- Compare: The Best Elliptical Machine of 2017 – Top 5
- Elliptical machine benefits
- Tips to get the most from your elliptical trainer:
- How an elliptical trainer works
- Types of elliptical machines
- Elliptical configurations
- Features to look out for in elliptical machines
- 9 Shopping tips for your ellipticals
No home gym is complete without a good cardio machine like the elliptical machine. This is a popular piece of in-home fitness equipment which promotes cardiovascular health, weight loss and strength training. It’s also called elliptical trainers or elliptical and classified as a cross-trainer as it simultaneously works the upper and lower body.
You work your lower body with your feet working the pedals while the machine’s upper arms work your upper body by moving back and forth like ski poles. This machine is one of the best fitness machines meant for both beginners to elite athletes.
Compare: The Best Elliptical Machine of 2017 – Top 5
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The Schwinn 430 keeps you motivated with your fitness and weight loss goals by keeping you constantly updated through its Schwinn Connect goal tracking and data export feature. You can also monitor up to 13 different display feedbacks through its dual track two LCD window system.
You have about 22 programs to choose from and 20 levels of resistance with high speed high inertia perimeter weighted flywheel. This helps ensure that all your workouts are performed smoothly and quietly.
- 22 programs and 20 levels of resistance
- Dual track 2 LCD window system for monitoring 13 different display feedbacks
- Charging USB port and data exchange
- Schwinn Connect keeps you updated with your fitness goals
- Stress marks quickly develop in the plastic casing
- Some parts don’t fit perfectly
- While the 20’ stride is rather long, some people find a 24 or 28 inch stride more comfortable
- Makes a clicking noise at start, which goes away in a few minutes
- Should be used with care on carpeting as some components are greased
- While assembly directions are easy, it’s not meant for first timers
- The manual doesn’t have instructions for the machine’s computer module
- Is rather difficult moving around
The Stamina In-Motion Elliptical trainer is perfect for your home or office. It is compact and lightweight and can be easily stored under a desk or closet when not in use. You can use the machine standing, sitting or pedalling in reverse, thus offering you a versatile exercising option to use while watching television, reading a book or working at the office.
The machine has a multi-functional fitness monitor which tracks your progress and keeps you motivated while exercising. All you need to do is turn and adjust a knob to control your workout intensity. As its pedals have a textured surface, you can pedal as fast and hard as you want.
- Lightweight and compact, fit for office or home use
- Keep a track on your strides, calories and exercise time with its electronic motor
- Back, knees, ankles and hips are protected by its low-impact design
- Target different muscles by varying the direction of pedalling
- Three colours to choose from
- Occasionally rocks slightly from side-to-side which may cause injury
- Doesn’t glide easily during strides
- Not much of a range in motion and resistance setting
- Gets squeaky within a few months of use
If you are working at improving your cardiovascular performance, the Gazelle Edge may be best trainer for home you are looking for. This ellipticals give you a total body workout while burning calories and building your cardiovascular system.
Your upper and lower body is worked simultaneously by the Gazelle Edge through a range of motion starting from a slow walk to a full run without sudden stops. Its easy-to-use five-function workout computer provides immediate speed, distance, time and calories burned feedback while the machine can be easily folded for easy storage.
- Foot platforms are extra-wide and non-skid
- Helps improve cardiovascular performance
- Keeps track of speed, time, distance and more
- Wide range of motion
- Carries a maximum weight of 250 pounds
- Easily folded for easy storage
- High-density foam cover for handlebars for extra comfort
- Fit for people of all ages and fitness levels
- Poor customer support
- Parts break easily and replacement parts are not easily available
- Slides across hardwood floors while working out
- Has to be stored under a really high-up bed
The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider with Cords helps save time as you can work out while standing or seated and watching TV. This portable device foot pedals can be used forwards or in reverse mode to target your lower body in various ways.
Its handle provides for convenient and easy portability while its fitness monitor displays your number of strides a minute, exercise time, total strides and calories burned. Its detachable resistance bands increases your upper body workout to strengthen and tone your arms, chest and shoulders.
- Workout intensity level can be adjusted and increased as you grow stronger
- Can be used while seated or standing
- Sturdy non-slip foot pedals can be worked in forward or reverse motion
- Handle provides for easy portability
- Fitness monitor keeps track of your exercise statistics
- Comes with a workout DVD
- Gives a great cardiovascular workout to burn more calories
- Short length of stride makes it feel more like a stepper
- Difficult to use without holding onto support
- Unsteady machine base making it difficult to use
- Cords don’t work
Instead of splurging money on a gym membership, it proves worthy to invest in an elliptical machine like ProGear 360 Dual Action Stride Air Walker L5 as it gives you a complete cardiovascular workout of both your upper and lower body.
This machine has a 225 lb weight capacity and uses magnetic resistance and a 36 inch motion to let you choose the perfect workout for yourself from a brisk walk to an intense jog. The elliptical has an easy-to-read LCD screen which keeps a tab on your calories burnt, distance and speed. Its heart-rate sensors located in its handles tracks your progress while another pair of padded handgrips involves your arms in your workout.
This compact elliptical machine has a small frame and is easily folded to half its size to store under your closet and its transportation wheels make carrying the machine around so easy. It’s unique continuous multi-directional motion lets you perform different leg exercises including inner and outer thigh extensions. Another unique feature of the machine is its adjustable rear floor stabilizers which level and prevent you from rocking or tipping while on the machine.
- Heart-rate sensors tracks your progress
- Reduced impact on joints offer a more comfortable workout
- Multi-directional motion of different leg exercises
- Folds to half its size for convenient storage
- Has a 225 lb weight capacity and height range of 4 feet 10 inches to 6 feet
- Rear floor stabilizers can be adjusted to prevent rocking and tipping
- LCD screen keeps track of calories burnt, speed and distance covered
- Upper body workout provided by dual action arms
- Ribbed oversized foot pedals and foam covered support handle bar prevent slippage
- Wheels provide for easy relocation
- Left front leg tends to come off the ground while taking strides
- Computer stop working in two months’ time
- Doesn’t mimic natural body movements
Elliptical machine benefits
It’s quite obvious one of the benefits of an elliptical machine is the upper and lower body workout it offers. In addition to it, it offers the following benefits:
- Minimal stress on joints
Elliptical machines give less impact on joints unlike treadmills which tend to stress knees and ankles. Elliptical workout machines are user-friendly designed with footplates which sustain your legs so that there’s no addition exertion on the joints except for the stress of your upper body. Exercising on the machine helps tone your hamstrings, glutes and calves along with your chest and arms while minimizing the impact on your joints, bones and muscles.
- Preset training programs
You can choose your desired preset training program like physical endurance improvement, stamina and weight loss based on your fitness goal. Your home gym workout is thus less boring, giving you more reason and motivation to keep working out.
You can also change programs to fit your fitness levels to get the most out of your training without overworking your muscles. High-intensity interval training helps quickly shed off unwanted pounds as it involves your entire body and boosts your body metabolism. High resistance programs help improve your muscle tone and shape to help you gain lean mass.
- Complete body workout
Unlike most cardio and aerobic machines which focuses only on your lower body, elliptical machines coordinates your lower body movements with upper body movements to give you a toned and slim body with stronger muscles which burn more calories even while at rest.
- Burn more calories
You can make your workouts more challenging or relaxing based on your shape by customizing your workout based on your desired speed, time, distance and resistance levels. You can also adjust its incline to make your workout more intense and demanding on your muscles so that you burn more calories in a workout. Moreover, your elliptical workout increases your body metabolism which helps you lose weight.
- Improves cardiovascular functioning
The main purpose of an elliptical machine is to improve your cardiovascular performance by accelerating your heart rate and circulation. This helps improve your respiration, mobility, flexibility, relieves stress, accelerates metabolism and most important, simultaneously works muscles in the chest, arms, legs, shoulders and backs to helps you burn calories faster.
Remember, your heart is a muscle, and like any other body muscle, the more you work it, the stronger and healthier it is for you. However make sure you don’t overwork it as it leads to negative health consequences.
- Shorter elliptical machine workouts
As the elliptical machine simultaneously works your legs, arms, shoulders, back and chest muscles, there is no need of performing different exercises and workouts for different muscles. This in turn leads to a shorter workout time as you work all your muscles in a single workout.
- Easy to use
Anyone can use ellipticals like Proform elliptical trainer as it doesn’t require any special training or practice. With the machine coordinating the movements, there’s no need of any special coordination to work the pedals and arms.
The controls of most machines are also easily adjustable like the resistance switches which adjust the workout intensity, and the pre-set programs which you choose based on the time elapsed and calories burned.
While the commercial elliptical trainers are heavy and large as they have extra features, the smaller compact elliptical trainers designed for home use are portable and can be easily folded and stored under the bed or in the closet.
Tips to get the most from your elliptical trainer:
- Make sure you regularly exercise on your ellipticals, at least 3 -4 times a week.
- Maintain a proper posture while working out with your back straight, head held high and shoulders back.
- Always start from a lower and manageable intensity level and increase the levels as you go stronger. Starting at a higher level only leads to stress on your joints and possible joint and overall muscular pain.
- Keep a track on your heart rate to ensure you do not over-exert yourself. While most elliptical trainers have built-in heart rate sensors to help you do this, you can always use an independent heart rate monitor to track your pulse if your machine doesn’t have one.
How an elliptical trainer works
It’s important you maintain the right posture while using an elliptical machine to get the most from your exercise session. The wrong position increases the risk of injuries while reducing the workout efficiency to the minimum. Read on to learn how to use this device.
Its pedals are attached to a flywheel to give a smooth pedalling action resembling walking and can be adjusted to various resistance settings. It works both backwards and forwards and can also be adjusted to your height and angle of your feet.
You can make a workout more challenging by adjusting pedal resistance and incline, which is a feature most elliptical offer. The smoothness of the machine’s pedalling action depends on its stride length where the higher it is the better the machine is.
While the simple models have a stride length of seven inches, the lengths in higher top rated elliptical machines goes as high as 26 inches, and are fit for those who are very tall.
Elliptical trainers with exercise arms move your upper body as if you were going cross country skiing. They are also called handlebars and work the upper body muscles like chest, shoulders, arms and upper back. The older machines may not have these hands; you just have to hold onto the front bar while pedalling.
Types of elliptical machines
Elliptical machines are generally divided into those with heart rate programs and those without.
With heart rate programs
Machines with heart rate programs automatically adjust the machine’s resistance and incline feature based on your target heart rate. If your heart rate is lower than this target, the elliptical increases the exercise intensity and if your heart rate is more than the target, it decreases the intensity.
This is why your heart rate is tracked to ensure the programs work, which is best done using chest-strap heart rate sensors. Handgrip contact sensors are inconvenient and inaccurate. These machines are better for those needing more focus in their fitness program and prefer having the machine work automatically while determining their exercise efforts.
Without heart rate program
These machines cannot automatically adjust the exercise intensity based on target heart rates. They may have contact and chest-strap heart sensors to monitor and display your heart rate. These machines are better for those who can decide their target heart rate and know how to reach their goals.
Elliptical machines come in three basic configurations based on the position of the flywheel, which determines the quality of ride. No matter where it’s located, the machine should glide smoothly and silently.
- Front drive configuration has the flywheel positioned in the front to give a flatter movement than rear drive machines. These machines usually have a longer stride, and give a more comfortable ride.
- The centre drive configuration consists of the flywheel positioned in the centre so that your weight lies in the middle of the machine, with drive mechanisms on the sides. This puts your body in a natural and straight position and thus provides a solid and sturdy base.
- The rear drive configuration consists of the flywheel positioned in the rear to give more inertia and a comfortable and smooth stride. As these machines have fewer moving parts than front drive machines, there are fewer repairs.
Features to look out for in elliptical machines
Different machines have different features and designs. While all elliptical offer equal cardio benefits, a few extra features puts a machine ahead of the others. No matter what features the machines may have, they should be simple to use and needn’t take more than 2-3 steps to start a program.
Choose machines with a manual or quick start mode, which require only 1-2 pushes to start. There also should be variety in the exercise program as it motivates you and keeps you focused at reaching your goals.
- Basic features
Basic features found in elliptical workout machines include monitoring of heart rate and track performance for speed, time, distance and number of calories burned. Most machines can be programmed for customized workouts.
- Adjustable incline
This feature adds variety to your routine and is a feature worth having as it reduces the monotony of your exercise, keeps you motivated and prevents your reaching an exercise plateau.
- Smooth elliptical motion
The elliptical should give a smooth motion as some machines give a kick in the motion where the heel lifts off the platform. Avoid these machines and look only for machines that give true elliptical forward and backward movements.
Check the feel of the elliptical machine weight loss by trying the machine for at least 20 minutes. You shouldn’t feel any stress on your knees and hips, and you should be able to exercise in a neutral position without bending over or reaching for handrails.
- Upper body motion
Machines with upper body movement help you strengthen your upper body. Both upper and lower body elliptical motions should be comfortable and intuitive without your having to lean over to complete a range of motion. Try out various machines to find out which machine you feel comfortable with.
- Adjustable resistance
The unit should offer resistance which can be electronically adjusted easily. All resistance changes should be easy to implement so that you can easily incorporate your training sessions in your routine.
- Forward and backward movement
The machine should let you move in forward and reverse motion for variety and challenge in the workout. It also reduces the risk of suffering from injuries due to repetitive use common with treadmill and stair climber users.
The machine should feel smooth and operate quietly, preferably silent at all intensities.
- Variable stride
This feature proves helpful if more than one person will be using the elliptical. With this feature it is possible to make adjustments to accommodate the different users’ heights.
- Electronic features
Most ellipticals have various additional features to lure customers into buying them. There are machines with cooling fans, USB ports, LED displays and even some with television monitors and speakers connected to MP3 players so that you can enjoy music while exercising.
These are all additional features, which you should look for and buy elliptical with them only if you feel it’s important for you. Look for features you think are motivating and challenging to you and accordingly, look a package which helps you progress and accommodates the use of everyone using the ellipticals in your household.
9 Shopping tips for your ellipticals
- Exercise goals
Keep your goals in mind, and the people who will be using it as even individual family members have their individual strides and goals.
- Online research
Do your online research to find interesting equipment. Check rating websites, product reviews and the manufacturers’ websites and Facebook pages to find out who uses their equipment.
- Where to buy
Once you find some interesting companies and models, find out where you can buy the equipment. While most can be bought online through their website or other shopping stores, if you shop through retail stores, check specialty fitness retailers and not discount stores as they have better equipment. However while online purchases may be cheaper, you may have to assemble the equipment when it arrives.
- Authorized specialty fitness retailers
Check authorized specialty fitness retailers and the brands they carry as most of them sell only certain brands. They thus have a more educated staff to attend and offer the best rated elliptical machines, and assemble and service your product better. Some of them may also have financing options while others know personal trainers to start your exercise program.
- Test your machine
It’s always better to test even top rated elliptical machines before buying. While it’s not possible while buying online, you can always try to test it through a friend, hotel or spa. While checking, try all its programs and exercising in both forward and reverse motions. There’s no point in just trying the machine for a few minutes as you don’t get the feel of the machine at all.
So wear something comfortable with walking or jogging shoes to try out the machine. It’s however not fair to retail sales staff if you take their time and test the machine, only to end up buying it cheaper elsewhere.
- Sufficient space
Keep the size in mind as while most elliptical are 6feet by 2.5 feet, many range between 50-84 inches. As you will be rather elevated while using the machine, make sure you have sufficient high ceiling too. There should also be at least 20 inches of free space on at least one side, and at the front or back for safety reasons.
You should be comfortable and able to maintain an upright posture while holding onto the ellipticals moving handles. The pedals should be as close together as possible and the moving handgrips and fixed frame components shouldn’t interfere with your arms, knees or shoulders.
- Features and intensity
The elliptical machine should have all basic features and additional features based on your budget and necessities. Also check the variable resistance offered by the machines where there should be some changes when you increase or reduce the resistance. Similarly, the machine should have different programs, and preferably an option for customizing your program.
As elliptical exercise machines are dangerous for children where they may get pinched or trapped by moving parts, make sure the little ones, if you have any at home, cannot access the machine by locking its room.
So you can see buying an elliptical machine isn’t something to do at the spur of the moment. You need the help of this buying guide to help you find the best elliptical machines. To make things even easier for you, we have also compiled a few elliptical machine reviews for you to go through, and make your choice among the best elliptical machines for home use.