The best elliptical machines in the market may not be as old as treadmills, but they are rapidly capturing the fitness market courtesy of their ability to provide a non-impact workout that rivals the muscle toning and calorie burn of the average treadmill, without however causing serious damage to the joints in the long run. Indeed, it is said that the designer of the elliptical machine created the prototype design by filming his daughter running beside his car. In doing so, he realized the potential for long term damage to her knees and hip joints due to the impact of the feet hitting the ground time and again, and this led him to create this non-impact machine.
With time, elliptical machines have evolved to include a range of functions like movable arms with heart rate monitors, adjustable ramp incline, multi-metric controls and much else, thereby enhancing the benefits of the elliptical for the user. With more benefits though, the sheer range of options available to the user has also widened appreciably, and must be taken with utmost seriousness.
- Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
Offering a 375 pound weight limit on a machine that weighs merely 215 pounds is no small feat, and the Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine excels this by including an adjustable ramp incline of 0 to 30 degrees as well, thereby allowing users to ensure that elliptical calories burned are higher. Further, the product has an adjustable stride length and a 20-22 feet maximum stride length, which when coupled with the extremely quiet motor, ensure that the workout is quieter and more efficient than actual running.
Complementing the excellent hardware are a range of customizable programs, including two heart rate programs and six standard programs. Coupled with the 7.5 inch backlit LDC display, this ensures that the product is workable by all age groups.
- Best Fitness E1 Elliptical Trainer by Body Solid
Coming with a unique balanced steel frame that accentuates the natural biomechanical workout mechanism of the body, the Best Fitness E1 Elliptical Trainer by Body Solidassures the user that he/she will never feel off-balance while working out in this compact elliptical machine. Despite the compact design, proper pedal spacing is ensured with a stride length of 21 feet, and this, coupled with the 275 pounds weight capacity, ensures low hip fatigue and sufficient elliptical calories burned during workout.
On the other hand, the product also comes with 17 resistance levels and 12 unique workout programs that make it one of the best elliptical trainers in terms of the variety available. If that weren’t enough, these resistance levels and other metrics are displayed in large white letters on the blue backlit display, thus ensuring easy visibility.
- Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine
Designed in collaboration with workout and physiotherapy specialists, the Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine has an improved ramp incline of 0 to 40 degrees (better than the Sole Fitness E35), and boasts of large pedals with durable cushioning for comfort. Further, a special “worm drive” system allows users with different gait and posture to adjust their stride mechanism from heel to toe, while an oversized 90 pound flywheel makes this product one of the best elliptical options in terms of stability.
Like the E35, the E95 comes with two heart rate controlled programs, which are directed using the 99.9% accuracy heart rate monitor integrated with the machine. Furthermore, there are 6 standard programs and 2 user-defined ones, with each being vividly displayed on the 9 inch commercial grade backlit LCD monitor.
- Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine
Coming with a high speed inertia perimeter weighted flywheel for added stability and balance, the Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine offers an astounding 20 levels of resistance, making this a best elliptical cross-trainer contender in terms of resistance variety. Coupled with these is a ten degree, six position ramp, which however has to be manually operated. More positively, the product has an intuitive integrated heart monitor, which makes operating the heart rate based programs simple.
Speaking of programs, the product offers a marvellous 22 programs, of which 2 are heart rate based. A unique feature of Schwinn, however, is the availability of SchwinnConnect, a specialized workout software that can obtain and transfer data from the machine using USB connectivity, and use this data to provide intricate analysis of the regimen. Last but not least, all this information is carefully displayed on a large DualTrack LCD display.
- Nautilus E616 Elliptical Trainer
A truly premium offering, the Nautilus E616 Elliptical Trainer comes with an industry-topping 25 levels of eddy current resistance, which when combined with the two center frame supports, an oversized crossbar tubing and two integrated levellers, make this product a best elliptical machine candidate in the workout efficiency category. Completing the stellar hardware specifications are a perimeter weighted flywheel and a 0 to 11% motorized ramp with 20 inch stride length.
Coming to the software, we find the product capable of offering a stunning 29 workout options, of which 9 are heart rate controlled. Having a DualTrack LCD display and a USB charging and data exchange system via Nautilus’ NautilusConnect software (similar to the Schwinn product above), the product beats the competition by boasting of Bluetooth LE connectivity as well.
- ProForm Hybrid Trainer
With an inertia enhanced flywheel and adjustable levelling feet, the ProForm Hybrid Trainer also offers a 15” stride length and 14 digital resistance levels. If these seem somewhat lower compared to the 20-25 resistance levels seen on other products, it is because this is a hybrid of a recumbent bike and elliptical machine, and thus, while not being one of the best elliptical machines in terms of sheer specifications, provides a holistic workout not found in many of the other contenders. Indeed, the product does cater to all elliptical machine requirements, providing upper body workout arms and oversized pedals for ease of workout, and offering a maximum weight capacity of 350 lbs.
The list of 14 workout apps is well-rounded, providing sufficient amount of workout options for both the recumbent bike and the elliptical trainer. Further, the target pacer and RPM meter, along with the large LCD monitor, provide sufficient metric measurement and display options for the average user.
- Nautilus E514c Elliptical Trainer
With a heavy duty perimeter weighted flywheel providing it stability, the Nautilus E514c Elliptical Trainer offers a decent 18” stride on a compact front drive, and improves upon its benefits by offering large foot pads and articulating foot plates. Further, it comes with 6 integrated levellers, a 3 speed fan – one of the best elliptical machine fans according to reviews – and 16 magnetic resistance levels.
Improving its specifications are the 21 workout programs, of which 2 are user-defined. Combined with a large LCD display and retractable reading and water bottle racks, this makes this product a joy to workout upon.
- Sunny Health and Fitness Pink Magnetic Elliptical Trainer
One of the best elliptical machines in the sub-$250 segment, the Sunny Health and Fitness Pink Magnetic Elliptical Trainer is an elegantly designed offering that comes with an 8-level tension controller. Further, it has a special anti-slip function that ensures that users don’t lose their composure when working out at high intensity levels. Coupled with a 220 lbs weight capacity, these ensure a well-rounded workout for all.
In addition, the product comes with a large LCD display. While it is impossible to expect a number of workout apps at this price point, the display does show speed, distance and other vital metrics clearly.
- Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer
Boasting of a 14.3 pound flywheel and an 18” stride length, the Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer is capable of supporting users with weights of up to 275 pounds. Further, a six star frame combines with the above to ensure that not only is the structure stable, it is also capable of adjusting to your workout posture. Coupled with MP3 compatible speakers for musical enjoyment, these features ensure both comfort and sufficient calorie burn.
While the number of workout programs and resistance levels may seem somewhat low at 10 each, it should be remembered that these programs include reverse train, weight loss, rolling and other highly useful workout systems, while the resistance is enhanced using the ECB resistance brake system technology. Coming with a large graphic display, the product can show each of these metrics in high detail.
- Diamondback Fitness 1260Ef Elliptical Trainer
Our last contender for the position of best elliptical machine comes with a 19” stride, which is coupled with a special incline motor that ensures a perfectly adjustable electronic ride. Further, the product comes with the interesting combination of a polar heart rate receiver and a hand-held heart rate receiver, thus providing two types of input depending on the user’s needs. Finally, the Poly-V belt drive and aluminum extrusion structure ensure that the product is as stable as the competition, if not more.
In addition, there are 20 electromagnetic resistance levels that make transitioning from one to another a breeze. Along with the green dot matrix display of sufficient size and a number of heart rate and other metric collection paraphernalia, these ensure that the user always has a number of metrics at his/her fingertips.
Tips to choose the best elliptical trainer in the market
Now that we’ve seen the top products in the market, it is necessary to filter the plethora of information to discover features that make these products the best –
- Resistance levels – As one improves, the ability of the body to handle higher resistance levels will increase. If the machine does not have sufficient range of workout resistance levels, scaling up the workout will become difficult. Hence, the above list does not include any product with resistance ranges of less than 10.
- Number and quality of programs – Most products come with a number of programs, but their quality has to be factored in. As our elliptical machine comparison chart will show, the programs must be such that heart rate based workouts, high intensity workouts and user defined workouts are possible for a range of age groups.
- Ramp Incline – While motorized ramp inclines are important, the vital feature is the angle to which the ramp can achieve inclination. As such, a manual ramp incline of 40 degrees is more vital than a motorized ramp incline of 20 degrees. The greater the ramp incline, the more challenging the workout due to the impact of gravity on the feet, and more the calories burned.
- Space – It is important for products to be compact and light, such that they can be moved from one room to another. Indeed, while some commercial products may offer great value for money, it is ideal to choose one of the best elliptical machines for home with product weight not exceeding 225 pounds.
- Heavy flywheel – If the product comes with a flywheel, it should be at least 12-13 pounds in weight, such that it can provide sufficient couter-force to the body as the latter moves on the pedals. If the product does not have a flywheel, a strong and compact frame should be used in its stead.
- Hybrid Machines/Products with seats – For those seeking a more holistic workout, it may make sense to sacrifice a moderate number of resistance levels to go in for one of the best elliptical trainers with seats. These products can offer recumbent cycle and other workout machine benefits without costing additional money or space.
- Weight Capacity – While some of the cheapest contenders for the best elliptical machine do have low weight thresholds, one should remember that if one is purchasing a product for the long run, the minimum user weight supported should be in the range of 250-300 pounds at the least.
- Heart rate monitors – Heart rate monitors, whether offered as part of the movable handles or as chest straps, can make a world of difference to your workout. Coupled with good rate-based workout programs, as offered by the Proform elliptical machines, they ensure that adequate cardiovascular training takes place.
Even after providing an exhaustive list of the best elliptical machines and the tips to choose one, we are unable to claim that x or y product is the best, in a manner you’d often hear TV hosts or salespersons say. The reason, quite simply, is that users are not a homogenous entity with equal needs or budgets, and a number of compromises have to be made. For instance, if you have back problems that prevent you from working out in a standing position for long periods of time, you may want to consider a hybrid with lower resistance levels. However, it is our earnest hope that through this collection of reviews of the top products in the market in 2015, we have made your decision a little easier, and your subsequent workout on your chosen machine, that much more enjoyable and profitable to your health.