Elliptical machines are great for delivering a full-body workout experience. They’ll help you hit upper- and lower-body muscles with minimal impact on your knees, hips, and ankle joints, while also providing a cardio workout nearly on par with a vigorous outdoor run.
Much like indoor exercise bikes or rowing machines, elliptical trainers use a resistance system. This gives you control over how difficult it will feel to move the pedals and handlebars during your workout. Generally, a machine’s resistance ranges from 8 to 26 levels. Many ellipticals also let you adjust the incline to add more intensity to your workout.
These have come at the right time, too. We all know how hard it is to resist temptation and maintain a healthy diet over the holidays. You’re only one man and you can’t expect to stride into 2021 without a slight slip of your willpower. What you can do, though, is get a head start on smashing your new year goals by investing in an elliptical machine to ease the shame of eating that fifth Christmas pretzel.
Don’t think you can make the machine worth your while? Just up the resistance, and see how long you can keep up the pace. These 5 elliptical machines are great choices to bolster your home gym space.
5 Best Elliptical Machines of 2021:
A safe workout is key, and that’s where the Sole E25 stands out. It features a unique two-degree inward foot pedal designed to reduce strains on knee, hip, and ankle joints, as recommended by physical therapists.
However, the Sole E25 offers more than comfort. It features a 20-pound magnetic flywheel that delivers 20 different resistance and incline levels and a stride length of 20”, making it appropriate for a variety of users, including those over 5’10”. It also has four rear wheels that add better stability and reduce side-to-side motion.
Although the E25 only features six preset workouts, it does offer two heart-rate-based programs and two options for custom user-designed routines. Additionally, you can use the E25’s Bluetooth capacity to connect with the Sole Fitness app. This allows users to upload each session’s data and share it with other fitness apps, such as Apple Health or FitBit.
The brand backs its products with a lifetime frame warranty, a 3-year warranty for electronics and parts, and 1-year warranty for labor.
- Industry-leading warranty
- Oversized foot pedals for a comfy workout
- Wireless heart rate monitoring
- Stride length isn’t adjustable
If you’re looking for a versatile piece of workout equipment that combines the movement of an elliptical, treadmill, and stair stepper, the NordicTrack FS7i is the best elliptical machine for you.
This flexible and low-impact cross-trainer offers an impressive 32-inch stride length, glider-like motion, and light to moderate resistance across its 24 levels. The center-drive design promotes balance and also helps keep the footprint of this elliptical small so it’s great if space is an issue.
The FS7i also comes loaded with 35 built-in workout programs, so you can choose a routine optimized for your specific goals, whether that’s calorie burning, endurance training or both. You also get a year’s free membership to iFit, which offers Google Maps workouts so that you can push yourself to your limits all over the globe, from the golden sands of a Hawaiian beach to the challenging climb of Japan’s Mt Fuji.
Want a more personalized approach? Join one of the on-demand workouts and an iFit trainer will use LIVE resistance and incline control to help you meet your goals and make sure you’re getting the best fitness experience possible.
Granted it’s not the cheapest cross-trainer on the market, but given the versatility and impressive array of programs and features, we reckon you’re getting serious bang for your buck with the FS7i.
- Quiet in use
- Free iFit subscription
- Low impact cardio workouts
- Lighter max resistance
ProForm is one of two brands in the Icon Health and Fitness company, along with well-known NordicTrack. In business for more than four decades, this retailer has a lot of expertise within the fitness equipment world. You’ll also see some similarities between the features of ProForm machines and NordicTrack models, with ProForm tending to be on the less expensive side.
A major selling point that ProForm and NordicTrack share is the iFit platform. You’ve probably seen live streamed workouts for treadmills and indoor cycles, and iFit delivers the equivalent for elliptical machines. During live sessions, iFit trainers can even control your elliptical’s resistance to give you the ultimate in customized workouts (we’re not sure if that’s cool or creepy, but hey!). That platform also gives you access to cross-training workouts for stretching and flexibility, strength training, and much more.
Be sure to keep an eye on availability when browsing ProForm machines. Although an elliptical may be listed as in stock on the main product page, that doesn’t mean it’ll ship out right away. For example, the Carbon E7 had a 10-day shipping delay at the time of this review, the Pro 9.9 had a delay of nearly two months, and both the SMART Pro 12.9 and 16.9 were completely out of stock.
Overall, ProForm elliptical machines get good reviews from customers. The machines themselves aren’t quite as bulky or sturdy as the highest-end models you’ll find with other retailers, but they still perform well under normal home-user conditions.
- Total-body training
- 30lb flywheel
- Heavy machine weight
If you’ve been after an elliptical machine that offers an impressive amount of built-in workout programs, a variety of resistance levels, and an ability to offer you a full-body workout without the huge price tag, then you’re in the right place.
This top of the line model will keep both your waistline and your wallet happy coming jam-packed with features at an affordable price. The solid construction and magnetic resistance make for a sturdy and quiet machine and the SF-E3912 comes with one of the most advanced monitors in its price range, with the large LCD screen offering excellent readability.
There’s no online connectivity or Bluetooth with this model but you can track your workout data and heart rate and with 24 in-built workout programs, focusing on everything from body fat to watt generations, you’re bound to find plenty to keep you challenged.
We love the double set of handlebars, with the moving set being perfect for full-body workouts and the fixed set being great if you’re a beginner and feel safer with the extra stability.
The one drawback is the short stride length. At just 14-inches we wouldn’t recommend this if you’re over 6-feet tall but that aside, this cross trainer offers a great array of features without the huge price tag.
- High weight capacity
- Full-motion arm exercisers
- 24 unique workout modes
- Short 14-inch stride length
If you spend long hours behind a desk or you’d like to do some light cardio while working, watching TV, or playing video games, the Stamina InMotion E1000 might be for you. This compact pedal elliptical is easily stored under your desk and can be used either sitting or standing up. It features a small monitor to track the number of strides, exercise time, and calories burned. It also has a knob for adjusting resistance, though it doesn’t specify the number of levels. Keep in mind, however, that the Stamina InMotion is not a full-body workout machine, but rather a way to stay active while you do something else.
There are a few drawbacks to the Stamina InMotion, though, the first being that it doesn’t include handlebars or provide any upper body workout. The absence of handlebars might feel uncomfortable for some people too. Additionally, while it’s advertised as being quiet, some users have reported it makes a squeaky noise.
A similar alternative is the Stamina InMotion Compact Strider with Cords. What sets this model apart from the E1000 is the addition of two resistance bands, which are great for an upper-body workout.
- Easy assembly
- Ideal for arthritis sufferers and those rehabbing injury
- Smooth and comfortable gliding movement
- Not motorized
Buying Guide for Elliptical Machines
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.
Why Choose An Elliptical Machine?
When purchasing a piece of fitness equipment for your home, one of the biggest challenges can be figuring out which one to choose. Treadmills, exercise bikes, rowing machines, home gyms, elliptical machines, and weight lifting equipment are just a handful of options — and none of them are cheap. Whether due to budgetary constraints or limited space, for many, it’s necessary to stick with a single piece of equipment.
Unfortunately, most exercise machines are designed for a specific purposes; usually categorized by cardiovascular conditioning or muscle building and strength training, and don’t generally offer a comprehensive fitness solution. Moreover, many of these options aren’t suitable for those with joint or back problems, and may end up doing more harm than good if used incorrectly.
Elliptical machines, also known as cross-trainers, are one of the few pieces of gym equipment that just about anyone can use safely. Not only that, but in terms of a well-balanced workout, elliptical machines offer more than most.
If you’re still on the fence about which exercise machine best suits your needs, taking a quick look at various benefits of using an elliptical machine may add a bit of clarity.
Factors To Consider When Choosing Elliptical Machines
Cost and size are usually the two factors that immediately come to mind when shopping for an exercise machine. But in order to pick the right elliptical trainer for you, keep in mind the following:
- Flywheel. Most elliptical trainers feature a drive system or flywheel. This mechanism is what allows the pedals and handles to move, and it ultimately controls how smooth the elliptical runs during use.
- Stride Length. An elliptical machine’s stride length — the measurement between pedals when they’re at their farthest distance from one another — is one of its most important specifications.
- Warranty. Many elliptical brands offer warranties — most commonly, a lifetime frame warranty, along with some type of parts and labor coverage. Sometimes they include separate coverage for electronic parts for machines with high-tech features. If they don’t specify it, you can always ask if that’s included with their parts warranty.
How We Test
Every elliptical machine that enters Our labs undergoes a battery of tests to assess whether it will give you a good workout without sacrificing ergonomic comfort or personal safety.
For our ergonomics testing, we use a figure proportioned to a man in the 95th percentile and a woman in the fifth percentile to evaluate comfort and reach for a wide range of users. We also measure the range of motion of the pedals and use an automated machine, which pedals the elliptical at a constant speed, to measure resistance. Our user-safety tests look at potential pinch points, pedal sizes, and coverings, as well as the design of the elliptical handles. If positioned poorly, the handles can cause accidental eye injuries.