Max: Two Birds with One Stone
The Body Champ is an odd little duck, but an endearing one. It’s another entry into the “super low budget” class of trainers I looked at during the research for this review, and one I found myself rather fond of.
The Body Champ offers an innovative dual-training mechanism. I’ve discussed before that an elliptical shares many motions and thus technologies with stationary bikes, and the Body Champ seems to have embraced that idea wholeheartedly.
You can use it as a standard elliptical machine, in which case it performs very similarly to the Exerpeutic 1000XL. It doesn’t have a massive host of resistance options or powered incline assist; it’s a low budget option, remember. It will help beginners, young people, and the budget-conscious get their daily workouts in.
Where it shows a worthwhile degree of innovation is in the fact that you can sit down on a chair and use it as a modified stationary bike. If you find your legs just aren’t up to supporting you at the end of an elliptical workout, this makes a great post-exercise cooldown routine. Alternatively, you can warm up on the bike, then rise up into a bit of an elliptical workout.
The problem is that this approach really would have been better suited to a slightly pricier machine that could afford to do better with each setting. There is no incline adjustment, at all. The stride length is only 14″ long, making it feel restricted for taller users. Even I felt it was a little bit cramped, and as I’ve said, I have short legs.
Basically, the machine tries to be a jack of all trades, but lets down on both of them with limited options and restricted function. This is compounded by the fact that it isn’t comfortable to use, at all. Not only is the leg motion restricted, the seating is punishing on anyone with a butt-bone (read, everyone).
That said, I do see a place for this device. In keeping with my “Everyone should have access to exercise equipment if they want it,” mentality, I find this is a decent compromise machine, especially for the space conscious. It is reasonably compact, and combines two workout types into one frame. You can get your biking and elliptical training in on one machine, which is not to be dismissed.
If you need a high end training machine, you shouldn’t be looking here. However, if you need some exercise equipment and like flexibility for a reasonable budget, the Body Champ is definitely worth a look, provided you understand the limits of what it can offer.
- Innovative two-type workout system
- Very affordable trainer, comparable to a decent tablet or cloudbook computer
- Easy to transition between workout modes
- Uncomfortable seating and use
- Restricted stride
- Lack of Adjustment Options
Our last entry sits at the upper end of the “budget, entry level” designations, the Sunny Health and Fitness SF-E3609.
This is very much in the vein of your standard elliptical, and illustrates very well what features must be traded for pricing.
Firstly, the incline is restricted and inadjustable. What you get out of the box is what you have to work with. Further, the resistance settings are not dynamic. Rather, they are adjusted with a small hand knob on the side of the device. Thus, a variable workout is not what you should be looking for in this particular product.
The display is quite limited, being a simple non backlit LCD. It can however track the basic metrics such as distance, calories, and even heartrate with the industry-standard handgrip sensors. Again, it isn’t precisely lacking, but it isn’t stellar.
They did make the interesting choice of including a tablet-holder with the machine. If you have a chest-mounted heartbeat sensor with wireless capability, your tablet can probably fill in for the lack of monitoring on the SF’s onboard console.
Again, this will not be a machine for those who want to pursue particularly high intensity workouts. Indeed, it has the lowest weight support of any machine I’ve included on the list, topping out at 275 lbs max user weight.
However, it is surprisingly portable and easy to store, was not difficult to put together, and the magnetic resistance system is fairly easy to adjust ‘on the go’ even if it isn’t controlled dynamically or through the console.
What makes me like this device is that it is very sturdy for the price point. Other budget options have wobbling or breakdown issues with extended use – it’s the nature of a budget-minded choice. For only a modest increase in price, the Sunny Magnetic SF is decently sturdy, relatively comfortable, and has some of the most generous footpads I’ve seen in a low-cost option.
In the end, I think this machine works well as a starter option. The investment isn’t extraordinary, and even if the features are limited it can help you get used to working out on an elliptical machine. This can help you decide if you want to pursue elliptical workouts as a regular part of your routine, and evaluate what features you’d want included in a higher priced, more permanent option.
I must note that the warranty was essentially nonexistent. At roughly under $300, that doesn’t leave you on the hook for much, but you are on the hook for all of it. I’d think a warranty should be absolutely standard. It’s this and the fairly limited options for its price range that made this the last of my top 10 for 2021.
- Decently Comfortable
- Very limited workout adjustments
- No Warranty
Elliptical machines offer a wide range of options for those looking to work out. We’ve explored high priced, intensity-focused machines that can push you to your limit, and devices that don’t offer a whole lot, but are readily affordable even on a college student’s budget. What I’m getting at is that there are many options out there, and there’s probably something for just about everybody.
Offering a final note, if I were to purchase an elliptical for my own home, I would probably be torn between the SOLE Fitness and the NordicTrack. Both offer the kind of high performance I personally want out of my machines. I’m seriously considering one or the other, but I haven’t quite reached a decision yet.
Happy Workouts, everyone!
A Complete Buying Guide for Elliptical Machines
So, let’s have a few words on the nature of buying a top rated elliptical machine, shall we? Any purchase of exercise equipment is a substantial investment, so you want to know a bit about what to look for in general, as well as what I thought about the particular home elliptical machines mentioned above.
Well, Socrates taught that asking questions is the best way to get to know something. If you ask, you can learn! So here are the top 5 questions you should ask yourself before looking for the best elliptical machine.
Q. Can my body handle an elliptical workout?
The Best Elliptical Machines are wonderful in that they offer very low impact exercise. The gliding motion means you aren’t thumping up and down onto a hard surface as with a treadmill. So it might seem odd to ask if you can handle the elliptical workout, but it’s a fair question.
The best elliptical trainers move your whole body, while standing upright. You have to support yourself, and you’re moving your arms and legs at a pretty brisk pace once you get moving. It can be very demanding on the heart and lungs the first time out. Be sure you’re ready for a fairly intense workout if you’ve never used a modern elliptical machine before.
Q. How much space do I have for my Home Elliptical Machine?
A high quality home elliptical trainer can be a pretty big workout machine.
You need to have the space available to use a home elliptical if you intend to get it, because even the most compact elliptical machine can take up a lot of real estate in your home.
Look into your space considerations and figure out where you’re going to put your top home ellipticals before you buy it. As a rule of thumb, make sure you have a space at least five feet long and three wide available.
Q. What is my budget for the Top Rated Home Elliptical, compared to my needs?
The highest-rated home elliptical trainers are expensive. I’ve mentioned several cheapest elliptical machine models here, but remember that they come with significant limitations on their performance levels.
If you are a fitness devotee and want to get into leading elliptical trainers, you might be wasting money going for a very cheap elliptical option since you’ll likely outperform the machine in a shorter time than someone just looking for a way to add a few minutes of quality exercise each day.
Q. What sort of peripherals do I want on the perfect elliptical machine?
Peripherals are anything not related to the core function of the home elliptical machine. This includes speakers, iPod/Mp3 support, and fitness apps that track your progress as you do cardio and strength workouts. At the core, all you need is the ideal elliptical machine to provide resistance and perhaps varied low-impact exercises with the console.
However, as I’ve said before I like my elliptical workouts to engage my mind. I can’t simply do cardio and strength exercises without something to occupy my mind as well; I get bored very easily. Some classic rock to warm up, Power Metal or Punk to get my heart rate up, and some RnB to cool down make my elliptical machine workout sessions a whole lot easier on my brain.
So ask yourself if you’re the same way, and if a peripheral-focused home use elliptical machine might help you achieve your workout goals. Just realize, you often pay a premium for these extra little services on your best elliptical choice for home.
Q. How important are ‘Elliptical Metrics’ to me?
I’m an info-junkie and judge quality of my favorite home elliptical trainer by precision of its metrics too.
I test my resting heart rate several times a day on the elliptical machine. I monitor my blood sugar, since my family has a history of diabetes. I like to test my average workout heart-rate consistently, so I can see if it’s improving. I’m never happier than when I see a high “calories burned” number at the end of a good cardio session.
So, ask yourself if this information displayed on your top rated elliptical machine is important to you.
If it is, you may want to consider the highest rated home ellipticals for runners with chest-strap heart rate monitoring support, or Fitness App compatibility. Some even let you download other best elliptical machine profiles and compare your workout stats to teammates and exercise buddies, allowing you to indulge a competitive edge if you so desire!
Features to consider when selecting an elliptical machine
All elliptical machines are not created equal in terms of their features and performance capabilities. So, before you rush out and pull the trigger on your most favorite elliptical, it is best to check out all of its features and key specs right in the start. As always, more features equate to a higher price, so pick up your machine wisely and trim down the features you don’t need. Here are some of the most important things to look for in a good elliptical trainer:
Regardless of the type of fitness equipment you using at home, the stability of the machine is crucial. You cannot focus on your workout properly, if the elliptical machine feels insecure to use and rattles a lot. With good workout machines, they are firmly gripped to the ground and do not make any unnecessary sounds during their whole operation. As a rule of thumb, heavier elliptical machines turn out to be more stable than the lighter ones. Besides this, the overall built-quality, design and strength of materials also factor in to add even more stability to the elliptical.
2) Tension Resistance Levels
When using an elliptical machine, you can increase tension resistance levels gradually to challenge your workouts and take them to the next level. The pedals essentially remain at the same position but you need to exert additional force to move them any further. Your muscles have to work harder that translates into greater number of calories burnt. On top of that, your heart also beats faster that results in cardiovascular fitness gains while at the same time you also tone muscles of your body.
3) Types of Resistance
All elliptical machines on the market comes with two types of resistance:
- Fan Wheel Resistance: This type of resistance can be experienced in low cost ellipticals. It is usually smooth and doesn’t offer much of a challenge to the user.
- Magnetic Resistance: With magnetic resistance, you can experience a high-quality workout with least levels of noise. This resistance not only feels smooth but also consistent and natural throughout the whole exercise activity.
4) Elliptical Computer
A computer is one of the most important components to look for when getting an elliptical machine. It is common to have it embedded on the modern equipment, however low-end or outdated models still lack it. All of our top rated ellipticals reviewed in our comparison chart have computers installed on them. We’ll further breakdown the key aspects to look in an elliptical computer:
- Display: The display must be easier to read with ample screen size. Even better if you’ve a backlight to illuminate it. As with the smartphones, the size of the screen keeps on getting bigger as you climb up to more expensive models.
- Data: The variety, quality and accuracy of metrics provided in an elliptical computer depicts its superior quality. With different machines, you get wide range of data such as distance, speed, calories burnt, time spent on each session and heart rate. The heart rate monitor may or may not be included with the machine. You may need to buy it separately if you are interested to monitor heart readings. With high-end ellipticals, you can also connect with internet, upload or download workout data to websites and other digital devices to keep an eye on training progress.
5) Pre-programmed Workouts
With most ellipticals you get a variety of pre-programmed workouts that can be navigated using the computer screen. You can switch between various programs such as weight loss, cardio, intervals, cross-trainer, cross-country, heart rate control (HRC), hill climb programs, fitness test, etc. to reach your desired fitness goals. It helps save time and takes the guess work out of your gym to achieve the results you want by choosing a preset program. All these programs are ideally optimized with user in mind to reach a certain type of goal. After selecting a program, you will see the height of ramp, resistance and speed levels automatically adjust to bring the desired workout impact.
The preprogrammed workout settings can be overridden or stopped at any time, if you need to adjust your workout for any reason. In case, you want to implement quick start or manual settings, you can also choose that option that gives you complete control over the elliptical machine. Even better, you can also set a custom routine to improve your endurance and performance.
6) Incline Adjustment
With incline adjustments, you can easily customize your workout as per your fitness requirements. Choosing a higher incline level raises the slope and gives a definite boost to the intensity of your exercise. It is best to choose between moderate to high-intensity levels to make your workout challenging rather than grueling. The adjustments are easy to make using dedicated buttons provided on the dashboard. All models outlined in our elliptical review use powered buttons and do not use manual incline adjustments which are rather obsolete and not preferable by majority users.
7) Stride Length
In order to extract maximum benefits out of an elliptical trainer, it is crucial to pick the right stride length. With different machines, you get a range of multiple stride lengths that may not suit every person. For people up to 5 feet 3 inches, you need a shorter stride length that ranges from 16 to 18 inches. Likewise, you need length range of 18 to 21 inches for people with heights between 5’4 to 6’7. If the user height exceeds even further, you may need to order special elliptical trainers with stride lengths up to 26 inches. For a customized experience, you can also choose an adjustable elliptical trainer from the market to change stride lengths as per your needs.
By changing stride lengths, you can also target unique muscle areas of your body. Like with shorter strides, you focus on thighs and calves while longer strides work on glutes and hamstrings.
8) Adjustable Foot Pedals
The foot pedals on an elliptical trainer should be large enough to allow smooth forward and back movements. It must have some sort of flux in order to allow comfortable walking experience in the air. This also helps to alleviate feeling of numbness and keeps the blood circulating. Having an adjustable foot pedal is a plus when buying an elliptical machine. This feature enables you to place your feet comfortably and reduce any strain. Eventually, this also helps to keep ankles, knees and hips aligned in a proper position.
Some of the models also enable users to adjust angle of the pedal. Furthermore, both pedals should be at suitable distance from each other, however this separation should not be greater than your hips. If there is more distance, it can put extra strain on your glutes, knees, hips and lower back. Also have a look at the type of materials used to manufacture foot pedals. They should provide some sort of cushioning to make the workout more comfortable. While most budgeted elliptical use hard plastic, it’s not uncommon to see high-quality plastics used with better cushioning effect in higher-end models. In case you’ve already purchased a cheaper model, you can still eliminate harsh impact of hard plastic to a certain extent by wearing good quality shoes.
The smoothness and quietness of an elliptical machine is directly proportional to the weight of flywheel. So with using heavier flywheels, you are able to feel smooth and less jerky motion as it is able to spin more efficiently. Majority of the machines come with 13 pounds of weight, however it ranges from 23 to 30 pounds in some high-end ellipticals. The flywheel is actually meant to make the motion of the elliptical feel more natural. With dual direction flywheels, you can always work on opposite body muscles by switching rotation. The flywheel is further connected with pedals using a drive belt. With grooves, the energy is efficiently transferred between pedals and flywheel. The greater the number of grooves you find on the belt, the lesser is the feeling of slippage experienced by the elliptical user.
10) Hybrid Trainers
When searching for the right elliptical, you may have stumbled upon hybrid machines that offer 2-in-1 or three-in-one functions. This means that you can get an elliptical and recumbent bike in a single piece of equipment. Not only this but you get even more versatility with 3-in-one trainers that combine exercises of elliptical, upright and recumbent bike in one unit. Some of the popular manufacturers include ProForm and Body rider who manufacture these models. Due to their storage friendly design, you can maximize your home space and resources with hybrid trainers. Furthermore, you can seamlessly transition into any of the exercise modes without using any tools or adjustments. If you need extreme versatility and flexibility to tailor your workouts, a hybrid elliptical machine is the perfect choice for the money.
Not all ellipticals offer same type of warranties. It greatly varies for each manufacturer and shows their confidence in produced items. The time span of warranties for frame, parts and labor are not equal at all. For instance, since parts seem to wear out comparatively earlier due to continuous use, they are covered for a shorter period of time. Likewise, the labor warranty ranges from medium to short term on majority elliptical machines. On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see lifetime warranties on frames, since they are harder to break and can last for a long time.
Let us explain all of this further through an example. Take our top rated elliptical ‘Sole E35’ offers lifetime warranty on frame, 5 years on electronic and parts while 2 years coverage for labor. This means if any of your elliptical parts or electronics malfunction within 5 years, the company will cover it free of cost. You’ll also get the benefit of not having pay for labor for the first 2 years, however if something happens afterwards, you’ll need to pay for the service charges. As far as frame is concerned, it is covered with a whooping lifetime warranty. This is truly an example of some of the best warranties on the market from a prestigious brand like Sole. Other reputable brands that offer pretty decent warranties include Schwinn, ProForm and NordicTrack, etc.
12) Ease of Assembly
While most of us would like to assemble the elliptical machine ourselves, it is important to pay attention to step-by-step instructions mentioned in the assembly manual. With such a heavy and large piece of equipment, you don’t want to keep any parts to remain loose or improperly fixed. For any reasons if the machine breaks down during use, it can be disastrous for everyone. If you are uncertain or confused about assembly, you can it done with help of a professional without wasting anytime to figure out the whole process. When shopping for an elliptical, you also order professional assembly services along with it. By doing so, you can avoid frequent mistakes, reduce risk of future injuries and save valuable time.
13) Home Elliptical Workout
The top-rated elliptical machines offer you everything that you need in order to carry out an awesome home workout. To make your workouts even more comfortable, you can wear good quality shoes to work with the pads. In order to keep yourself motivated, you can watch videos to learn better exercise techniques. You can also browse and play your favorite TV shows, watch movies on the display to enjoy and keep yourself entertained.
14) Other Elliptical Machine Considerations:
- Transportation Wheels
- Step-on height
- Speakers with inputs
- Water bottle holder
- Tablet or book holder
- USB Port to Charge or Transfer Data
- Power supply
Benefits of Elliptical Machines
Isn’t it amazing to see so many elliptical trainers used by people at the local health club? It is because elliptical machines are really good at providing low-impact workouts for both lower and upper body. While using them, you may not have to worry about stressing your joints as they tend to provide a natural motion to help burn calories. Although people of all ages use ellipticals, however they are especially bone-friendly for senior individuals. Here are some of the key benefits of using ellipticals:
- Low Impact Workout: If you are looking for an exercise equipment to generate least amount of impact on joints, lower back and legs, then an elliptical machine is an ideal pick. It is specifically designed to keep your feet on pedals and inside air so that they never touch the ground to take any impact. During walk or running, your feet take the shock and transfer it further to bones, joints and lower back. This is one of the reasons why people in their advancing years prefer to invest in ellipticals for their home workout.
- Smooth Feet and Legs Motion: With an elliptical machine you no longer have to worry about stressing any of your body parts. This equipment naturally replicates the motion of your ankle, knees and hips during walking, running or jogging. Even better the adjusting pedals keep your feet in a comfortable position to match angle of elliptical stride.
- Perfect Weight Bearing Exercise: The elliptical exercise helps to protect your joints from injuries, develop strong and dense bones coupled with burning more calories and increased metabolism. In combination with right diet, it significantly helps to prevent outset of osteoporosis and slows down deterioration of bones.
- Dual Action Workout: There is no other fitness equipment on the market that can provide both upper and lower body workout simultaneously. What actually happens is that you are able to share resistance between upper and lower body parts using the cross trainer. The triceps, biceps, chest, back, hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps work in a connected way to turn over maximum benefit.
- Calories Burning: Just like with any other fitness machine, the main goal is to burn calories and tone your muscles fast. And, an elliptical trainer does not disappoint in this department as well. You’re even better with an elliptical rather than opting for a recumbent bike to burn calories at super speeds.
- Workout Programs: Overtime, the ellipticals have evolved and now come with many advanced features to take your workout routine to the next level. With pre-programmed workouts, the machine changes the terrain automatically and adds further resistance to meet your fitness goals. Just like a treadmill, you’ll also love the excellent features on a wide LCD screen.
- Low Maintenance: When it comes to costs and frequency of maintenance, the ellipticals clearly outrank treadmills. After buying an elliptical, you don’t need to think about motors, belts, bearings, rollers and other techy stuff wearing out like in case of treadmills. Unlike a treadmill, an elliptical produce reduced impact and does not carry large number of moving parts, so it is less likely to create maintenance issues.
(Disclaimer*: The star rating used above is our own)
Care and Maintenance
Despite of the low maintenance requirements for an elliptical machine, we’d like to elaborate some of the effective ways to last your machine for years without developing major faults.
- Cleaning your Elliptical: This activity can be performed on weekly if not daily basis. The ellipticals are prone to accumulate dust on their surface if not wiped out with a clean cloth. This dust and dirt can obstruct smooth functioning of your machine. Not only this but sweat also falls on other parts of your machine during each workout. If not properly cleaned, it can lead to rust on exposed parts over a period of time. For all these reasons, it is recommended to follow manufacturer guidelines on how to clean chosen elliptical machine properly. A vacuum cleaner, silicon spray and clean cloth are some of the handy gear you can use for cleaning task.
- Lubrication: Rusty and squeaky parts can get in your way of getting maximum benefit out of an elliptical machine. One of the easiest ways to avoid all this hassle and ensure proper smooth working of your machine is by lubrication after each use. The wearing of parts is induced due to friction and lubing can definitely help to keep it running frictionless. Again, we recommend to read the owner’s manual on how to moderately lubricate your elliptical machine.
- Tights the loosen up nuts and bolts: Due to continuous movements and vibrations, some parts of your elliptical machine may start to create squeaky and weird sounds. Don’t fret as this may have been caused due to loosen up nuts or bolts that need tightening. If you are able to find those nuts, just tighten them up and you are good to go. In case, you are not able to locate the issue, you can also get help from an elliptical professional. Beware that you must not indulge in anything that you do not have the capability to handle or fix by yourself. If you are not familiar with technical things, you may end up damaging your machine that results in even more expensive repairs.
- Keep the use under moderate levels: Not all elliptical machines are created equal and come loaded with distinct specs and built-qualities. A budgeted elliptical cannot match the sturdiness and ruggedness of a top-notch machine. This is why it is important to keep the use of your machine under moderate levels. Sure, the high-end expensive units can take up all the beating but don’t expect a cheap elliptical to take that same level of abuse. Keep in mind all the specs, weight and height limitations when finalizing an elliptical machine for home use.
- Use Elliptical Mat: With a good quality mat placed under your elliptical, you’ll not only protect the floor from scratches or cuts but it’ll also help to keep your machine firm on the ground to prevent slippage. Pick a right size of mat to perfectly match the machine dimensions and enjoy your workouts at home.
Thanks for reading our elliptical reviews. We hope our in-depth research can help you find the right elliptical machine that delivers you the best workout.