What is the best elliptical machine for your home gym?

Getting your cardio in is an important part of any workout plan. But making the choice about how can be deceptively complicated. Do you choose a treadmill? A bike?

Increasingly, more people are turning to ellipticals, because of their balanced workouts, simplicity, and cost.

What is an elliptical?

Ellipticals, sometimes called cross-trainers (the difference is small; cross trainers have movable arm handlebars, ellipticals don’t) are a relatively new invention in the fitness world.

The first elliptical entered the market less than 30 years ago, and they’ve become a core part of most gyms and health clubs in just over a generation.

The reasons are simple. Ellipticals are easy to use, with most people quickly falling into the rhythm within a minute or two of stepping on one for the first time. They work your entire body, and with the resistance pushed high, can be used for fat burning and increasing muscle mass.

And finally, they’re low impact and body safe, putting very little strain on the joints.

All of this combined makes an elliptical a really good choice for home cardio, especially if you’ve only got space for one big exercise machine. So it’s no surprise that ellipticals and cross trainers are becoming more popular with every passing year.


The best ellipticals in 2022

Top Pick
JTX Tri Fit

JTX Tri Fit

Best overall elliptical

A great balance of quality and value for money. If you're looking for a solid home elliptical for you and your family, the Tri-fit is an easy recommendation.

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Sitting in the middle of JTX’s elliptical range, the Tri Fit is a solid, dependable, and incredibly well-built piece of kit. The focus here was clear. JTX knew what they were building, and executed it perfectly.

What do we mean? Well, despite costing less than half the asking price of the big names on this list, JTX somehow squeezed equal, if not superior, performance from this thing.

It all starts with the enormous magnetically driven flywheel, which is a ridiculous 17kg. That’s truly colossal and will provide more than enough resistance for all but the most anabolic of athletes.

This is backed up with an adjustable stride, from 16 to 20 inches, and an impressive user weight of 135kg. This not only makes the Tri Fit a monster when it comes to exercise, it means it’s suitable for a huge range of users, possibly the biggest range on the list.

The console is functional, with no touchscreen, but it easily links via Bluetooth to your devices, and the built-in workouts are enough to get you started and fit. The Tri Fit also has Polar heart rate monitor functionality built-in straight out of the box.

Add all of this up and it’s clear that the Tri Fit was always supposed to be an athlete’s elliptical. You’re not buying comfort here, only performance. But it certainly performs. Over and over and over.


Best Luxury Pick
NordicTrack Freestride Series

NordicTrack Freestride Series

Best interactive display

An extremely good quality elliptical that pretty much blows anything else out of the water although it's not the cheapest! The built-in screen makes for some exciting, engaging interactive workouts.

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We’ve already reviewed most of the Freestride series, including:

Almost exclusively, we were impressed by the features list, stable construction, and feature that’s near-unique among competitors: near-complete footwell movement that lets the system adapt to your movements, instead of vice versa.

The Freestride is a NordicTrack machine, so quality goes without saying. The frames and design are exceptional, having big user weight limits delivered by solid steel frames, built-in screens, and huge warranties.

Because it’s NordicTrack, interactive fitness also comes as standard. In this case iFit. We’ve reviewed iFit against its peers on this site too, and long story short it’s more than worth the money, as it’s one of the best fitness apps out there.

But it’s the ‘free’ part of the Freestride name that stands out here. What it means, specifically, is that the pedals aren’t hard mounted to a fixed track like on basically every other elliptical. Instead, they’re almost ‘free floating’ so they adapt to your stride, and can also be set to different modes, letting one of these operate as ellipticals, treadmills and steppers.

That completeness and unique factor put the Freestride in a class of its own. It’s hard to judge against other ellipticals because it isn’t other ellipticals, which is why it earns its spot near the top of our list.


Best Vertical Stepper
Proform HIIT L6

Proform HIIT L6

Best for HIIT workouts

If your aim is to lose weight then the L6 might be what you're looking for. With the same iFit workouts as the Nordictrack elliptical above, but with a focus on shorter, hard workouts that feel more like running, but without the impact of a treadmill.

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Essentially unique on the list, the HIIT L6 is a far more vertical system, functioning similarly to a stepper, as well as an elliptical.

As soon as you step onto it, the quality and feel are impressive. It holds a colossal 150kg weight, which is absolutely ridiculous, and the design is suitable for people up to almost 6’6, far larger than the usual elliptical can take.

That quality extends across the entire construction, which is, frankly, impeccable. Everything is reassuringly solid, with no rock in the frame and a console that’s laid out well and easy to use, with loads of built-in exercise plans out of the box.

Resistance runs from 1% up to a monstrous 24%, with 32 workout programs built into the system itself. This is backed up with the option of iFit to any phone or tablet linked to the device if you want it.

While this is an extra monthly cost, it’s more than worth the asking price, in our opinion, and you get 30 days to try it out for the free upfront, to work out if it’s worth your while.

While it’s reasonably expensive, the HIIT L6 offers something that a lot of other ellipticals can’t. Back that up with the impressive feature list and fantastic build, and it’s more than worth the asking price.


Top Budget Pick
Bluefin CURV 2.0

Bluefin CURV 2.0

Quality & Low Price

Proving you don't need to spend a fortune to get a decent machine, Bluefin's Curv 2 offers a sturdy workout and can normally be found at a reduced price at their website.

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With its sleek looks and big, weighty flywheel, the Bluefin CURV would be at home sitting next to high-end machines in expensive gyms, which is impressive considering the price tag.

Designed and sold in Yorkshire, Bluefin focuses on what matters when it comes to exercise gear, building a system that pours its resources into toughness and ease of use, rather than flash.

That’s why the magnetic flywheel here is an impressive 12kg, good at this price point, with big, comfortable pedals, handlebars and a respectable 120kg user weight.

The console suffers a little because of this. An old-style LCD display, it’s what you’d generously call serviceable, but you can plug your phone and a heart rate monitor in straight out of the box, and you’re good to go.


Cheapest Pick
JLL CT300

JLL CT300

Super-Thrifty Buy

While it's not got the features of some of the machines above, there's a solid machine here that gets the job done without any fuss.

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Sitting at the upper end of budget pricing, the CT300 builds on a solid foundation to offer decent performance. It does what JLL do best. Offer no-frills, reliable exercise at a good price.

Bigger than most truly budget models, which generally feel flimsy and weak, the CT300 weighs in at just over 35kg, with a 100kg weight limit, perfectly reasonable at this level.

The flywheel is a little lighter than we’d like to see, at just 5.5kg, but the combined magnetic and physical resistance is punchy and delivers good resistance while being quiet and easy to use.

The console is very basic, but reliable and well made (seeing a pattern yet?) There is no fitness app connectivity or built-in workout patterns, but everything is simple to use and measures a surprising amount of metrics, including speed, distance, time, calories and body fat.

It’s worth pointing out that JLL also manufactures the CT200, a younger brother to this model. But the lack of magnetic resistance and worse construction all around make it one to miss. The step here to the CT300 is significant, and it’s one we would always consider if we were considering buying these.


Top Space-Saver
Proform 225 CSE

Proform 225 CSE

Easy to move between workouts

This cracking elliptical from Proform offers a sturdy, good quality machine that's easy to scoot out of the way between uses.

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The Proform range of exercise machines is extensive and impressive. It certainly looks the part, building on a simple but stable frame design, and while it might be a little too small to compete with the bigger systems, it wasn’t designed for them.

As a piece of gear for home use, it’s basically perfect. Out of the box, assembly takes less than an hour, and the console only needs batteries, so you can be up and running as fast as possible.

The flywheel is a reasonable 6kg, which seems a little light, but uses inertia enhancement to offer a lot of active resistance. The rest of the build is solid and dependable, though it would have been nice to see a longer stride, as you’ve only got 14 inches to work with here. We’d stay away if you’re approaching 6ft.

What is impressive is the fact that this can link to iFit, the same premium level exercise app that is offered by NordicTrack. That makes this one of the cheapest ways to get into iFit on the market, which is a huge plus.


Top Pick For Shorter Users
NordicTrack SE7i

NordicTrack SE7i

Best overall elliptical for a shorter person

An extremely good quality elliptical that pretty much blows anything else out of the water. The stride length is just right for anyone under 5' 6 inches and the built-in screen makes for some exciting, engaging interactive workouts.

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Another NordicTrack system, this one stands out because of the convenience on offer. Ellipticals take up a lot of floor space, but the SE7i is specifically designed to fold away after use, reducing its footprint by half.

Packing an 8kg flywheel in a ridiculously overbuild frame that can hold users up to 150kg in weight. That’s absolutely massive, and considering the 18-inch stride, probably higher than any reasonable user could ever meet.

As a NordicTrack elliptical, iFit is a feature that’s expected and can be run through any tablet or phone. The suite of controls is impressive, too, using OneTouch controls to set resistance, fan speeds and even incline.

That bears reiterating. This elliptical also has an incline feature, making it essentially unique on this list. That factored alongside the upright storage, is unique enough to earn a spot.


Runner Up
Reebok GX40S

Reebok GX40S

Best overall elliptical for a shorter person

An extremely good quality elliptical that pretty much blows anything else out of the water. The stride length is just right for anyone under 5' 6 inches and the built-in screen makes for some exciting, engaging interactive workouts.

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You’d hope that a company with Reebok’s lineage knew how to make a good piece of exercise equipment. And you’d be right.

The GX40S is a solid mid-range elliptical, with a focus on performance and effectiveness. Resistance is delivered through a big, weighty 9kg flywheel that offers a lot of resistance, to the point that you have to fight against it when you stop your reps. The construction is also really solid, especially at this price, with a user weight of 120kg and a full 1-year warranty.

The stride length is a little lower than we’d like to see, at 15 inches, but that’s accommodating enough for most people. The control panel, despite lacking touch features, is stylish and simple to understand, with a lot of big, easy to understand buttons.

With no option for interactive fitness, the GX40S is clearly designed for the home user, but the combination of dependable branding and solid construction makes it a winner.


How to choose your elliptical

Flywheel weight

The flywheel is the heart of an elliptical, and it drives the pedals and provides all of the resistance. A light flywheel is going to prevent you from getting a good workout, especially if you’re at all interested in pushing yourself to the limits.

Flywheel weights vary. Anything below 6kg isn’t worth looking at, as it won’t provide enough resistance for a decent workout.

Average flywheels might weigh anywhere between 7kg and 11kg, with weights past 12kg seen as commercial level. As a rule of thumb, anything in double figures will be heavy enough for 90% of users to get a decent sweat on.

Stride length

Freestride Trainer FS7i - Auto-adjust stride

Freestride Trainer FS7i will intuitively follow your movements – no button-pushing required.

The second big consideration when choosing an elliptical is stride length. Why this matters is because the stride has to match your natural gait, otherwise, every rep on it won’t feel right. Imagine riding a bike where the seat is set just slightly too low, so your knees push too high with every rotation. It would feel something like that.

Now, for most people, stride length won’t be an issue, as the average elliptical will have a stride that accommodates the average person. It’s common to see strides between 16 and 20 inches on most ellipticals, which should fit a person between 5’2 and 6ft tall.

However, if you’re particularly large or small, you might need to search for specific brands and models. See our Best Ellipticals For Short People guide for more info on picking the right machine if you’re under 6 feet.

Overall design and ergonomics

One of the main ‘issues’ with ellipticals is that they lock you into a particular mode of movement. We’ve already touched on this with stride, but the complete design of an elliptical is important to take into account.

Pedals should be large and comfortable. Handrails should be in an easy to reach position, with enough padding to be comfortable. The stride throughout should feel natural and easy, with no particular stress on any joints, especially after several minutes, as this might lead to long term strains.

Finally, take a look at the weight limit. Most ellipticals have a generous total weight limit because the design lends itself to a tough and robust piece of kit, but it’s always worth double-checking before you buy.

Resistance

There are two forms of common resistance used in ellipticals. Friction and magnetic.

Friction resistance is the standard form that’s been used in exercise gear for years. It uses a flywheel linked to a belt and physical resistance against your steps. Friction based resistance is slowly being phased out in the fitness industry, with only the cheapest models now working off of friction.

Magnetic resistance, on the other hand, uses a set of magnets around the flywheel to provide resistance against its turning. This has a number of benefits, including a much smoother riding profile, a longer lifespan as there are no parts in contact, and far less noise, especially on higher resistance settings.

Console and controls

Freestride Trainer FS7i - Easy Controls

Freestride Trainer FS7i features live interactive training

Depending on price and manufacturer, there’s a huge variety when it comes to the buttons and widgets in front of you that let you change your settings and preferences.

Ellipticals on the lower end of the price scale may still use older style LCD displays, with physical buttons to change resistance and choose workout plans.

It’s becoming increasingly more common to see exercise equipment with touchscreens either built-in or with easy Bluetooth or Wi-Fi links. This lets you both control your elliptical with a much more intuitive, easy to understand the suite of controls, but also normally gives you the option to stream workouts directly to your choice of equipment, check emails as you go, or distract yourself with some funny cat videos.

And like almost all good exercise equipment, it’s becoming far more common to see ellipticals come with access to interactive fitness apps. In order to run these, a device needs screen access, whether built-in or using your smartphones or tablets. Something to consider if this is a feature you want.

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