Welcome to our elliptical trainer reviews, where you’ll discover what makes a great elliptical trainer and the best brands and models to consider.
Elliptical trainers are a relatively recent innovation in the world of exercise equipment and in our view provide one of the best all round cardio workouts, you can check my post about best cardio workouts here.
In this review we’ll explain just what an elliptical trainer is and what you should look for when investing in a machine for home use.
We’ll also take a look at the top brands and the various models available.
Our aim is to ensure you’re armed with the information you need to make an informed choice and an investment that will stand the rigours of regular use.
If you’re new to exercise equipment you may be wondering what an elliptical trainer is…our elliptical trainer reviews page should provide an answer!
Elliptical Trainer Reviews – What is an Elliptical Trainer…?
Essentially they’re a combination of exercise bike, stair climber, treadmill and ski machine in one as they simulate the movements and benefits of all four.Elliptical trainers are sometimes called cross trainers, and for good reason.
The name ‘elliptical’ comes from the elongated circular motion that your legs go through. It’s probably closest to skiing, except that your legs go up and down in an oval – or elliptical – motion.
Elliptical trainers have handles, which just like holding and using ski poles whilst cross country skiing provide an upper body workout.
Elliptical trainers are very low impact, which is a great advantage over say a treadmill if you’ve any joint or back problems.
I used to run a lot – pretty much every day for at least five miles. All that pounding the tarmac caught up with me and I ended up with sore knees and shin splints.
I discovered elliptical trainers as a low impact alternative, which gave me a great cardio workout with absolutely none of the discomfort that running caused.
The movement is very easy to master, is extremely comfortable and smooth. On better machines you can change the direction so that the resistance alters – think of skiing forwards…and then backwards. A very different workout!
Another factor to bear in mind is that elliptical trainers burn more calories mile for mile than either stationary bikes or treadmills, due largely to the engagement of the upper body.
Great for anyone on a weight loss program.
Ok, so that’s what elliptical trainers are, but what makes a good elliptical trainer?
Elliptical Trainer Reviews – What to Look Out For…
When carrying out elliptical trainer reviews, you’ll soon notice that there are a wide range of elliptical trainers on the market with many different features and price tags.
To be frank, the choice can be somewhat intimidating – and not a little confusing!
Now I don’t want to baffle you with science and you certainly don’t need a degree in engineering to evaluate the basics of what makes a good elliptical trainer.
When conducting your own elliptical trainer reviews, there are a number of decisions to be made when settling on the right model for you.
So let’s work through them one by one…
Elliptical trainers don’t come cheap, well good ones don’t. The saying, “you get what you pay for” certainly applies!
Realistically you should expect to pay from around $500 to over $4,000. There are machines available under the $500 bracket, typically from large retail outlets like Walmart.
However, they tend to be lightweight and flimsy and don’t offer a smooth workout.
You really don’t need to pay more than $2,000 max for a good machine for home use, though, and there are some great machines around the $800-1,200 mark.
#2. Rear drive or front drive
Elliptical trainers can be divided into those with rear drive and those with front drive.
So which is best?
Generally speaking I prefer rear drive because it offers a true elliptical motion and feel.
Rear drive machines have the flywheel at the back and is the preferred format for the higher end machines.
Front drive machines require articulating pedals to give you a heel/toe ellipse – I wouldn’t personally consider a front drive machine without articulating pedals.
The movement will feel awkward and a little jerky without them.
However, there are some very good front drive machines and if you’re on a budget, they’re well worth considering.
Ellipticals from Sole Fitness are front drive and are excellent and companies like Schwinn offer some good value front end machines.
Smooth Fitness, Life Fitness and Precor for example, all make some great rear end machines.
There are essentially three resistance systems offered on elliptical trainers.
High end machines have what’s known as an ‘eddy current brake’ system or ECB. It’s a reliable and durable resistance system as there are few moving parts.
It’s the system found on commercial-use machines and the best – and more expensive – home-use machines.
Without getting too technical, the system consists of an aluminium disk that spins between two variable magnetic fields. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the resistance. Very smooth and very quiet.
Many mid-range machines have a motorised brake – a small motor that applies a magnet to the wheel and provides the resistance.
The better systems work well and provide a smooth workout, but they’re more prone to breakdown or wear out.
Budget machines have a manual system – you basically twist a knob that applies the magnet to the wheel and provides resistance. This provides a jerky movement that soon gets annoying!
Generally speaking, the heavier the machine, the better built and more stable it is and the smoother the workout you get.
A stable machine, with a solid frame and a big, heavy flywheel is a feature of mid to high end machines.
Our elliptical trainer reviews would suggest that budget models can be a little wobbly and the quality of the workout then suffers as a result.
#5. Stride length
This is a crucial factor as the taller you are, the longer your stride. A machine with a shorter stride length will result in a jerky, chopped off, unnatural movement that can be rather uncomfortable.
Budget machines start at as little as 12″ which is totally inadequate for anyone over 5’2″!
16″ is the ideal minimum. 20″ and over is even better, particularly if you’re over 6′ tall.
#6. Training programs
It’s important to be able to manually control your program via an electronic interface. It’s also useful to have a range of pre-set programs to choose from and add variety and progression to your workout.
However, a well built, smooth machine is essential…programming is more of a bonus. Higher end machines have great programming as standard.
#7. Heart rate monitoring and heart rate control
Monitoring your heart rate whilst exercising is a useful feature and enables you to gauge the intensity of your workout – as if the aching muscles and gasping lungs weren’t enough!
Heart rate control is becoming more common on low to mid-priced machines and is pretty much standard on mid to high end models.
It enables the machine to monitor your heart rate and adjust the resistance accordingly.
You program the elliptical trainer to the type of workout you want, eg fat burn, interval training, etc and the machine sets and adjusts the resistance accordingly.
Some machines have the heart control sensors on the hand grips, others are wireless and require you to strap a heart rate monitor to your chest.
This one is simple – the longer the warranty the better, as it’s the indication of a better built, more reliable machine and demonstrates the confidence of the manufacturer in their product.
Don’t expect a lengthy warranty on a budget machine, but we’d recommend a minimum one year parts and labour warranty.
Ok, there are other factors that you may want to consider when doing elliptical trainer reviews for yourself. Like size, ease of assembly and looks, but that’s the main points covered.
Now, where do you buy your elliptical trainer from?
Elliptical Trainer Reviews – Where’s the Best Place to Buy an Elliptical Trainer…?
Our elliptical trainer reviews would contend that there are basically two main options.
For me, as I hate shopping, the best bet is online as you’ll generally get the best deal.
As there’s no middleman with a shop front to maintain, you’ll typically get around 20% off the list price, sometimes even more.
The online store takes your order, which is then shipped direct from the manufacturer. Many manufacturers sell direct to the consumer online. Smooth Fitness uses this method exclusively and promises greater savings as a result.
Shipping is often free – well it’s built into the price of the machine! – and delivery is generally within a couple of days, a week to 10 days at most.
The downside is that you can’t try the machine before you buy, although a visit to a retail outlet may enable you to do so.
The second option is to buy from a retail outlet. Specialist fitness stores can offer you some expert advice and of course you can try the various models first.
General retailers typically stock budget brands and models and offer little expert advice.
Elliptical Trainer Reviews – Time for some Reviews…!
Ok, now you know what you’re looking for and having read our home exercise equipment review page you’ll appreciate why investing in home fitness equipment is a great time saver for busy people – let’s take a look at some elliptical trainer reviews!
Nordic Track Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Nordic Track elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Nordic Track’s current elliptical trainer models:
Sole Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Sole elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Sole’s current elliptical trainer models:
ProForm Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at ProForm elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of ProForm’s current elliptical trainer models:
ProForm 320 Elliptical Trainer
ProForm 330 Elliptical Trainer
ProForm Cardio CrossTrainer 650 Elliptical Trainer
ProForm 900 CardioCross Elliptical Trainer
ProForm 20.0 CrossTrainer Elliptical Trainer
Schwinn Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Schwinn elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Schwinn’s current elliptical trainer models:
Epic Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Epic elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Epic’s current elliptical trainer models:
Horizon Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Horizon elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Horizon’s current elliptical trainer models:
Spirit Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Spirit elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Spirit’s current elliptical trainer models:
Smooth Elliptical Trainers
For an overview please take a look at Smooth elliptical trainers.
Or if you prefer, check out our reviews of each of Smooth’s current elliptical trainer models:
However, our elliptical trainer reviews are a work in progress – we’ll post some more reviews as soon as we’ve completed them, so please check back later!
We hope you find the various elliptical trainer reviews useful and a handy guide to find what you’re looking for.