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Best Elliptical Machines
Why Buy an Elliptical Trainer?
We jumped on a dozen elliptical machines, read industry blogs and talked with personal trainers, exercise enthusiasts and a physical therapist to determine what’s most important in choosing a machine for your home. In all, we spent over 120 hours researching and testing ellipticals, and we’re confident recommending the NoricTrack C9.5 as the best elliptical trainer overall because of its smooth function and its flexibility. It has a wealth of resistance levels and preset workout programs, and you can set four different user profiles. The 25-pound flywheel keeps the movement smooth even in rigorous workouts, and the web-enabled console integrates well with fitness tracking apps such as iFit.
While we weren’t able to physically test every elliptical machine on our list, we spent time with enough of them to get a good feel for several popular brands and to learn what to look for in a top-notch machine. Here are a few of our other favorites:
Our pick for best value is the Schwinn 470. This is a budget-friendly elliptical machine that still includes some of the best features. It has advanced workout programs, such as hit climbing and cross-training, as well as a custom program so you can create your own routine. The 20-pound flywheel means you won’t experience bumpiness during intense workout programs, and you can connect with your MyFitnessPal, or use the Schwinn Connect fitness app to help you keep track of your fitness goals and progress.
Best for Fitness Training
If you’re working on cross-training or muscle strengthening, you’ll want to look at the AFG Sport. It has 43 preset workouts and 12 resistance levels, plus a powered incline adjustment. These push this elliptical beyond a basic workout machine and make it useful for fitness goals beyond weight loss. You can create up to five user profiles, however the AFG Sport elliptical doesn’t let you adjust the stride length, so taller or shorter users may find the length uncomfortable.
For weight loss, we suggest the Spirit XE295. It doesn’t have as many workout presets as other elliptical, but you’ll get workouts designed for fat burning and heart rate tracking, two of the most important for weight loss. This model has a personal cooling fan and built-in speakers for your workout playlist. While most elliptical machines tend to support around 300 pounds, the Spirit XE295 supports up to 400 pounds, a nice perk for a weight loss elliptical.
Choosing an Elliptical: What the Experts Say
In our research, we chatted with experts (including amateur exercise enthusiasts and professional trainers) about what to look for in a really good machine. They all agree that the best models have heart rate monitors and provide a variety of workout presets; look for at least 10. The most common workout routines are fat burning and target heart rate, but the more presets available, the more options you have that help you avoid exercise fatigue and plateaus by changing the workout. If you are purchasing an elliptical for fitness or cross-training, a machine with more presets generally offers options to work out more muscles sets and have more intense workout settings.
Additionally, you’ll want to pay attention to the flywheel weight, which should be, at minimum, 20 pounds. A flywheel over 20 pounds makes for a smoother motion, without the bumpiness, pull or lag that is noticeable with smaller flywheels. This is especially important if you are doing more intense workouts at higher speeds.
It’s important to note that elliptical machines are delivered in pieces, so you need to assemble them yourself. Most manufactures, however, offer assembly services, even if you purchase your elliptical through a third-party distributor, such as Amazon. We suggest purchasing this service since warranties may be void if you put your elliptical machine together yourself.
Workout Support and Other Exercise Machines
It is important to have support while you are working towards your fitness goals, and a lot of the better elliptical machines connect with elliptical machines vis wireless internet connect, or with popular fitness apps, such as iFit and MyFitnessPal, and share information instantly between your tracker and elliptical. You might also consider using a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit, Garmin or Jawbone. These devices help you keep track of weight loss, muscle strength, heart rate and workout times. We’ve tested popular fitness tracker brands, and you can see our results here.
Online diet services can also provide good support if you are trying to lose weight. They provide you a place to list what you’ve eaten during the day (and factor in your exercise) so you can see if you’re staying on track with your calorie, fat, sugar and vitamin intake. If you need help with healthy meal ideas, online diet services often provide recipes, typically broken down into categories such as gluten free and diabetic meals. We’ve been testing online diet services for 12 years, and you can see our most recent testing results here.
If you’re looking for other exercise machines to add to your home gym, check out our reviews for the best treadmills, the best exercise bikes and the best home gyms that include weight-training features and programs.
Elliptical trainers are some of the most versatile exercise machines. They provide a good workout without causing added stress or pain to joints. Models with an adjustable stride are great for homes with multiple users, while a lot of preset workout programs are good if you are focused on strength or cross-training. Accessories such as a personal fan, tablet holders and speakers also enhances your overall exercise routine.
Contributing Reviewer: Renee Shipley