Do you like pedaling on a contraption that’s similar to a bicycle, getting all sweaty and worked up, burning loads of calories, but actually not getting anywhere? Well, if the answer is ‘yes’, have we got a product for you!
It’s called the elliptical machine, and its sole purpose is to mimic the mechanism of a bicycle so that whoever is tough ‘n’ brave enough to hop onto it can train their muscles six ways till Sunday – and all in the comfort of their home.
The thing is – working out is important, but many people don’t have time or willingness to actually go out and ride their bike about their town or city. This is why some clever folks came up with a contraption that simulates this noble activity and enables you to train your muscles thoroughly, and also track your progress along the way.
In this article, we’ll talk about the ins and outs of elliptical machines. What makes them so useful, what features they come with, and what sort of parameters you should look for when buying one of these workout devices. Also, we’ve organized a brief guide explaining how to use them, in case you haven’t had any previous experience in this matter. Last but not least, we’ve prepared a list of 10 products in this particular category that can be described as some of the best elliptical machines currently on the market.
Right then, without further ado, here’s the deal.
Elliptical Machine – A Short Buyer’s Guide
Type of Drive System
Similarly to bicycles, elliptical machines also work on the principle based on turning pedals in order to create movement. The only difference is, of course, that bicycle manufacturers go out of their way to make their bicycles as easy to ride as possible, while the makers of elliptical machines make these workout contraptions intentionally difficult to ride. The idea is to offer the user resistance that will make you pedal harder and thus – strengthen your leg muscles.
Now, when it comes to the drive system, with elliptical machines it comes in three main versions: front drive, rear drive, and central drive. While their main purpose remains pretty much the same, the difference centers on the amount of resistance you’ll get out of a particular arrangement. So, front drive and rear drive models are less expensive than their central drive counterparts. Also, central drive elliptical machines generally offer more resistance, so they are typically used by gyms.
When it comes to training on an elliptical machine, the amount of resistance the machine offers is probably the most important parameter to look into. That said, you should always look for a model that offers several modes of resistance, that is – that allow you to adjust how much resistance you’re willing to work with. (This way, you can increase it as you become stronger.)
The two adjustments you’re looking for would be the incline and the length of each stride. The longer the stride, the more resistance you’ll feel. The same can be said about the incline. Now, the idea here is to strike the fine balance between these two settings, so that while working out, you end up training your muscles to the optimal degree, so to speak.
Comfort and Ergonomics
It doesn’t make much sense training one group of muscles while destroying the other one at the same time, does it? Elliptical machines represent a specific piece of workout equipment where you have to adjust it to your body size and fitness level in order to get the most out of it.
This is why ensuring you feel comfortable in your seat is of crucial importance for maximizing your workout efforts. Ensuring your back is well-aligned during your workout and that your arms aren’t overstretched is a must, unless you fancy destroying your back muscles and having problems with your spine later on.
So, to make the most of your elliptical machine, and also to preserve your spine in the process, make sure that it’s got a comfortable seat (meaning the machine, not your back), and different height settings, so you can get the optimal height of sitting for yourself.
As is the case with virtually any purchase – you only get what you paid for. The same is true for elliptical machines. Less expensive models can offer an excellent workout platform but they in all probability won’t offer much over that. Indeed, you won’t find the niceties such as built-in fans, cup or bottle holders, heart rate monitors, Bluetooth connectivity in an elliptical machine on a low end of the price scale.
If you do have the dough to afford some of the high-end contraptions, you can enjoy additional features such as inbuilt software that can be synchronized with various training applications, LCD screens, USB ports, MP3 input ports, as well as some of the features we mentioned in the paragraph above.
The more parts a machine has, the more likely it is for one of them to malfunction sometime in the future. Elliptical machines, as you know, are not exactly the simplest workout contraptions out there, so it is important to ensure you have some sort of protection against faulty builds or haphazard failures when buying one.
Luckily for the many interested future owners, many companies manufacturing elliptical machines do offer warranties for their products. Now, whether these are partial warranties or full versions is up to every individual manufacturer, but even if it’s a partial warranty – it’s better to have at least a part of your new workout machine secured than none of it.
Best Elliptical Machines for Home – A List of 10 Products
1. Schwinn – 470 Elliptical Machine
If you fancy listening to your favorite artist or a group while pedaling forth towards increased physical fitness, exhaustion, and possibly a spasm or two, obtaining one of these Schwinn 470 elliptical machines can be an excellent solution for you.
As far as the aforementioned ‘music-listening while working out’ business is concerned, you can do this thanks to the fact that this contraption supports Bluetooth connectivity. All you need to do to make Led Zeppelin play its Immigrant Song right as you’re doing your best on top of this Schwinn is to haul your playlist onto the inbuilt software platform on this device and then see it do its magic!
It’s not all about leisure, however. For example, you can put this device’s Bluetooth connectivity to good use by tracking your progress via its specialized Schwinn trainer application! Last but not least, when you get tired of pedaling, you can turn the onboard fan to cool yourself off. (Make sure not to overdo it, however, lest you fancy getting a gains-ruining cold right after your workout!)
- Comes with Bluetooth connectivity
- Schwinn trainer app
- Comes with an adjustable fan
- Features 29 workout programs for all users
- 25 levels of resistance
- Fairly pricey
- Assembly can be a tad tricky and time-consuming
2. Sunny Health & Fitness – Magnetic Elliptical Machine Trainer
Simple to use and offering a proper gym-like experience for users at home, this elliptical machine from Sunny Health & Fitness represents an interesting option for beginners and casual users. It comes with 8 levels of resistance, so you can adjust the one that suits you the best before moving on to more challenging settings. (Relevant if you’re a mere rookie.)
An interesting addition and quite useful addition to the design of this contraption comes in the shape of a pulse rate monitor. The designers from Sunny Health & Fitness built these in the handles, so you can always monitor your heart rate in the middle of your workout.
The mechanical part of this device’s design has also been improved quite considerably. Namely, to ensure you’ll stay firmly on this elliptical machine, the folks at Sunny Health & Fitness have decided to implement two anti-slip platforms for your feet. A snug fit + you can rest assured you won’t fall out catastrophically out of your workout machine! What’s not to love?
- Features a pulse monitoring system
- Comes with large anti-slip platforms
- 8 levels of resistance for users of all fitness levels
- LCD monitor
- Adjustable leg stabilizers
- Some tall users have complained about too short stride length
- Some users have reported problems with assembly
3. Sole Fitness – E35 Elliptical Machine
Representing a typical modern high-end elliptical machine, the Sole Fitness’s E35 is a model that comes with adjustable pedals, a pulse grip, six workout programs, as well as a built-in fan and many other interesting features. To be able to easily track all of your pedaling efforts, and how your body reacts to it, the folks at Sole Fitness included in the build of this model an easy-to-read LCD monitor situated right in front of you. (Unless you plan on riding this elliptical machine the other way around.)
When programs according to which you’ll be working out is in question, this contraption comes with six standard programs covering the pedaling-related exercises, two customized programs, as well as two programs designed for monitoring your heart rate, in particular.
Other than these features, there are also several manufacturer’s warranties related to this unit. First off, there’s the 5-year warranty on electronics and parts, two years on labor, and a lifetime warranty on the frame itself.
- Comes with a convenient LCD monitor
- Features adjustable pedals
- A pulse grip and a heart rate monitoring chest strap
- Water bottle holder
- Lifetime warranty on the frame
- 2-year warranty on labor
- 5-year warranty on electronics and parts
- It can take you some time to assemble it
- Some users have reported certain creaky noises
4. Schwinn – 411 Compact Elliptical Machine
At our spot number 4, we’ve got another model coming from the famous Schwinn bicycle-manufacturing company. For people who like virtual reality, social media, and workout apps, this model is a dream-come-true device definitely worth checking out.
One of the parameters of this contraption you’ll notice straight away is that it’s quite compact in size compared to some of the models we’ve seen so far. This means you can install it indoors wherever you like, even if you don’t have much space to work with. Heck, you can even chuck it in your pantry and have an excellent workout whenever you feel like it!
Of course, the biggest selling point for this contraption, in particular, would be the fact that it comes with a specialized RunSocial app enabling you to browse through 19 different locations and up to 27 routes, which you can enjoy with your friends.
- Compact design
- RunSocial app for virtual reality workouts
- Padded handlebars for easier maneuvering
- Elaborate, streamlined console
- The lowest resistance setting can still feel like much to some users
- Quite pricey
5. SIMPFREE – Elliptical Machine Trainer Magnetic Smooth Quiet Driven
Featuring a sturdy construction you can rely on and some quite interesting technical specifications, for good measure, this SIMPFREE elliptical machine is a contraption you should definitely check out if you’re an avid cyclist.
For starters, there are 8 levels of magnetic resistance, which you can use to build up your strength starting at the lower levels and working your way all the way to the highest resistance! (Of course, if you’ve already had previous experiences with these sorts of workouts, you can simply start off from a higher point and then progress further.)
In order to ensure the structure they’ve created is stable and can withstand the weight you put on it, the folks at SIMPFREE have installed a wide base made up of strong metal tubes. These provide the necessary stability to the entire construction, so you can rest assured you won’t fall off this device, even if during a particularly vigorous workout.
- Sturdy tubular construction
- 8 levels of magnetic resistance (suitable for all levels of workout prowess)
- Comes with an LCD monitor for easier tracking of stats
- The frame can withstand a maximum of 330 pounds
- 3-year warranty
- Doesn’t come with a cup holder
- Instructions are confusing at times
6. ProForm – Cardio HIIT Elliptical Trainer
This unorthodox-looking contraption can be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a compact elliptical machine, which, despite its size, offers you a wide variety of workout options, as well as the special iFit membership you can activate to get all the best workout programs. Within this package, you’ll get 32 different workout programs, suitable for all levels of fitness and experience.
Speaking of the devil, with its 24 levels of resistance, this contraption is well-adjusted to a wide variety of users – from total beginners who haven’t had a run in 5 years, to experienced marathon runners who can’t be bothered to run outside, because it’s – 20° Celsius, example.
Its iFit online thingy is not the only high-tech feature related to this particular contraption, though. For example, there’s also the iPod compatible audio feature, which you can use to connect this workout machine with your music-playing devices.
- Backlight display for tracking your progress more easily
- Comes with 32 workout apps you can choose from
- 24 levels of resistance
- Pulse rate monitor
- Made out of commercial-grade steel
- Some users have reported problems with motor
- Some customers were dissatisfied with the customer support
7. ANCHEER – Elliptical Machine Trainer
Boasting an attractive design and plenty of interesting features to work with, this elliptical machine from ANCHEER is a model that can be an optimal solution for a person looking for a mid-price range contraption for their workout needs.
When it comes to the amount of resistance you’ll get with this ANCHEER model, you can count on some 8 levels of it – each slightly tougher than the previous one. This means that literally, anyone can use this machine, whether they’re a complete rookie or an experienced workout person.
Other than being able to offer you a range of workout difficulty levels, this ANCHEER elliptical machine also does wonders when it comes to monitoring your progress. Namely, there’s an LCD monitor you can use to track how far you’ve run, the distance you’ve covered, how much time has elapsed, your heart rate, etc.
- Quiet operation
- 8 different levels of difficulty
- The LCD monitor allows you to read the distance run, heart rate, and other relevant parameters
- 13-inch stride length
- 3-year warranty
- The setup can be a bit tricky if you’re inexperienced with these devices
- Some advanced users may not appreciate the number of resistance levels
8. NordicTrack – C 7.5 Elliptical
It tracks your pulse rate, it gives you a sizeable screen where you can see your-virtual-self running merrily along open forest roads of nature, and it enables you some 26 work applications. (Heck, the only thing it lacks would be the ability to run for you!) This NordicTrack C 7.5 elliptical machine is possibly one of the most well-rounded models out there on the market.
To help you reach your workout goals as quickly as possible and have loads of fun along the way, there are 26 different apps you can use to orchestrate an exercising routine for yourself. Each of these was designed by a certified personal trainer, so you can rest assured these are tailored for users according to the highest standards of the workout world, so to speak.
You can achieve these goals with the help of 22 resistance levels, which is more than enough for helping you build your way up to physical fitness levels you desire – even if you’re starting out from rock bottom!
- 26 different workout apps
- 22 resistance levels suitable for all users – from rookies to pros
- A large display for easier maneuvering across different menus
- One touch controls
- Heart rate monitor
- Adjustable stride
- Some users have reported troubles with setting the resistance
- Some customers have reported problems with installation due to poorly-designed parts
9. Aceshin – Elliptical Machine Trainer
Perfect for homes, gyms, offices, and other personal areas where you find it interesting to workout in, this Aceshin elliptical machine can be an excellent choice for beginners and folks who are looking to obtain an elliptical machine at an affordable price.
When it comes to the amount of resistance this thing is ‘willing’ to put up, you get 8 different levels of it, which leaves you plenty of room to get better with time even if you’re a complete rookie at the beginning.
For those folks who are already experienced and are strong enough to pedal for ages and plan on doing so vigorously, so to speak, the good news is that the folks at Aceshin have devised a solid construction that can easily withstand rocking motions and stay firmly in its place throughout your workout.
- Features 8 levels of magnetic resistance
- Strong tubular construction
- Comes with pulse pads, so you can track your heart rate during your workouts
- The frame can withstand a maximum of 330 pounds
- LCD monitor for tracking the relevant stats more easily
- Some customers have complained about the quality of the instructions
- The amount of resistance is set manually
10. Teeter – FreeStep Recumbent Cross Trainer and Elliptical
Fancy sitting in a workout contraption that looks like a rally car seat complete with the surrounding security cages and then a small digital display in front to tell you how you’re doing on your merry workout path? Well, you’ve sure got it with this Teeter FreeStep cross trainer and elliptical machine!
The aforementioned seat is not there just to make you feel like you’re in a racing car, however. In fact, this thing’s been specifically designed to help your body align with the rest of this contraption in order to grant you the optimal workout conditions. Also, with some of the key stress areas of your body fully protected by this seat, you won’t need to worry about excessive fatigue or injuries.
The stride on this elliptical machine is quite quiet, so you won’t have to blast music during your workouts in order to muffle the displeasuring sounds. To see how you’re doing, you can use the digital console that’s powered by batteries.
- Comfortable seating position
- Quiet operation
- Digital display in front for easier reading of your stats
- Water bottle holder
- Enables you a full body workout
- No way to tell at what resistance level you are
- Some users have reported feeling uncomfortable in the seat
Learn How to Use an Elliptical Machine Correctly
1) Get On and Start Pedaling (Starts Up the Display)
As is the case with some cars of yore, which needed a crank to start up their engine, many elliptical machines actually have a similar system of powering up their digital parts, so to speak. Thus, all you need to do to get your average elliptical machine up-and-running is to simply hop onto it and start pedaling!
This will automatically start up the digital display (if there is one, of course), and then you’ll be ready to choose the workout program you want to do, see your stats, or connect to your friends on a runner’s social app.
There are some elliptical machine models where you actually have to press a button to start it up, for the record. So, don’t be surprised if you get on and then nothing happens. (Make sure to read the instruction sheets thoroughly before using the device.)
2) Adjust the Resistance Level
For those people who have already used elliptical machines, the setting up of the resistance levels if nothing new. In fact, this simple procedure is one of the most satisfying parts of your workout, as you can be proud of yourself for advancing another level up. So, it’s also a great way to measure your progress, really.
Anyway, to set the resistance level, the procedure is quite simple. There are some models which allow you to do this via the display, while with some other older elliptical machines you have to do this yourself by means of using an inbuilt crank.
3) Make Good Use of the Swing Arms
… if your elliptical machine has got swing arms, to begin with, that is. The thing is, working out with these swing arms vs. working out without them makes the world of difference when it comes to the muscle groups affected.
For example, with an elliptical machine without the swinging arms, the main muscle groups affected are your leg muscles, your butt muscles, and your back muscles to an extent. When you include the swing arms in the equation, as well – you’ll get more of a full-body workout. (Of course, the accent then won’t be 100% on your legs and butt.)
So, if you want to a well-rounded full-body workout – make good use of the swing arms. If you want a good-looking butt – forget about the swing arms altogether.
4) Change the Direction of the Pedals
Here’s an interesting suggestion! If you’ve grown bored of your regular workout regimen and would like to spice things up a bit, you can try changing up the direction of your pedals. Pedaling backward affects a completely different muscle group than pedaling forwards does, so if simply changing up the direction your pedals go can have a massive impact on your overall workout results.
Also, changing the direction of pedals mid-workout can be an excellent strategy to make your exercise session more demanding and break some of its repetitiveness.
5) Take a Moment to Get Used to the Console
Modern-day elliptical machines come with all sorts of accessories and modes of functioning you can use in your workouts. It’s common to see models marketed with various resistance levels and workout apps that allow you to use custom-made exercise regimens made by professional fitness instructors.
Therefore, getting used to the array of different options on offer is a must if you want to make the most of the workout-related stuff on offer.
All things considered, an elliptical machine can be an excellent workout ‘weapon’ in the arsenal of a fitness-savvy person. Heck, even a complete rookie can benefit massively from having one of these mighty machines sitting in their living room, garage, or whatever other room you fancy keeping it in! We hope you found this article helpful and wish you a merry and hassle-free purchase!