The best elliptical machines are a great addition to any home gym. And when we say great, we mean huge, as these cardio machines can be pretty sizeable. The not-so-humble elliptical – or cross trainer as it used to be known – is probably the least elegant piece of home gym equipment, but it can be highly effective.
Elliptical trainers might not be as popular as the best treadmills – especially the best folding treadmills – or even the best exercise bikes. Still, they’re perfect for getting fit without joint pain, thanks to the low-impact nature of the exercise. Yes, it looks peculiar when you see someone embroiled in an imaginary cross-country skiing event, arms and legs flailing in harmony, face twisted as it desperately gulps oxygen.
But thanks to the impact-free gliding movement, users can easily and quickly increase their aerobic fitness without putting strain on sensitive joints. At the same time, the upper body receives a solid workout too. This multi-muscle training also makes an elliptical ideal for those who want to get fit but lack the floor space at home to house numerous machines and gym equipment.
Best elliptical trainers to buy right now
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When it comes to virtually exploring this planet, few cardio machines compare to the NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer, which brings the great outdoors to your doorstep. This elliptical is easy on your joints, and its adjustable stride is far more dynamic than most cross-trainers. Not to mention the fab 14-inch screen!
Overall, the NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer is a splurge for any home gym, but one that may be worth it in the long run – or, err, stride. The machine itself is top-notch regarding low-impact cardio, but if you can afford the monthly iFit membership to boot, there’s a lot to like about this premium elliptical. Your inner child will never get bored, and your inner gazelle will thank you later.
Read our full NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer review.
Bowflex claims its M9 trainer – which replaced the popular M8 model – is one of the fastest ways to torch fat without the high impact of running and other bodyweight programmes. We aren't going to disagree because this unit incorporates the best elements of a stepper with an elliptical trainer's fat-torching upper body workout.
The Bowflex MAX Trainer M9 comes with a 1-year JRNY membership included in the price, through which you can access curated workout and entertainment options, including Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and more. You can also roam over 200 scenic destinations from around the world that you can explore at your speed! All the content is shown on the generous-sized 10" HD touchscreen.
Of course, you don't buy the Max Trainer M9 to watch Netflix when you're sitting on the couch. Thanks to the 20 resistance levels, this elliptical provides an excellent way to do low-impact HIIT workouts in a neighbour-friendly way. We also appreciated that the Max Trainer M9 didn't command the space in our home gyms like traditional ellipticals. It's not a cheap piece of home gym equipment, but it's an amazing, innovative machine that makes working out a breeze or at least enjoyable.
The JTX Zenith has a traditional horizontal layout, with the 17 kg flywheel at the rear of the unit – it'll command any home gym it's in for sure! Despite the large overall size, the Zenith's 21-inch max stride length isn't quite as generous as the NordicTrack FS14i FreeStride Trainer's 32 inches, which has a vertical constriction.
We liked the 16 resistance levels and the 19 different programs, although the latter is far from the number of workouts found in Bowflex's JRNY and NordicTrack's iFit apps. On a more positive note, the Zenith has built-in Polar heart rate sensors, making this elliptical capable of measuring heart rate – and, therefore, calories burned – more accurately.
We also appreciated the built-in speakers, a bottle holder and a transport wheel during the testing period. The JTX Zenith is not quite as premium as the machines listed above, but for the price, it provides more than enough features for people who would like to lose belly fat in a low-impact fashion.
The Technogym Elliptical is hands-down the most stylish elliptical trainer on this list – its smooth curves and minimalist design is a delight to look at. It's not just pretty but also functional and foldable, making it easier to store the machine in plain sight, so to speak, or in rooms where floor space is at a premium.
Speaking of premium: the Technogym Elliptical is pricey, as expected from a brand whose exercise machines grace many of the top gyms worldwide. It's not the expensive Technogym elliptical trainer – that would be Artis Vario for 17 grand – but it's more expensive than most of the models listed in this roundup.
Even though the hefty price tag, the Technogym Elliptical doesn't come with a multimedia display like many premium models, which is a shame, but you can use a tablet screen to stream workouts via the Technogym app, at least. One feature we liked was the Wake-up sensor; it wakes up the machine when you're nearby and turns it off when you aren't around.
The Sole E35 has a lot to offer for a home elliptical. It’s easy to use and can be adjusted to suit a variety of fitness levels. And, thanks to the machine’s compatibility with the STUDIO fitness platform, it offers users access to a host of fun, challenging workouts.
It’s slightly disappointing that at this price, it doesn’t include a proper screen, but if you’re used to working out with your tablet for company, it’s no great loss. The Sole Fitness 35 is ideal for elliptical newbies and provides both challenging and fun workouts (especially using the Studio app).
Read our full Sole E35 Elliptical review
With an impressive 20 punishing resistance levels to work with, this gym-grade elliptical machine has been designed to emit as little noise as possible, meaning housemates don't have to put up with the unbearable whooshing of a flywheel. Although there may still be a certain amount of human grunting to endure.
The LCD data screen is crisp, clear and packed with numerous built-in workouts, not to mention bespoke profiles for multiple users. Heart-rate monitoring is provided by a free Polar chest strap, as well as palm-based readings from the ergonomic 'ErgoGrip' handles, while a large, fixed 20-inch stride length and oversized pedals keep workouts feeling natural and free-flowing.
The price may be enough to have many Nordic-walking for the hills, admittedly, but Life Fitness has invested a wealth of gym knowledge into its range of home-friendly trainers, thus justifying the asking price somewhat.
If you're after a cross trainer that's big, chunky and manly looking, look no further than the beastly Sole Fitness E25, which boasts an 11kg flywheel and impressive 20-inch stride length. A long stride is nothing unless you know what to do with it, but this dual-wheel unit makes the most of its notable stats with a comfortable and balanced elliptical movement.
So confident is Sole Fitness that you won't shake its rugged E25 apart with a rowdy workout; it offers a lifetime guarantee on the parts, motor and frame. All that's left to do is strap on your heart rate monitor, plug in some tunes and do your very worst, sirs.
Neat, compact and great value for money, this budget offering from Reebok provides a neat, low-cost intro to the world of elliptical trainers. The petite, 5.5-inch digital screen gives readouts on all the key info: speed, time elapsed, distance covered, calories burned, pulse, watts and RPM, while a number of preset programmes address a wide variety of fitness goals.
A short, 15-inch stride length and relatively light flywheel don't make for the most natural elliptical experiences, but the extra long handles boast heart rate monitoring tech, so you can keep an eye on training zones and adapt effort accordingly.
How to buy the best elliptical trainer for you
Although broadly similar in design (two platforms for your feet and a couple of handles to grab), elliptical trainers differ significantly in features, build quality and resistance level. Like an exercise bike, most elliptical trainers use a flywheel to create resistance. The weight and design of this wheel will determine how buttery smooth the workout feels and how much resistance one can pile on.
In general, the cheaper units will use a much lighter flywheel, which may not offer the sort of resistance true fitness freaks need to break a sweat, while shorter stride lengths and stubby handles can limit the muscle groups worked. Similarly, the more expensive and complex units can combine elements of an elliptical with things like a stepper or climber, which reduces the amount of floor space required but still delivers a solid, all-over workout.
Beware, the really cheap stuff does away with the magnetic motors entirely, which is great for electricity bills but terrible for anyone who actually wants to increase their heart rate. You'll flail like a lunatic to get anywhere near the fat-burn zone.
Naturally, space and budgets will be important factors. In general terms, the more expensive you go, the larger and heavier the device becomes as manufacturers launch gizmos, gadgets, and chunkier build quality in their models. It's worth looking out for adjustable platforms, a multitude of grab handles, a decent spread of resistance and the more powerful drive systems if you want a trainer that's good enough to warrant ripping up the gym memberships.
How we test the best ellitpicals
Ellipticals are big ol' exercise machines, making them trickier to store in our not-so-generous home gyms, but this doesn't stop us from trying. Therefore, most of the ellipticals listed in this guide have been tested in home gym environments; only on some occasions, we had to resort to testing them in our storage facility near our photo studio.
Elliptical trainers undergo rigorous testing to ensure they deliver the workout experience the manufacturer claims in their marketing materials. If the machines come with an app subscription included in the price, we test these, too.
What is the best elliptical trainer?
NordicTrack is King of the Elliptical hot steppers and its E11.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer offers a staggering amount of bang for your buck. It has a large, 18-inch stride length and its rear-drive system offers an elliptical path that closely matches natural stride ergonomics.
Couple this with the adjustable pedals, extra tall workout arms and the 22 digital levels offered by the Silent Magnetic Resistance flywheel, and you have an extremely adjustable home system. It also cleverly folds flat for storage and is priced so it doesn't break the bank, yet manages to crush the more budget offerings in terms of features.
Do ellipticals help lose belly fat?
Using an elliptical trainer will help increase heart rate, especially if you use them for longer than five minutes at the time. This, coupled with a healthy, balanced diet, can help you lose belly fat and weight in general. Better still, training on an elliptical won't necessarily ramp up your heart rate too much, meaning it will be easier to keep it in that 'fat burning zone' sett spot (50-60% of max heart rate).