The best elliptical trainer or cross trainer 2017

Nordic fitness without leaving the house, with the best in full body workout machines

TODO alt text

It is puerile to view the humble cross trainer (or elliptical, as it's now widely known since 'cross training' came to mean doing one-armed pull-ups and weight exercises whilst being shouted at by a personal trainer) as the least worthwhile piece of equipment in the home gym arsenal.

Yes, it does look a bit weird when you see someone embroiled in a sort of imaginary cross-country skiing event, arms and legs flailing in harmony, face twisted as it desperately gulps oxygen.   

But it is thanks to this impact-free, gliding movement that users can easily and quickly increase their aerobic fitness without putting strain on sensitive joints, while the upper body receives a solid workout in the meantime. In terms of effect, it's more like a low-impact rowing machine than a surrealist take on a treadmill.

This multi-muscle training also makes an elliptical great for those who are looking to keep in shape but lack a lot of space at home.

What is the best elliptical trainer?

NordicTrack is King of the Elliptical hot steppers (murderer), and its E10.0 Elliptical Cross Trainer, available at John Lewis, 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.

How to buy the best elliptical trainer

Although broadly similar in design (two platforms for your feet and a couple of handles to grab), elliptical trainers differ greatly in terms of features, build quality and the level of resistance offered.

Similar to an exercise bike, the elliptical trainer uses a flywheel to create resistance and it is the weight and design of this wheel that will determine how buttery smooth the workout feels, as well as the amount of 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.

Also, 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.  

Naturally, space and budgets will be an important factor and in general terms, the more expensive you go, the larger and heavier the device becomes as manufacturers launch gizmos, gadgets and chunkier build quality at 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.

As such, we've highlighted electrically assisted elliptical trainers from £400 to nearly £4k – a broad sweet spot, to be sure – which offer a good range of features to suit most budgets and needs.

The best elliptical trainers, in order

1. NordicTrack E10.0

Best elliptical trainer pound for pound, with a superb array of features for the price

Specifications
Dimensions: H203 W81 L169 cm
Foldable: Yes
Flywheel weight: 10kg
Built-in speakers: Yes
Stride length: 18-inch
Reasons to buy
+Powerful rear-drive system+Adjustable platforms+Foldable for storage
Reasons to avoid
-Data screen looks a bit naff
Today's best deals

Proof that a gym-worthy product need not cost the earth comes in the form of market leader NordicTrack's epic E10.0 machine.

With a large 18-inch stride length, the powerful rear-driven unit works greater muscle groups thanks to the more natural movement, while adjustable heel/toe angles of the extra wide footplates allow the user to target specific body parts.

The NordicTrack E10.0 offers 22 digital levels of resistance, while a 0° to 20° digital quick incline offers a more intense workout for those who find even the hefty 10kg flywheel weight too easy.

Overall build quality is high and NordicTrack has considered a number of factors to ensure the E10.0 performs, such as the long grab handles and centre grips, which allow for numerous holding positions to work a number of upper body muscle groups.

Said handles also include heart rate monitoring technology, although keen fitness fans will likely want to employ a compatible chest-based monitoring system.

Granted, the digital display isn't as sexy as some of the touchscreen numbers found on more expensive models but it is simple and the important data, such as the ability to adjust resistance level and incline, is easily accessible.

The basic display also offers 24 individual personal trainer workouts, (12 calorie and 12 performance workouts) that automatically adjust incline and resistance, as well as revolutions per minute prompts to help users achieve a variety of goals, from losing excess flab to properly toning up.

As with many NordicTrack products, the E10.0 is compatible with a separate iFit module, which is designed to launch exercise into the digital age with interactive workouts, maps and more.

Finally, while the 75kg E10.0 isn't exactly the most portable machine around, it has been designed to fold almost in half, so it can be lifted, wheeled away and stored in a cupboard when not in use.

2. ProForm 450 LE

Best space-saving elliptical trainer

Specifications
Dimensions: H157 W69 L142 cm
Foldable: Yes
Flywheel weight: 6kg
Built-in speakers: Yes
Stride length: 18-inch
Reasons to buy
+Folds up small+Good stride length
Reasons to avoid
-Light flywheel-Limited number of programmes
Today's best deals

It may not look as professional as some of the other trainers here but the little ProForm 450 LE's main party trick is that it folds three ways so it can easily be stored in the corner of a room when not in use.

Despite that, the oversized EasyTone pedals offer a nice amount of foot adjustability and the rear-driven unit does its best to deliver a natural stride motion, despite the compact proportions.

The lower price is reflected in light, 6kg flywheel, which may feel slightly weedy for those who really like to bump up the resistance, while the very basic digital readout only delivers headline figures.

Regardless, there is a choice of 18 pre-programmed workouts, which isn't bad for the price, and the ergonomically designed handles feature built-in heart rate monitoring, with Bluetooth on hand if you want to bring your own chest strap.

The unit may not be the last word in sturdiness, but it offers a solid workout for the price, without taking up valuable abode floor space.

3. Sole Fitness E25

A robust machine guaranteed to last a lifetime

Specifications
Dimensions: H176 W61 L163 cm
Foldable: No
Flywheel weight: 11kg
Built-in speakers: Yes
Stride length: 20-inch
Reasons to buy
+Lifetime guarantee+Gym-like spec
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive
Today's best deals

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.

4. Technogym Synchro Forma

Professional grade cross trainer

Specifications
Dimensions: H164cm, W79cm, L204cm
Foldable: No
Flywheel weight: Not quoted
Built-in speakers: Yes
Stride length: Not quoted
Reasons to buy
+Gives strenuous workout
Reasons to avoid
-Has strenuous price
Today's best deals

There is a reason why TechnoGym kit can be found in esteemed fitness establishments around the globe and that is because it is generally bloody excellent.

The Synchro Forma doesn't let the side down and its professional biomechanics make for one of the smoothest, most fluid workouts on this list.

Throw in the lush digital display, handle-mounted controls and TechnoGym's suite of excellent data tracking apps and you have a mean machine that will deliver serious results.

Unfortunately, you pay strong money for such performance and the machine is likely overkill for most households. For those with wild man-cave dreams, however, this is the stuff those dreams are made of.

5. Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer

Great, low-cost elliptical trainer

Specifications
Dimensions: H169cm, W72cm, L135cm
Foldable: No
Flywheel weight: 9kg
Built-in speakers: Yes
Stride length: 15-inch
Reasons to buy
+Excellent VFM
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most demanding trainer
Today's best deals

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.