The 8 Best Ellipticals
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Jogging is one of the best exercises you can do, but it can be extremely hard on your joints. These ellipticals allow you to get all the benefits of running — such as improved cardiovascular health, weight loss, and more energy — without putting undue strain on your body. These models will help you get an awesome workout from the comfort of your own home, so no one ever has to see you sweat. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
June 25, 2021:
Despite being big names, the Precor, Bowflex, and ProForm all had serious issues come up on a regular basis over the long term. For that reason, neither has a spot in our recommendations any longer. Instead, we've added the Schwinn A40 as our new favorite budget-friendly option. Its simplicity is the big selling point, as its low cost and small size make it ideal for users with limited space. Meanwhile, the Sole Fitness E35 is still our top high-end choice and the Schwinn 470 the best mid-range option.
March 16, 2020:
While many of the models on our previous list remain, a few were removed for availability issues, while others were upgraded to more recent or more capable versions of previous selections. The Nautilus E618 Trainer, for example, is a heavier-duty and more modern version of the 614 on our last list, with an impressive set of features housed in a simple, if not particularly flashy interface.
Among new models to the ranking is the Bowflex Results, which, by contrast, has one of the more forward thinking control and screen layouts of anything on the market, including incline and resistant buttons on the handlebars. This is especially useful for those new to elliptical use, or even just to this particular machine, as it can be hairy finding your balance within a predetermined stride length, and not having to let go of the handles to make adjustments can make you feel safer. To be clear, however, any of these machines can pose a danger if used incorrectly, assembled improperly, or employed by anyone with heart conditions or other medical complications that could necessitate use in a more controlled environment.
We wanted to makes sure that there was a nice mix of full-size and under desk models here, as well, which is why we kept the Cubii Under Desk and Stamina In-Motion on our list. These are pretty simple models, to be sure, but that's what makes them so useful.
What Do I Need to Consider Before Purchasing an Elliptical?
As a precaution, be sure to compare an elliptical's dimensions against whatever space you have mapped out for it in your home.
The more options an elliptical machine offers, the more likely you will be to use it on a regular basis. In that spirit, top-of-the-line ellipticals should feature several pre-programmed workouts, along with the ability to save - and repeat - past workouts at the touch of a button.
Any high-grade elliptical should also feature a comprehensive display with a real-time readout, including speed, incline/resistance, calories burned, and time elapsed. Certain ellipticals may allow you to chart progress by syncing the machine up to a mobile app, while others may offer a docking station for an iPod, or a clamped stand for mounting any digital tablet or device.
Most ellipticals weigh more than 200 lbs, which is essential given the amount of movement that an elliptical requires. Based on industry standards, if an elliptical weighs less than 200 lbs, it makes sense to question — and perhaps even research — whether that machine is lacking some type of component. Along those lines, it's worth keeping an eye out for phrases such as "frictionless movement" in any elliptical's description. Friction between an elliptical's belts, gears, and other parts can, and probably will, result in wear and tear, if not an irritating noise.
As a precaution, be sure to compare an elliptical's dimensions against whatever space you have mapped out for it in your home. This is especially important if you happen to be ordering an elliptical online, as a big-ticket item like this could be a headache to return.
Several Basic Workouts That You Can Do On an Elliptical
Ellipticals are like treadmills in that once you have a rudimentary understanding of the machine, you're essentially prepared to do a full workout. While the ease of an elliptical may seem reassuring, chances are you'll want to vary your routines to break up the monotony. The easiest way to do this is by introducing some type of interval training.
You can work your stomach by letting go of an elliptical's handlebars altogether.
Intervals are based on increasing the speed and/or resistance on an elliptical for an abbreviated period of time, before returning to a baseline speed and resistance for an equivalent period of time. A 20-minute interval workout, for example, could be comprised of 10 hard minutes (broken down into one-minute segments), which are sandwiched in between 10 easy minutes (also broken down into one-minute segments). Interval training is exhausting, and it is for this reason that you should only focus on doing intervals for a few days out of every week.
You can focus on toning your thighs, glutes, and obliques by completing a full workout on the elliptical with the resistance raised (choosing a gradient based on your fitness level). You can work the biceps and flexor muscles by using your arms, as opposed to your legs, to thrust the elliptical forward. You can work your stomach by letting go of an elliptical's handlebars altogether. Doing so forces your abs to work harder, coordinating the movements between your upper- and your lower-core.
A Brief History of The Elliptical
In 1988, researchers at Purdue University published a study showing how elliptical movement could be used as the foundation for developing a seatless bike. These researchers not only demonstrated how such a bike could be built, but how its upright design (centered around a flywheel) could provide tremendous benefits for the lower-body.
For years, people had been experiencing numbness as a result of having their heels dangle behind the pedals of a stationary bike.
This concept was further explored by executives at a little-known fitness company called Precor, and - after seven years of development - Precor introduced the world's first elliptical trainer during 1995. Marketed as a high-end piece of gym equipment, the elliptical combined various aspects of a treadmill, a stair climber, and a ski machine (among other things). More importantly, the elliptical was easy to use. Aerobic enthusiasts immediately gravitated toward this machine because it provided them with a complete cardio workout, while adding in certain benefits of resistance muscle training, as well.
One of the assets of an elliptical was that the low-impact movement enabled a person to keep his or her heels resting on the pedals at all times. For years, people had been experiencing numbness as a result of having their heels dangle behind the pedals of a stationary bike. Either that or having their posteriors remain static on the bicycle's seat. Ellipticals solved both problems by requiring users to remain upright, while operating pedals that out-measured the length of their feet.
Despite only being on the market since the nineties, elliptical trainers have already become a fixture in every major gym, fitness center, and YMCA across the country. More importantly, ellipticals are the second-highest-grossing piece of home gym equipment on the planet (behind the treadmill). To put that in perspective, consider that home fitness equipment accounts for billions worth of annual sales in the United States alone.