What Is An Elliptical Machine
Elliptical machines are kind of a hybrid between a stair climber and a cross country ski machine. And they are often used by people instead of (or in addition to) running. They get their name from the fact that your feet move in an elliptical pattern while you are using the machine.
These machines have an internal flywheel that has adjustable amounts of resistance that can be placed against it (depending on your fitness level). The more resistance, the more strenuous the workout will be.
Elliptical machines have a very important place in the exercise routines of many people. There are several reasons for this.
1.) Elliptical machines simulate the motion of running, but do so without the impact involved in normal running. This is of great benefit to those that may have bad knees (or are recovering from knee surgery) or for some people with other lower back or leg problems.
2.) In addition to your feet moving, there are also moving hand grips that produce resistance for your arms. This will help build some upper body strength at the same time.
3.) Since these machines are indoors, your workout is not interrupted if the weather is raining or cold.
How to Choose the Best Elliptical Machine
Elliptical machines come in many shapes and sizes and at many price levels. You need to determine what is important to you. One person may be looking for the best compact elliptical (one that takes little space or is easier to store), while another may want one with all the bells and whistles regardless of the size. Still others make a decision based mainly on price, so they may be looking for the best elliptical under 500 dollars.
Since different peoples needs are different, we will list areas that you may want to consider and let you determine if they are important to you or not.
Price – As with many products, price is generally an indicator of quality for ellipticals. The best elliptical trainers will tend to be the more expensive ones.
Weight Capacity – The best home elliptical machine (for you) should be one that will comfortably support anyone in your household that will be using it.
Stride Length – This is something that many people wouldn’t even think about considering. Depending on how tall or short you are, your stride length will vary. If several people will be using it, it is helpful to be able to adjust the stride length appropriately.
Adjustability – Repeating any exercise over and over again can (and does) get boring. This includes elliptical trainers. Buying a model that allow for some adjustments can give you some variety as well as allowing additional degrees of difficulty depending on you fitness level. Look for machines that allow you to adjust either the resistance or the incline (or both if you want a serious workout!).
Sound Level – While not necessarily a “feature”, it may be something you should consider. Do you have a baby, or “picky” neighbors? Or maybe you want to watch TV while you workout (or someone in the next room does). Make sure you check how much noise the machine you are looking at produces.
Ergonomics – The best elliptical machines will work out your arms as well as your legs. But to do this, the placement and angle of the hand grips needs to fit your body. Also, check that the foot rests aren’t too far apart for your liking. When you are looking at ellipticals, make sure you “try it out for size”.
Electronics & Programs – Most of the best ellipticals (at least in the mid to upper price ranges), will come with electronic displays. They will show you details of your workout. Some can even automatically adjust the difficulty for you. Check them out to make sure you get the features that you looking for.
Size – Most of the ellipticals are about 6 feet long by about 2 1/2 feet wide. Some compact ellipticals will be smaller. You will need some space on at least one side to get on and off the machine. Since they also sit off the floor by a foot or so, you’ll need to make sure you have enough head room in the room you will be using it in.
Safety features – Elliptical machines are inherently dangerous for children (especially small children), who could get pinched or stuck between the moving parts. Anyone with young children at home should restrict access to this area. (This is also important to remember when you have guests over that have small children.)
High-tech features – Many of the best elliptical trainers now provide docks for iPods, USB ports, and wireless Internet connectivity. Decide whether you really need these or not.
Assembly – A quality elliptical machine can weigh close to 500 pounds, so getting it into you vehicle and home may even present a problem. So, be sure to ask about delivery. Many machines will also require at least some partial assembly. Check whether assembly is included with the purchase cost (or it may be available at an additional charge). Even if you are handy, i might be worth having them do the assembly. It can take an experienced person 1-2 hours to assemble an elliptical and get it working properly. Some of the steps may even require two people.
Warranty – The best home elliptical machines will provide a warranty that covers major parts for 2-3 years and labor for any repairs in the first year. Some even provide a lifetime warranty on the frames.
Price Levels For Various Elliptical Machines
Elliptical trainers come in a broad range of price and quality, and, like many other things, a higher price does not always mean better quality. So the best cheap elliptical may be better than one that cost a couple hundred dollars more. But, as a general rule, a higher price will usually buy you a better elliptical.
Cheap elliptical trainers start from below $500 to $1000. With top of the line models going over $3000.
In general, you can group ellipticals in levels at about every $500 to $1000. So, for example, if you are looking for the best elliptical under 1000 dollars, the competition will generally be those machines with prices from $500 to $1000 (or just over). This applies all the way up the price scale.
Making Your Choice
So how do you decide which range of ellipticals you should be looking at?
That depends on a few variables. One is how much you will be using it (and by how many people). Another is the weight of the people using it. The third is the features you want. And last is what you can afford to pay.
Our Choices In Each Price Group
Best Cheap Elliptical
Exerpeutic 1000Xl Elliptical
The Exerpeutic 1000Xl Heavy Duty Magnetic Elliptical with Pulse is a solidly built elliptical for a very reasonable price. It provides a dual-action workout that will help to tone, tighten and strengthen your upper and lower body simultaneously. This elliptical is designed to give the user a zero impact workout that is easy on the hips, knees and ankles.
The full name of this machine from the manufacturer is the “Exerpeutic 1000Xl Heavy Duty Magnetic Elliptical with Pulse”. That’s a mouth full. It is a solidly built very solid machine at a very reasonable price. It will give the user a complete dual-action workout – working both the upper and lower body parts.
The eight levels of resistance are controlled magnetically allowing for a good workout for just about anyone. The elliptical motion is nice and smooth without any feeling of “bounce”.
The Exerpeutic 100Xl has a precision balanced flywheel, an easy to read display, and pads to monitor your heart rate. It is rated for users up to 300 pounds, and should prove to be a good choice for a home elliptical machine and well worthy of being the best affordable elliptical machine.
Best Elliptical Under $500
Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Elliptical
The Exerpeutic 5000 Magnetic Elliptical is a multi-functional that provides some features usually only found on machines costing a couple hundred dollars more – namely bluetooth. With this feature you can connect your bluetooth device and track your workouts. It also has a display that includes all the relevant information about your workout.
The Exerpeutic 5000 can provide you with as challenging a workout as you are up to. It has 24 levels of resistance and a computer with 12 variable workout programs.
A quality elliptical should provide a comfortable motion and the Exerpeutic 5000 provides this in good fashion. It has nice large foot pedals separated by only 6”. It also has an 18″ stide length that is right in the range for most users. All these features make it our choice for best elliptical for home use for under $500.
Best Elliptical Under $1000
Nautilus E614 Elliptical
This Nautilus model is relatively new, but is already getting great reviews. And with the Nautilus name behind it, it should stand the test. It has all the features most people are looking for, but at the same time may just be the best affordable elliptical machine around.
One feature that sets this apart is the innovative DualTrack LCD monitor. It allows you to put a book or iPad/iPhone on the tray (over the monitor) and still see your workout details on the second lower display.
It also provides more types and levels of workouts than most people will ever use (with 30 levels of resistance and 22 different workout programs), in-console speakers with MP3 inputs, a 3-speed fan, and adjustable incline.
The Nautilus E614 may be the best elliptical for the money and should provide you with years of great workouts.
Best Elliptical Regardless of Price
Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical Machine
The Sole E95 Elliptical Trainer is approaching the level of what you would find at your local gym. It is a very solid machine while still being very smooth and very customizable. It features a heavy 34-lb flywheel that provides smooth comfortable momentum. It has a near-silent drive system that allows both forward and reverse elliptical actions. The incline of the ramp is adjustable from 0 to 40 degrees. These features combined means you will get a complete workout without having to worry about problems with your knees or lower back.
The on board computer features a large 9″ commercial grade 9” LCD monitor. It displays information about calories burned, heart rate, distance, pace, length of workout, a heart rate chest strap that allows for hands-free monitoring of your pulse, water bottle holder, and incline and resistance levels.
With Sole Fitness E95 Elliptical, if you relax your legs a bit, you’ll get more than just a leg workout. The ergonomic vertical bars will work your upper body as well. And, as a nice added touch, you can control the incline and resistance right from the hand grips.
The foot pedals on the E95 were designed in input from physical therapists. To reduce lower leg strain, two degrees of inward slope was added to the pedals. This helps to elliminate knee and ankle pain that can happen from extended sessions on an elliptical.
While no elliptical is perfect, the Sole E95 Elliptical provides most of the features and comforts that anyone could want. And if you’re going to be spending a good amount of money on an exercise machine, you would expect this. The Sole E95 is a very worthy choice and our best rated elliptical overall.
*Image courtesy of Flickr.com