Ellipticals are a great addition to your home gym for 3 reasons:
1. Low impact: Ellipticals are extremely low impact. You don’t have the jarring impact from running.
2. Full body cardio workout: With resistance-based arms and foot pedals, you can work out much of your body at the same time (unlike exercise bikes and treadmills).
3. It’s a great workout: You can all out for an intense workout or take it easy like a walk for a moderate workout.
What I don’t like about ellipticals
Every exercise option has disadvantages. Ellipticals are no exception. After much use of many different models I’ve concluded the two main disadvantages to ellipticals (compared to treadmills and exercise bikes) are:
1. Difficult to read a book/magazine: Because your hands are used to hold the arm bars, reading magazines/books or surfing a tablet isn’t very convenient.
2. Not measurable: With running/walking on a treadmill or using an exercise bike, you can compare results to real-world running, walking and cycling. Not so with an elliptical because it’s a machine-dependent exercise.
Front Drive vs. Rear-Drive
There are 2 main types of ellipticals:
1. Front-Drive: The flywheel is located at the front of the machine.
2. Rear-Drive: The flywheel is located at the rear of the machine.
Does flywheel location make a difference? It’s largely a personal preference. However, I find front-drive ellipticals offer more vertical movement in the stride while rear flywheels offer a longer horizontal stride. There are exceptions and this observation isn’t set in stone, but it’s been my experience. I do recommend you try both before buying to discover if you have a preference.
Also, and again I’m generalizing here… I find rear-drive ellipticals more solid because of the larger base.
NOTE: Rear-drive’s tend to be a bit better for taller people (I’m 6’3″) because the stride is longer horizontally, which places you a little further form the arm bars. It’s also good for taller people because the pedels remain closer to the floor. Front-drive ellipticals elevate people quite a bit. This is another reason I prefer rear-drive models; however, as you can see from our list below, there are far more front-drive ellipticals than rear-drive. Generally, front-drive versions are more popular.
Just so you know, overall, I prefer rear-drive ellipticals so I’m a bit biased. Front-drive models do take up less and are more popular than rear-drive models.
What to avoid when buying an elliptical:
I can only tell you what I don’t like about ellipticals based on my experience. I avoid the types where the foot pedals are attached to rails. I find the rail-style elliptical an unnatural motion. These types attempt to replicate stair climbing but it’s often an unnatural angle that results in discomfort in my calves.
Which features to consider when buying an elliptical:
The best piece of advice I can give you other than setting out what I consider to be 10 high quality ellipticals for a reasonable price (under $1,000) is to go out and try several models.
Otherwise, some good features to look for are:
Adjustable foot pedals: We all have unique angles at which our feet sit. Therefore, it helps to have adjustable foot pedals so that your feet sit in the best position for you.
Sturdiness: Without question, you want a well-made, sturdy elliptical machine. Rear-drive (see below) models tend to feel sturdier because of the larger base and foot print. That said,, some front-drive are more than sturdy enough. The key is that the machine’s frame, arms and foot pedals are well made so that it doesn’t wobble or warp.
Flywheel: The heavier the flywheel, the higher quality(generally speaking… it’s a factor in assessing quality).
Great Ellipticals under $1,000
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Ellipticals under $500
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Let’s take a look at 10 Great Ellipticals that Cost Less than $1,000
ProForm Smart Strider 935 Elliptical
Here’s one of two rear-drive ellipticals on our list. It’s the ProForm Smart Strider 93. It’s a beautiful and sturdy machine. It’s also a very high tech machine with an incredible 7 inch touchscreen.
Another very nice feature is that you can adjust the resistance and incline with buttons placed at the top of the handle bars. This way you can adjust your workout without taking your hands off the arm bars.
Specifications include up to 10% incline, adjustable pedals and an 18 lb. flywheel.
Sole Fitness E25 Elliptical
The Sole E25 is a front-drive elliptical. While it’s a lower end model from Sole, it’s important to know that Sole equipment is known for building solid, sturdy workout machines. Their equipment does not have all the high-tech bells and whistles other brands offer, but you will read over and over from Sole customers how strong and sturdy Sole cardio machines are.
Key Specifications: Adjustable stride, 25 lb. flywheel and power incline.
Schwinn 430 Elliptical
The Schwinn 430 does really well in the customer review department with an average 4 out of 5 stars from 150 customer reviews, it’s both extremely popular and highly rated.
This elliptical includes articulating foot pedals, a 20″ Precision PathTM stride and a host of other “usual features”. The best part about this popular elliptical is that it costs quite a bit less than $1,000.
Horizon Fitness EX-69
Coming in at well below $1,000, the Horizon Fitness EX-69 is a great balance of features, quality and price. It averages a 4 out of 5 stars rating (out of 69 customer reviews).
It’s a front-drive elliptical and Horizon invested a great deal of money and research into building this machine to comfortably and effectively accommodate every body. With adjustable positioning options, it’s design “maintains ideal body positioning throughout your workout.”