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When it comes to decking out a home gym for a consistent, effective workout routine, you’ve got options. You could grab yourself a cycling bike, and tow the balance between workout class and dance party on the daily. You can find a yoga mat and a teacher whose streamed-in mantras resonate with you. Or you could grab an elliptical and enjoy the low-impact perks of these intuitively-designed cardio machines.
What to Consider Before Buying an Elliptical Machine
Elliptical machines are one of the most popular pieces of equipment for gym and at-home workouts for a reason. They’re low-impact and yet great for improving cardiovascular health, core strength, upper and lower body strength and even balance. Due to the fact that you’re working your legs and arms/shoulders at the same time you can burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time without putting a ton of pressure on your joints.
That being said, there are a few drawbacks to elliptical machines. They’re large, and the average one definitely takes up more space than the average spin bike. They’re also taller than bikes and treadmills, so you’ll need a higher ceiling than you would with a fitness mirror, rower or other smart home fitness device.
Ellipticals vs. Other Cardio Machines
If treadmills have caused problems for hips and knees, and you’re intimidated by cycling due to the whole “clip in, clip out” thing, ellipticals are an accessible, fun and relatively safe way to exercise anywhere, including in your home. The best elliptical machines offer a variety of workouts, including hill climbs, interval training and other dynamic exercise modes that can fit into a range of workout routines.
Ellipticals are also a great way to cross-train with other modalities like running or weight lifting, as they keep up your cardio health without pushing your body to the limit and risking injury. You can target specific leg muscles if you wish to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, calves or even glutes by switching up the direction of the pedals or adjusting the foot pedals lower.
Under-desk ellipticals are also great home exercise machines if you’re recovering from an injury, as they’re low-impact but can greatly improve your range of motion as you strengthen and heal an injured ankle, knee or tendon.
How We Chose the Best Elliptical Machines
When scouring the internet to find the best ellipticals, we consulted with the brands we know and trust. NordicTrack, Bowflex, Schwinn and ProForm all have models that are top-notch and worth the investment if you’re an elliptical lover at the gym.
We also found ones with high ratings for design, functionality, noise levels and programming and included them as well. We found a range of price points, compact machines, large, comfortable designs and many options in between. The best part about an elliptical? It’s easy to learn how to use, and the barrier to entry isn’t as tough as it is for running, biking or lifting heavy weights.
Here are the best elliptical machines to add to your home workout regimen for getting in shape without anything too fancy or complicated or a difficult learning curve.
1. Bowflex M9 Max Trainer
The functionality and features of this elliptical are top-notch, so if you’re looking for a straightforward elliptical that you can tune out the world and glide away on, this is a great pick. It comes with JRNY personalized coaching technology built in that guides you through seven workout programs. It’s got 20 different resistance levels, a magnetic media shelf and can store the workout data of up to four users at once. It also has a hybrid elliptical/stepper design so you get a full-body, low-impact workout in a smaller, more affordable package.
2. Schwinn Compact Elliptical Machine
This Schwinn elliptical is a bit more affordable, with a ton of useful features for fitness at home. It has Bluetooth connectivity and can sync up with the Schwinn trainer app as well as other fitness apps for access to workouts of all types, all around the world. It has 29 different programmed workouts and 25 different levels of resistance to choose from, so you’ve got a wide range of activity and fitness levels. It has an LCD display for metrics, a media shelf for conveniently holding gadgets, a USB charging port and an adjustable fan.
3. Bowflex M3 Max Trainer
There’s nothing particularly stand-out to note about this Bowflex elliptical machine other than it’s a solid yet affordable machine from a trusted brand. It’s actually a hybrid stair stepper and elliptical machine, combining the smoothness and strenuous nature of both into one workout. It promises to deliver the benefits of cardio intervals in as little as 14 minutes, and you can even set burn and activity-level targets to guide your workout. This is a simpler version of the Bowflex we included above, so if that price tag was intimidating this one might be more your speed.
4. Schwinn Fitness 430 Elliptical
This is another Schwinn elliptical model that’s got a smooth, quiet drive system designed to produce as little noise as possible. If you’ve got roommates or paper thin walls between you and your neighbors, and need an at-home workout solution that won’t blow the roof off your place, this is it. It’s got 22 preset workout programs, two LCD screen displays for metrics and the ability to set and track goals as well. The 20″ Precision Path foot motion design simulates a natural running motion, and the footplates are cushioned for a low-impact workout.
5. Sole E25 Elliptical
BEST FOR REHAB
If you’ve got an injury you’re recovering from and need a form of exercise so you don’t lose your mind on the couch, this elliptical is great for physical therapy. It was designed by Sole engineers in collaboration with physical therapists so the pedals are 15 inches long with a 20-inch stride length and a 2-degree inward slope to protect knees and ankles from increased stress. It has 10 programmed workouts, and the system is very quiet, with a fluid-smooth drive system designed for minimal noise. There are 20 different resistance levels, a built-in grip heart rate monitor and a chest strap for tracking your exertion during your workout.
6. Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Machine
BEST UNDER $100
This elliptical comes from our favorite affordable fitness brand, Sunny Health & Fitness. It’s solid and comes with everything you need for a great at-home sweat session without spending exorbitant amounts of cash. It has eight different levels of resistance that you can easily switch between with a microcontroller. There’s a digital monitor that tracks metrics like speed, distance and pulse, and both the handlebars and foot pedals are anti-slip so you stay as secure as possible.
7. SCHWINN Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical Machine
If you’re super low on space, Schwinn also makes a great compact machine with only an 18″ stride length. It takes up minimal floor space while also offering 16 levels of resistance and a console that displays speed, distance, time, calories and heart rate. It’s got a media rack for streaming TV shows or movies while you work out (we’ve all done it!) and a water bottle holder for hydration.
8. ProForm Carbon HIIT H7
ProForm makes an excellent elliptical machine that gives you access to the entire iFit library of virtual fitness classes. It’s made with a 5-inch horizontal and 7-inch vertical stride, so the steps feel more natural and comfortable, and it’s got 24 resistance levels so you have flexibility with your workout. It comes with a 7-inch HD touchscreen, a 30-pound inertia-enhanced flywheel for stability and support and a CoolAire workout fan so you don’t get overheated.
9. Nautilus E618 Elliptical
This elliptical machine from Nautilus is made with a 22″ suspension adjust stride so you get a full range of movement, and the perimeter weighted flywheel ensures a smooth, consistent workout. It’s got ergonomically-placed, padded handlebars that are comfortable to hold and use, and the generous LCD display has 29 different workout programs. It comes with optional heart rate monitoring and a three-speed fan for staying cool.
10. NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer
BEST FOR STREAMING CLASSES
This elliptical comes with all the boxes checked when it comes to a strong, well-made machine you’ll actually want to work out on. It comes with a 14″ HD touchscreen that connects you to NordicTrack’s on-demand fitness program and LIVE Interactive Tech that automatically adjusts your resistance along with their classes. You can run with their elite iFit trainers all across the globe from your elliptical and have life interactions with other athletes in the NordicTrack network.
This elliptical can automatically adjust your stride based on your movements and, with the LIVE resistance and incline control, you won’t have to lift a finger to keep up with the programmed workout ahead of you. The oversized pedals are cushioned for comfort and stability and the SoftTough upper body grips are easy to grab onto for an arm/shoulder component.
11. NICEDAY Elliptical Cross Trainer Machine
EASY TO ASSEMBLE
This elliptical machine from NICEDAY comes 90% preassembled, and built so almost anyone can finish setting it up in 30 minutes or less. It’s designed to fit individuals between the heights of 4’9″ and 6’2″, and is equipped with large handlebars and pedals for a variety of body types. It’s got a quiet magnetic drive system that taps out at 40 decibels, and the 16-pound flywheel supports 16 different resistance levels.
12. Life Fitness E5 Elliptical Cross-Trainer
This is a top-of-the-line elliptical used in fitness clubs all over the country due to its quality and stability. If you’ve got the space and the budget, it has some notable functionality to it. The stride length is 18-24″ so it’s full-body without being too overwhelming, and the multi-grip handles incorporate your upper body as well. The pedals are cushioned and made for comfort and safety, and you can track your workout data in real-time and connect to your favorite apps via Bluetooth.
This is a major price jump above the other machines, but it’s also the brand and quality-level we’re used to seeing at public gyms and so it’s built to last. If it’s manufactured to be used by countless people every day for years and not break down — it’ll be awhile before you wear it down in your home as a sole user.
13. Precor EFX 700 Elliptical
This is another elliptical that’s frequently used in gyms and fitness clubs and holds up after years of use. It comes with a Variable Stride Geometry feature that enables you to focus on a specific muscle group for a well-rounded, effective workout. This one has 20 different levels of resistance, and the stride is smooth, natural and low-impact. It’s got touch and telemetry heart rate monitoring, along with moving handlebars to provide a full-body workout.
14. Doufit Elliptical Machine
EASY TO ASSEMBLE
Update for 2022, this is another very affordable elliptical option you can order on Amazon and, according to reviewers, it’s pretty simple to put together. It’s made with a high-quality flywheel and a digital monitor that’ll track your time, speed, virtual distance and heart rate. It has eight different levels of magnetic resistance so each member of the family can tailor it to their desired training intensity, and the steel frame will keep you safe and stable even during a strenuous workout.
15. Body Rider Elliptical Trainer and Exercise Bike
BEST ELLIPTICAL/BIKE HYBRID
Why settle for just one of your favorite gym machines when you could combine them? This elliptical/exercise bike from Body Rider is a 2-in-1 patented design that put a bike seat on an elliptical and got a pretty good response for it. It has four stars on Amazon and, for the price, it’s a major bargain. You can use it as either an elliptical or an exercise bike in the same workout, just adjust the seat vertically or horizontally to find a comfortable position. The machine has high-momentum fan blades for a super fluid workout, and you can adjust the tension for either workout with the turn of the center knob.
16. Hammacher Schlemmer The Low Impact Foldaway Strider
BEST LOW IMPACT
This machine takes the standard elliptical and strips it down to a super simplistic design, which is perfect for households that don’t need a ton of bells and whistles. It’s an exercise strider that still provides a great cardio workout without taking up a ton of space or being really heavy. It’s got pedals and handlebars that move back and forth in a smooth motion, offering both an upper and lower body workout without a ton of stress on the joints. The LCD panel displays basic metrics and it runs on AA batteries.