Best Ellipticals for 2021
Finding the best value elliptical machine or cross trainer to suit your workout needs is a daunting task. With more than 30 brands manufacturing these low-impact machines, how can you know which one is right for you?
We’re here to help! To simplify your research process, we’ve crafted the following lists of the best ellipticals on the market in a variety of categories. It will narrow down your options and help you find your ideal elliptical.
Here are the best overall elliptical machines for 2020
|Sole E95||5-stars||27 LBS||ECB||Under $2,000||See best price »|
|Bowflex Max Trainer M6||5-stars||magnetic and fan based resistance||16 Levels||Under $2,000||See best price »|
|NordicTrack Commercial 14.9||5-stars||32 LBS||26 Levels||Under $2,000||See best price »|
Buying Guide for Home Elliptical Trainers
Wondering which elliptical machine would be best for your home? These days there are so many choices, and the quality of home ellipticals keeps getting better each year. Quality machines start at the $500 price point and go all the way up to a few thousand dollars or more for a top-of-the-line machine.
Ready to start your search? Let’s begin with some guidelines to help make your decision a bit easier. After familiarizing yourself with these, you can check out our list of the best ellipticals sorted by price to make your final decision.
The most important factor to consider is performance. You obviously want a machine that will perform over time. When considering this, don’t just think about the machine, but also consider your workout sessions. Ask yourself:
- How long do my workouts usually last?
- What exercise intensity do I need?
- How much variation is necessary in my program?
All these factors will come into play when determining the best elliptical for you. If you’re primarily a recreational exerciser that doesn't need particularly intense workouts, you probably don’t need a very advanced elliptical. If you’re doing high intensity interval training, endurance sessions, and you like to mix it up, finding a high-performance machine that can keep up with this is important.
Here are some key performance factors you should consider.
Resistance: Some machines only offer a few resistance levels. These are designed for beginners, or perhaps those using the machine to help with rehab during physical therapy. There are also more durable ellipticals designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear during intense workouts. These are for advanced exercisers and offer more resistance for a greater challenge.
When thinking about resistance, you’ll want to check the weight of the flywheel. That’s going to determine the stability of the machine and how smooth of a ride it will provide. A flywheel should be at least 20 pounds for anyone other than beginners.
Stride: Stride length is another important consideration. Almost all gym ellipticals come with an adjustable stride length to suit a variety of users. The best at-home ellipticals offer this as well. This is particularly important if more than one person in your home uses the elliptical as it allows everyone to adjust the machine to meet their own ergonomic needs.
Stride length plays a huge part in how comfortable you will feel while using the machine as well as ensuring that you do not expend energy on anything other than your workout. Some of our favorite ellipticals offer a very generous stride range and are considered to be hybrid trainers because they are a cross between low-impact treadmills and steppers. These are quite unique machines and are rather popular.
Upper Body Training: You might be surprised to learn that not all home ellipticals have moving arms. Some are fixed in place, although this is rare and limited to the cheapest of models. More often than not, you’ll look at ones that have both moving arms and handlebars. The best ellipticals have handlebars designed so that you can position your hands a number of ways, making them more customizable and comfortable for the user.
You can also identify a quality machine by the feeling of the movement pattern. If you start using the elliptical and things feel awkward or unnatural, that's a problem with the machine and it is likely a cheaper model. The best ellipticals feel comfortable immediately. You should be putting all your effort into pushing yourself on the machine rather than wasting energy stabilizing your body.
One of the most important considerations when buying an elliptical for your home is durability, as you definitely want a machine that lasts. This is where it can really pay to purchase pricier models. By skimping on a lower cost elliptical and you may find that it breaks down in a few short months, then you’ll have to buy another one and won't have saved any money at all!
So, don’t just think about the initial cost of the elliptical, but also consider the cost of maintaining it. Here are some of the main things to look out for when identifying the durability of your elliptical.
- Metal vs. Plastic: Is the machine made from plastic or metal? This will give you an insight into how likely the machine is to break down during use and how sturdy it will feel.
- Sealed Bearings: The best ellipticals have sealed bearings that are self-lubricating so the machine is low maintenance and holds up well.
- Rear Drive Design: If you have a rear-drive machine, you’ll likely have the lowest total maintenance costs. This said, center and front drives are more common and also take up less space.
- Maximum User Weight: Usually, the higher the user weight, the more durable the machine. Machines that only support a light body weight are more likely to shake and wobble during use, so try to find one that supports at least 300 pounds.
- Warranty: Make sure that you read the fine print on the warranty so that you know exactly what you’re getting into with your machine. The shorter the warranty, the less durable the machine. There’s usually a reason the company only offers a warranty for a certain time frame.
Now that you know what to look for in terms of durability, what extra features should your home elliptical have?
- Adjustable Incline: The best ellipticals allow you to increase the incline, which can drastically change your workout session by targeting different muscle groups. The maximum incline is typically higher on more expensive machines, so if that's your preference, factor it into the plan. Top-of-the-line models support interactive training that simulate a real life running trail and add varying levels of incline as part of their program.
- Customized Programs: The best ellipticals have many preset programs installed that will help mix up your workout routine. These can increase your progress and help you to exercise more efficiently.
- Heart Rate Monitoring: Top-of-the-range ellipticals come with chest straps for wireless heart rate monitoring, or are at least compatible with wireless telemetry technology. You can use this to accurately track your workout stats and help remain within your target heart rate zone. Cheaper machines come with metal sensors usually placed on the handlebars.
- Smartphone Compatibility: In addition to touchscreens or HD displays, the best ellipticals are also compatible with your iPhone or other smart device, allowing you to plug in and listen to your workout playlists and podcasts from the comfort of your machine. Although this may not be a 'must-have' feature for everyone, it beats wearing headphones while you workout.
Want to learn more about what to look out for when shopping for a new elliptical machine? Read our handy Buyers Guide.