Does your New Year’s Resolution involve getting fit and healthy? As a self-proclaimed fitness guru, I’ve pedaled, rowed, lifted, and cycled my way to a healthier lifestyle for years. If you’re ready to do the same, check out this guide on the best elliptical options on the market (including my favorite butt-kicking Nautilus elliptical trainer). Then be prepared to get your sweat on in the comfort of your own home.
The elliptical trainer is a popular choice for home use because it’s easy and adaptable for anyone to use, no matter your fitness level. Go forward, go backward, use your arms, or don’t – you’ve got options to make an elliptical work best for you. When you compare it to running on a treadmill, it’s easily the quieter, smoother choice (your joints will thank you).
This guide covers an elliptical for every fitness level, budget, and space. So fire up your Amazon account, it’s time to give your shopping cart a workout. Then when you’re done, rest up under the best weighted blanket!
My Top Pick for Best Elliptical: Nautilus E614 Elliptical Trainer
The new model of the Nautilus E614 Elliptical Trainer is a beauty, isn’t she? Aside from that svelte, modern look, this trainer boasts unparalleled quality and innovation. But the extensive list of features is where this Nautilus really shines. With a ton of programs built right in, plus variable resistance and incline, your workouts will be spicier than ever. Hands down, she’s the real MVP.
Performance. Work up a sweat with 20 levels of resistance and an adjustable incline. The 20” stride length is wide enough for a range of users, and the large, articulating pedals are comfy and super easy on your knees.
Console. The console and entertainment features are hands-down the best features on the Nautilus E614. The console has everything you could want – from a dual display to multiple user profiles to 22 pre-programmed workouts (you won’t get bored with this one!).
Heart rate sensors are located on the handlebars, and you can also buy an optional chest strap.
There is a USB port to download your performance data, or you can sync wirelessly using Bluetooth. Plus, it works seamlessly with MyFitnessPal or Nautilus Connect.
You also get a quality sound system and a fan to cool you down. Plus, there is a handy shelf that’s perfect for propping up your phone or tablet, so you can browse Facebook if you suffer from FOMO.
Brand. The name Nautilus is synonymous with fitness. This brand includes Bowflex and Schwinn and is a staple in the fitness industry – not many other brands can get on their level. Nautilus is known for high-tech, innovative equipment that is built to last.
Look. My second favorite feature of this baby – the look. She’s a big hunk of sleek, modern machinery with a classy white and black color combo. I also think the console is just sexy.
Other. The ride is quiet, smooth, and comfortable, and the maximum user weight is 300 pounds (she’s a sturdy machine!). The frame comes with a solid 10-year warranty.
Downsides. The incline must be adjusted manually, so you’ll need to stop your workout to crank it up or down. Kind of a bummer.
Final Verdict. This beauty does it all – she’s got all the entertainment and performance features you need, combined with quality construction from a superior manufacturer. Most importantly, she’ll make you sweat! There are plenty of pre-programmed workouts to keep your workouts interesting and enough resistance options to keep it challenging. Anyone can hop on the Nautilus E614 and get a killer workout.
My Pick for Runner-Up Elliptical: Schwinn 430 Elliptical
Schwinn has really stepped up their game with the new 2018 Schwinn 430 model, which offers up a good combination of technology and functionality. Plus, the machine got a complete makeover and now has a sturdier look with a few cool new features.
Performance. Much like my top pick, the Schwinn 430 offers up 20 resistance levels, an adjustable incline, and a 20” stride length.
Console. With this trainer’s console, you get a dual display and 22 pre-programmed workouts. The heart rate sensors are located on the handlebars or you can purchase a heart strap monitor.
The handy USB port allows you to download your performance information to Schwinn Connect. Or, you can sync wirelessly using Bluetooth. Of course, you get speakers and a fan on this machine as well.
Brand. When you think of Schwinn, you may think of bicycles. But, this company produces top-quality exercise equipment as well. They’ve been a trusted name in the fitness industry for decades and operate as a branch of the Nautilus fitness empire.
Look. Honestly, the overall look is the main reason this machine came in second place instead of first. This Schwinn elliptical is a high-tech machine. Why doesn’t it look like one? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe you prefer the look of this machine over the Nautilus. Either way, this is still a contender, even though I think the look can be improved.
Other. This machine is backed by a 10-year warranty. The user weight limit is pretty standard at 300 pounds.
Downsides. This trainer only offers 10 degrees of incline (most ellipticals in this range offer 20 degrees). You have to adjust it manually. I wish it had a more high-end look.
Final Verdict. The Schwinn 430 came in second for best elliptical by only a nose (or a pedal). In fact, it’s an almost identical machine to my first place Nautilus in terms of features and performance, so it really comes down to looks. Overall, this elliptical is a high-tech machine with a lot of value packed in.
Best Elliptical Upgrade: SOLE Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine
If nothing but the best will do, you’ll salivate over the commercial-grade SOLE E35 elliptical. This trainer has been named a “Best Buy” on many other consumer sites because of its excellent quality, features, and durability. You’re playing in the big leagues with this elliptical.
Performance. The SOLE E35 inclines up to 30 degrees, whereas most ellipticals offer only 20 degrees of incline. With the higher incline setting, you can really ramp up your workout and target those lower body muscles (hello, quads). The resistance is adjustable as well, and you get a nice long 20” stride length (also adjustable).
Console. As with the other elliptical trainers featured so far, this elliptical has a great dual display. However, it only offers 10 programs. A cool bonus feature on this trainer is the ability to go strapless with wireless heart rate monitoring. But it also includes an optional chest strap, as well as heart rate sensors on the handlebars.
Of course, you get a USB/MP3 port and sound-blasting speakers, along with Bluetooth wireless technology.
Brand. The Sole brand specializes in commercial-grade fitness equipment, so you know you’re getting an ultra-durable machine. The company is also known for its superb customer service, and it even offers in-home repair services, which very few competitors can match.
Look. This machine looks mean and ready to get down to business. It could easily fit right in at any mega-gym with its impressive, no-nonsense look.
Other. I’ll highlight the durability just one more time, with evidence to back it up. The user weight limit is 375 pounds and comes with a lifetime warranty. This elliptical is one tough cookie.
The SOLE E35 also boasts a “Whisper Drive” for ultra-quiet operation.
Downsides. With only 10 built-in programs, your workouts may get a bit ho-hum after a while. Most ellipticals at this price range (or even a bit cheaper) offer more programs.
Also, assembling this elliptical trainer is a pain. You might consider investing a little more money and having someone do the dirty work for you.
Final Verdict. The SOLE E35 Elliptical is a high-end machine that rivals anything you’ll find at the gym. It offers top-notch performance and features, along with a very challenging workout. With a lifetime warranty, you know this beast is built to last.
Best Elliptical on a Budget: Schwinn A40 Elliptical Machine
The Schwinn A40 Elliptical is an easy-to-use, entry-level elliptical that offers up a low impact workout without all the frills. It’s well-built, quiet, and affordable. If you’re looking for a decent but basic workout on a budget, this elliptical is the one for you.
Performance. This elliptical trainer offers 8 resistance levels, a good foundation for a novice. No incline options on this one, which is typical for trainers in this price range. The stride length is only 17.5”, so taller users may run into a problem.
Console. With a single LCD display, you get basic functionality from the console with 7 pre-programmed workouts to choose from. This is more variety than most elliptical trainers in this price range. Heart rate sensors are located on the handlebars, so you can keep tabs on your performance.
Plus, there’s a speaker and a small media tray for your phone.
Brand. We’ve got another Schwinn machine on our hands. Again, this company produces high-quality exercise equipment on par with some of the best in the biz. It’s a respectable brand that consistently puts out quality machines.
Look. There’s not a lot to the look – it’s small and simple, which may be a good thing if you’re working with a small space. But it definitely doesn’t make a big statement like some of the other larger, more modern machines on the list.
Other. One stand-out feature of the Schwinn A40 is its compact and lightweight design, ideal for smaller spaces. Weighing in at under 100 pounds, it’s easy to move as well. Because of its slightly smaller size, the user weight limit is a bit lower at 270 pounds max. The warranty on this trainer is only 2 years.
Downsides. The Schwinn A40 has a shorter stride length than most, so it’s probably a good idea to try one out before you buy. The 2-year warranty is on the short side as well. You’d expect a better warranty from a legit company like Schwinn.
You should stick with light to medium cardio workouts on this elliptical – it’s not built for high-intensity.
Final Verdict. Choose this elliptical trainer if you’re a novice looking to break a sweat without breaking the bank. You get a quality entry-level machine with basic functionality and performance (plus a few extras), all for under $500.
What Are the Benefits of an Elliptical?
It’s hard to beat an elliptical as the best all-around piece of training equipment on the market, especially if you’re looking for a low-impact, full-body workout at home. Let’s take a quick look at the health and fitness benefits you get from an elliptical trainer.
Great for all ages and fitness levels.
Even if you’re completely new to the workout scene, you can hop on an elliptical and start moving. They’re easy to use – no intimidation here. Plus, the gliding motion of an elliptical makes it a low-impact workout that’s easy on your knees and other joints.
Get your body and your heart in shape.
An elliptical workout really gets those legs burning – but it works your arms, too. You benefit from a total body workout, with your legs, chest, shoulders, back, and arms all working together. When I say a body workout, I mean TOTAL body – you’ll get your heart pumping, too. An intense training session on an elliptical will increase the aerobic capacity of your body, which means a stronger heart and lungs.
Torch more calories.
Did you know that you can burn up to 400 calories in just 30 minutes of intense pedaling in an elliptical? If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, this low-impact yet highly effective workout can help you reach your goals.
Convenient at-home workout.
If you like getting your sweat on in the comfort of your own home, an elliptical is the ideal one-and-done training machine. It’s relatively quiet and you can even find a compact or fold-up elliptical trainer if you’re short on space.
The Wrap Up
Ready to get fit? Shape up with one of these awesome ellipticals from the comfort of your home (and in your jammies, if the mood strikes you). While I have a love affair with the Nautilus E614 elliptical, any of these machines will get you where you want to be and help you reach your goals in 2019 and beyond.
Q: What muscles does an elliptical work?
A: When I say an elliptical boasts a full-body workout, I mean FULL BODY.
For the lower body, an elliptical workout really targets your hamstrings and glutes, especially if you crank up the incline. You’ll also get some action from your quads and calves. Try going in reverse as well to hit different areas in your legs and turn up the resistance for even more of an impact (feel the burn!).
In the upper body, you’ll target your triceps and pecs (chest) the most in standard (forward) mode. These are your “pushing” muscles. If you switch it up and go backward, you’ll hit your “pulling” muscles, which are the biceps and rhomboids located in the upper back.
If you go hands-free, you’ll be engaging your core, which helps keep you balanced.
Perhaps most importantly, your heart gets involved when you pump up the intensity and make it a cardio workout. An elliptical is great for getting your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape. You can even do high-intensity interval training to incorporate both cardio and resistance.
Q: Which is better, an elliptical or a treadmill?
A: Elliptical vs. treadmill – the ultimate showdown. In my opinion, the elliptical trainer wins hands down. It’s way easier on your joints and less noisy. When you’re running on a treadmill, that loud THUD, THUD, THUD makes it almost impossible to watch TV or listen to music or even think. Not to mention your family (or neighbors if you live in an apartment) may declare war.
But there is one big advantage to a treadmill – it keeps a steady pace. It’s easier to slack off when working out on an elliptical because you control the speed, whereas you set a pace on the treadmill’s computer console, and it keeps you honest.
So if you go with an elliptical trainer (as you should), just don’t slack off! Get your butt in gear and stay focused. You can also keep an eye on your performance data to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout.
Q: Can you lose weight using an elliptical trainer?
A: Of course you can. The not-so-secret key to losing weight is to burn more calories than you eat – and ellipticals torch calories. But of course, any exercise machine helps you burn calories. You can even ditch a machine and use bodyweight movements to burn calories. So what makes an elliptical so special?
With an elliptical trainer, you can do high-intensity exercise with minimal impact or risk of injury. This means you can work out harder and longer with less recovery time needed in between your training sessions.
You can also do high-intensity interval training (HIIT), where you vary your pace, incline, and resistance to burn some serious calories.