Elliptical machines are those funny looking pieces of exercise equipment near the treadmills and stair steppers at your local gym. They have foot pedals that move in an elliptical shape, mimicking a running motion. Most also have handles that add an upper body workout. They can be kind of goofy looking, but they’re a useful addition to your workout. Because, when you use an elliptical, your weight is supported throughout the motion, they are much easier on your joints while remaining effective as a workout.
The Top Ten
|Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine||4.3||$$$$$|
|Horizon Fitness EX-59-02 Elliptical Trainer||4.1||$$$|
|Horizon Fitness EX-69-2 Elliptical Trainer||4.0||$$$|
|Best Fitness E1 Elliptical Trainer by Body Solid||3.5||$$$$|
|Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine||4.4||$$$$$+|
|Sunny Folding Climbing Stepper||4.2||$|
|Schwinn 430 Elliptical Machine||4.0||$$$|
|Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Trainer||3.8||$|
|Palm Springs Elliptical Cross Trainer with Computer||3.6||$|
These are the top ten elliptical machines from our extensive research and reviews of many popular models. They are the sturdiest, easiest to use, and most effective home elliptical machines available.
Advantages of a Good Elliptical Machine
Why choose an elliptical machine over a treadmill, or even just running outside? Well, there are a couple advantages the elliptical machine has over the other options for running and cardiovascular exercise.
- Low Impact. An elliptical machine is a true low impact workout. The major advantage of an elliptical is that it gives you most or all of the benefits of running, while being much easier on your joints and back. When a runner’s foot hits the pavement, a force equaling as much as twice their weight will be put on their ankles, knees, hips, and lower back. An elliptical machine, on the other hand, supports your body throughout the running motion, eliminating the shock force associated with running.
- Different Motions. With an elliptical, you can ‘run’ in a number of different ways, which will result in one machine being useful for a few different exercises. An elliptical, for example, can be used to ‘run’ backward. This is an option that is obviously not normally safe. You wouldn’t want to do this on a treadmill, and it’s a terrible idea for running outside. The elliptical offers a safe way to use this unique motion for exercising.
- Working Different Muscles. A study focused on the benefits of the elliptical found that the use of the quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh, were used quite a bit more when using the machine. This results in stronger muscles, and a more balanced workout. Backpedaling focuses even more on the quadriceps. Another study found that elliptical machines also worked the glutes and lateral muscles to a greater extent than simply running.
While it might seem like less of a workout, you really are getting the full benefit, in terms of burning calories and cardiovascular health.
Different Types of Elliptical Machine
There are three main types of elliptical machine.
- Elliptical Trainer. A trainer has the footrests and the arms that move them in an elliptical motion. It has a stationary handlebar to hold onto as you exercise. This machine works your lower body and provides a cardiovascular exercise.
- Elliptical Cross Trainer. A cross trainer is like a regular elliptical machine. However, rather than having a stationary handlebar, it has handlebars that move with the motion of the feet. This allows you to include an upper body workout while using an elliptical.
- Elliptical Glider. An elliptical glider is something like a mix between an elliptical trainer and a stair stepper. There is a stationary handle and is focused on working the lower body. With a glider, however, the pedals only move up and down, and not back and forth.
All three types provide a good cardiovascular workout and work the lower body. They also exercise the quadriceps and glutes.
How to Find the Best Elliptical Type For Me
A glider is good for anyone with back or joint issues, as using the machine properly will reduce the running can put on these parts of the body. Not all elliptical machines are equal, however. First of all, there are the three main types: the trainer, cross trainer, and glider.
A straight up elliptical trainer is the basic model. It offers a good lower body workout and a low-impact cardiovascular exercise. The stationary handlebar means that there is a fixed spot to hold onto, and stability is usually not an issue. In addition, there is the option to back pedal, offering a different exercise emphasizing different muscles.
The cross trainer is the hardest workout. It also requires the most coordination. Adding the upper body means both your arms and legs are moving in different directions all at once. A cross trainer might not be the best option for older people looking for a low-impact cardiovascular workout or anybody with balance issues.
A glider is the simplest and lowest impact of the elliptical machines. Like the trainer, it has a stationary handlebar. Combine that with the simple straight up and down motion of the pedals, and it is the easiest of the options to remain stable on. The muscles primarily worked out when using the glider are the triceps and the glutes, as extending the knee and hip does the exercise.
Elliptical Machine Prices
There are a wide variety of prices when it comes to buying an elliptical machine. A basic one will cost somewhere around $100 or a little less. These will models will generally not have any sort of electronics, such as distance meters or timers. Some do come with a basic exercise computer.
The price goes up from there, with more expensive machines having a greater range of refinements and options. A gym quality machine will cost over $1000, and might have options such as varying resistance and incline. Other options include heart contact grips to monitor your heart rate, workout programs available on the exercise computer, and an onboard sound system.
What Do Our Reviews Have to Say?
This is an expensive machine, but it is worth it in terms of quality. It comes with a workout computer that includes several exercise programs, as well as an onboard sound system. The machine has a variable resistance and can also incline to offer a harder workout. It also comes with a heart monitor so you can keep track of how hard you are working. Assembly can be difficult, as it is a very heavy machine. In particular, the resistance wheel may require a couple of people to move and put in place.
This elliptical has a narrow pedal stance that will prevent hip fatigue or pain that may result from the wider stance required by some elliptical machines. It also has a low step up height, making it a good option for anyone with limited mobility. It takes up little floor space, but it is heavy, and moving it can be difficult. Assembly is straightforward, but will require a couple people to move the heavier parts.
This machine is a stair climber or elliptical glider. It works similarly to an elliptical trainer in that the weight of the user is supported throughout the motion of the exercise, and therefore it is easier on joints and the back. It is a pretty barebones machine and includes a basic digital display, which can keep track of time, step count, and calories burned. The resistance can be varied to match your ability level. It folds up into a light and is easy to move. As there are few embellishments, there isn’t a lot that can go wrong. As a result, it is an a solid little machine.