The best cross trainer for home use
Referred to by a few different names, such as cross trainers and X-trainers, elliptical machines are designed to provide a full body workout whilst being low impact, making them ideal for almost anyone to use.
The experience of using them has been likened to going for a jog without the joint damaging, high impact strain that can often be associated with pounding the pavements.
They are found in numerous locations including gyms and outdoor spaces. Below are some of the best elliptical machines you can buy for home use.
- Has six pre-set programs and the ability to custom set two others.
- Adjustable incline up to 30 degrees, adjustable stride of 20 – 22-inches and the foot pedals can also be adjusted to ensure maximum comfort for the user.
- Comes with a life time warranty for the frame, five-year warranty for the parts and two-year warranty for labour.
- Pulse grip sensor located on the stationary handles and the chest strap allow you to keep an eye on your heart rate.
- Simple control panel featuring an LCD display that allows you to keep track of your progress as well as making it easy to adjust incline and set programs.
- Foot pedals have a slight incline of 2 degrees that is designed to reduce stress on knees and joints.
- Also, has a water bottle holder, built-in fan, sound system and space for putting a tablet.
- It is pricier and heavier than many other elliptical machines.
The Sole Fitness E35 comes with several features that are designed to provide you with the best workout experience.
The 7.5-inch LCD display allows you to easily keep track of your progress as well as making it simple to switch between one of six pre-set programs. You can also custom design two of your own. It is incredibly easy to adjust the intensity of the workout by increasing the incline using one of the simple buttons on the control panel.
The handle bars have a pulse grip sensor which, combined with the chest strap, allows you to keep an eye on your heart rate, and a built-in fan helps to keep you cool during your workout.
The machine can be switched off via the button located near the flywheel, but if left unused for ten minutes, it will power down by itself. The specially designed pedals have a slight incline of two degrees that has been shown to help further reduce strain on knees and joints when using the machine.
A built-in sound system means you can plug in your MP3 player and listen to your favourite tunes whilst working out, plus there is a water bottle holder and the control panel has a slight lip under the LCD display that fits tablets quite nicely, so you can also catch up on shows whilst exercising.
This front drive elliptical machine measures 27-inches wide, 58-inches high and 83-inches long, weighing roughly 215 pounds. It has a maximum user weight of 375-pounds, an adjustable incline of 0-30 degrees and an adjustable stride of 20 – 22-inches.
- Very simple, easy-to-use LCD display that tracks essential workout data, such as heart rate, calories burned and distance covered.
- Control panel has a lip upon which to rest devices, such as tablets, during your workout.
- Twenty four levels of resistance, twenty one pre-set exercise programs and goal tracker that allows you to keep track of the progress you are making towards achieving your fitness goals.
- Smaller gap between pedals designed to help to reduce strain on inner thighs.
- Has a one-year limited warranty.
- Heart rate can be monitored using pulse sensors located in the fixed handlebars.
The Fitness Reality E5500XL has twenty four levels of resistance that can be easily adjusted via the simple LCD display control panel. It also has twenty one pre-set exercise programs designed to prevent boredom during your exercise routine. The goal tracker allows you to set targets and track your progress as you work towards your goal.
The control panel has a lip that lets you rest devices of your choice on it so that you can watch your favourite shows or listen to music whilst working out.
The movable handlebars work your upper body, whilst the fixed handlebars contain pulse sensors that monitor and track your heart rate so that you can ensure maximum cardio workout during your session.
A smaller gap between the pedals, measuring 6-inches, is designed to reduce strain on the inner thigh muscles whilst still allowing you to condition and tone your whole body.
This rear drive elliptical machine measures approximately 24-inches wide, 57-inches long and 66-inches high, weighing roughly 93 pounds. The maximum user weight is 270 pounds. The non-adjustable stride measures 18-inches.
- Comes with twenty levels of resistance, as well as twenty-two pre-set programs.
- Has a goal tracker function.
- Comes with a one-year warranty from the manufacturer.
- Has a dual LCD display, allowing you to continue keeping track of your progress even whilst using a tablet or other device.
- Has a USB charging port, built-in fan and speakers.
- Six-level incline.
- Pause button allowing you to take a quick break without losing data mid-workout.
- Two user profiles allow you to customise use of the machine for two different people, or simply for different workout routines.
- The incline has to be adjusted manually, which might be a pain for those who want to change the incline during the workout.
The Schwinn 430 has a goal tracker function that allows you to set your desired target and then observe your progress as you work towards achieving it. The machine also has twenty levels of resistance which work in combination with the adjustable incline to provide the best possible workout.
The pre-set programs allow you to mix up your workout routine to stave off boredom, plus there are two user profiles so more than one person can keep track of their progress and favourite workouts.
Two displays allow you to prop tablets or books on the control panel whilst still being able to keep track of how you are doing, whilst the pause button lets you take a quick break, if necessary, without losing your data for that session.
Your heart rate can be monitored via the pulse sensors in the fixed handlebars. The machine also comes with built-in speakers to allow you to fully enjoy your workout experience whilst listening to music or watching your favourite shows, plus it has a fan and a USB charging port.
The control panel allows you to easily change programs, adjust resistance and keep track of important data, such as calories burned.
This front drive elliptical machine measures 28-inches wide, 68-inches long and 63-inches high, weighing roughly 180 pounds. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds. The non-adjustable stride is 18-inches long; the six-level incline is adjusted manually using a push-pull handle located between the pedals.
- Has twenty-two programs, including two designed to test fitness and two that can be customised to your needs.
- Fixed handle bars contain sensors that monitor heart rate.
- Six levels of incline.
- Two LCD displays on the control panel allow you to cover one with a tablet whilst still being able to keep track of your progress.
- USB port allows you to charge devices whilst working out.
- Twenty levels of resistance.
- Comes with a ten-year warranty for the frame; two-year warranty for parts; one-year warranty for the electronics; and a ninety day-warranty for labour.
- Also, comes with built-in speakers, fan, pause button on the control panel, water bottle holder and a tray for holding devices such as smartphones and tablets.
- The incline has to be adjusted manually, which can be off-putting to people who want to adjust incline easily during their workout.
The Nautilus E614 has a dual track display with two LCD screens that allow you to easily keep track of your progress, such as calories burned or miles walked, even if you prop a tablet on the display to watch your favourite shows whilst working out.
The high quality, built-in speakers provide amazing sound quality for whichever device you connect it to, plus the USB port allows you to charge devices during use.
There are six different levels of incline, as well as twenty resistance levels and twenty two different programs that allow you to mix things up and get the best workout possible.
The fixed handle bars let you keep track of your heart rate, however you can choose to use the non-fixed handle bars to work your upper body as well.
A pause button on the control panel makes it easy to take a quick break from your routine without losing track of your progress; plus, you can keep track of how close you are to reaching your fitness goals using the goal track button.
This front drive elliptical machine measures 28-inches wide, 70-inches long and 71-inches high, weighing roughly 186 pounds. The maximum user weight is 300 pounds. The incline has 6 settings that are adjusted manually and the non-adjustable stride is 20-inches in length.
- Is ideal for people recovering from injuries or who are unable to use standard elliptical trainers whilst standing due to mobility issues, because it can be used whilst sitting.
- Is more likely to work your core than standard elliptical trainers because you have to work harder at balancing yourself whilst standing since there are no handlebars to assist you.
- Does have adjustable tension so you can manually increase the resistance of the workout.
- Can be easily taken on-the-go for exercise wherever you are, e.g. the office and at home.
- Is small enough to be stored away easily when not in use.
- Very affordable when compared with full-sized elliptical trainers.
- This trainer is not designed to work the whole body, due to its design that is missing handle bars and the ability to adjust incline. It is also missing pre-set programs that are beneficial in providing variety during workouts.
- You cannot track heart rate using this machine.
- You cannot store previous exercise data on this machine.
The Stamina 55-1610 InMotion E1000 is unlike many other elliptical machines because it is simply pedals with a small monitor that keeps track of basic exercise data. There are no handle bars, pre-set programs or the ability to adjust the incline. However, it is very lightweight, can be easily stored away when not in use and has adjustable tension so you can increase the intensity of your workout, as necessary.
Compact in size, it can be used in a home office and placed under your desk so you can exercise whilst getting on with your work. And because it can be used whilst sitting, it is ideal for anyone with mobility issues who might struggle with standing on an elliptical machine to exercise.
For those who want to stand up whilst using the machine, the strength and co-ordination required to maintain balance, whilst using it without handlebars to keep you upright, means that you are likely to get a better core workout than one provided by standard elliptical machines.
The dimensions are 14-inches wide, 14-inches high and 21-inches long, weighing roughly 30 pounds. The maximum user weight is 250 pounds.
- It is lightweight and compact, making it easy to transport and store as needed.
- The resistance can be adjusted to provide a tougher workout.
- Resistance bands allow you to exercise your upper body at the same time.
- Small monitor keeps track of calories burned, steps taken and time.
- Can be used whilst sitting, making it ideal for those with mobility issues who might struggle to stand upright on a standard elliptical machine.
- More co-ordination and strength is required to maintain balance, thanks to the missing handlebars, so it makes your core work harder to remain upright.
- Is classed as a stepper because it doesn’t use quite the same motion as other elliptical trainers.
- Cannot store exercise data.
- Does not have pre-set programs or the ability to adjust the incline.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Twister Stepper is a simple, compact machine that is designed to provide a workout similar to that of standard elliptical machines.
It can be easily stored away when not in use and is lightweight, so it can be transported from one place to another as needed.
The design is very basic, comprising of pedals, an LCD monitor that keeps track of calories burned, steps & time, and resistance bands for exercising the upper body at the same time, if you so wish. This does mean that it doesn’t have pre-set programmes or the ability to adjust the incline.
The design also means that you need to use your core muscles far more than on a standard elliptical machine in order to remain balanced and upright, which has the added benefit of strengthening and toning stomach muscles more effectively than standard machines.
You can use the stepper element of this machine whilst sitting down, making it ideal for people who are less mobile, or those who are recovering from surgery or injury.
This device is not like standard elliptical machines, instead being pedals with resistance bands attached for exercising the upper body. It measures roughly 18.5-inches long, 16-inches high and 8-inches wide, weighing roughly 20 pounds. The maximum user weight is 250 pounds.
- Can be folded to half its size for ease of storage, measuring 20-inches wide, 17-inches long and 52-inches high when folded.
- Lightweight and very quiet compared to most standard elliptical machines.
- Records basic data – heart rate, calories burned, distance and time.
- Heart rate monitor located in fixed handlebars.
- Has 180 degrees of motion, providing maximum exercise and stretching for your legs.
- Maximum stride length of 36-inches.
- Comes with a one-year limited warranty.
- No option to increase resistance or incline.
- No pre-set exercise programs.
The ProGear 360 Dual Action Stride Air Walker LS Elliptical has 180 degrees of motion, allowing you to move your legs in both a backwards and forwards direction, as well as from side to side. This has the benefit of strengthening and stretching not only the calves, gluteal muscles and hamstrings, but also the groin and hip muscles.
It is lightweight, quiet and can be folded to half its size and stored away under a bed or in a cupboard, thanks to its wheels that make it easy to transport from one place to another.
The LCD computer is able to track basic data during use, including heart rate and calories burned; heart rate is monitored via pulse sensors located in the fixed handlebars. The movable handlebars also allow you to exercise your upper body at the same time as your lower body.
The maximum stride length on this machine is 36-inches, automatically adapting to the user’s natural stride during use.
This particular elliptical machine would be classed as a front drive unit. It measures 20-inches wide, 34-inches long and 50-inches high, weighing roughly 45 pounds. The maximum user weight is 225 pounds.
- Two-in-one elliptical machine and exercise bike, providing variety during your workout routine.
- Resistance can be adjusted to provide a harder workout.
- Adjustable seat.
- Simple LCD display that monitors calories burned, time, speed and distance travelled.
- The handlebars can be set to either move when using it as an elliptical machine, or to remain stationary when using it as an exercise bike.
- No pre-set programmes or adjustable incline.
- Cannot store data and only keeps track of very basic exercise data, which might not suit those wanting to track their progress.
- No heart rate monitor.
The Goplus® 2 in 1 offers you the choice between using the elliptical machine or exercise bike, providing variety for your workout routine and allowing you to target different muscle groups.
The resistance can be adjusted via a simple dial located on a bar just above the fly wheel, allowing you to increase the intensity of your workout. An adjustable seat ensures maximum comfort whilst using it as an exercise bike.
The simple, easy-to-use LCD display lets you monitor the number of calories burned, distance travelled, speed and time taken to complete your routine. However, it cannot track your heart rate or store data so that you can keep track of the progress you are making towards achieving your goals.
The handlebars can be adjusted to remain stationary whilst using the exercise bike, or to move in combination with the pedals when used as an elliptical machine.
This centre drive, two-in-one elliptical machine measures approximately 37-inches wide, 59-inches long and 24-inches high. The maximum user weight is 250 pounds.
- Twenty-six pre-programmed workouts that allow for maximum variety; it also has twenty-two resistance levels that are changed easily with the push of a button.
- The control panel has easy to understand buttons that let you easily adjust the settings to give you the best possible workout; it also keeps track of your workout data, such as distance covered, time and calories burned.
- Heart rate monitored via pulse sensors located in the fixed handlebars.
- Is also iFit enabled, has space to hold devices on the control panel and a bottle/drinks holder located under the control panel.
- Comes with a lifetime warranty for the frame, two-year warranty for parts and a one-year warranty for labour.
- You are unable to input your weight which means that calories burned data isn’t as reliable as it should be.
The NordicTrack C 7.5 has an adjustable incline of up to 20 degrees, with a handy scale on the side that lets you know exactly which muscle group is specifically targeted at each level. The incline is easily adjusted at the push of a button, so no need to stop and get off mid-workout to change it.
It also has twenty-six pre-programmed workouts and twenty-two resistance levels, which combined with the adjustable incline provide plenty of variety to your exercise routine.
The control panel is clearly laid out, with easy to understand buttons that make it simple to adjust your settings during your workout, if needed.
There is space to hold devices on the control panel, such as iPads and tablets, so you can enjoy your favourite shows whilst exercising, which can help alleviate boredom. Plus, the backlit display keeps track of all of your exercise data.
The NordicTrack C 7.5 Elliptical also has a heart rate monitor located in the fixed handlebars, a fan, speakers, drinks holder and is iFit enabled.
This front drive elliptical machine measures 25-inches wide, 67-inches long and 69-inches high, weighing roughly 200 pounds. The maximum user weight is 325 pounds and there is an adjustable incline that measures 0 – 20 degrees.
- Has heart rate monitor located in the fixed handlebars.
- Thirteen programs, including one user-defined one, and sixteen levels of resistance allow for variety during your workout.
- Steel frame that is coated in a black, rustproof finish.
- Lightweight compared to many other elliptical machines, making it easier to move around if needed.
- Comes with a five-year warranty on the frame and a one-year warranty for parts.
- The display on the control panel is not backlit, which means it is difficult to see in low light conditions.
- Does not have an adjustable stride.
The Xterra FS1-5 is lightweight compared to most other trainers of its kind, weighing just 112 pounds, and has rollers on the front which make it easier to move around than other machines.
It has thirteen programs, including one that can be customised to suit your needs, and sixteen levels of resistance to provide the best possible workout.
The fixed handlebars contain a pulse sensor that, when gripped, are designed to keep track of your heart rate whilst exercising. As with most elliptical trainers, there are movable handlebars that allow you to work your upper body at the same time as your lower body.
The control panel features an easy-to-read display that shows you important exercise data, such as time elapsed, calories burned and the program or level you are working at. It is also easy to navigate the various functions using the simple buttons.
This rear drive elliptical machine measures 25-inches wide, 63.8-inches long and 50.8-inches high, weighing roughly 112 pounds. The maximum user weight is 250 pounds and the non-adjustable stride is 14-inches long.
- 8 levels of resistance, allowing you to increase the intensity of your workout, as necessary.
- Heart rate is monitored via pulse sensors located in the fixed handlebars.
- Simple LCD display that tracks basic information, such as heart rate, calories burned and distance.
- Has a lip on the control panel for you to place devices, such as tablets.
- Relatively quiet and lightweight, compared to other elliptical machines.
- Does not have an adjustable incline.
- No pre-set programmes to provide variety during your workout.
The Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3607 is lightweight and quiet compared to a number of other elliptical machines. It has fixed handlebars that contain pulse sensors which will monitor your heart rate during your workout. The movable handlebars allow you to exercise your upper body at the same time as your lower body.
The control panel has a lip for placing devices, such as tablets, so that you can watch your favourite shows whilst exercising, thus helping to reduce boredom.
The control panel also houses the LCD display that keeps track of your exercise data, such as calories burned, time elapsed and distance travelled.
A dial located just under the display allows you to easily adjust the resistance mid-workout to increase intensity and ensure maximum calorie burn.
This rear drive elliptical machine measures approximately 27-inches wide, 49-inches long and 64-inches high, weighing roughly 72 pounds. The maximum user weight is 220 pounds.
What are elliptical machines?
First invented in the 1990s by a company called Precor, elliptical machines are something of a cross between an exercise bike and a rowing machine. They have large pedals that you stand on and that allow you to move your legs in a backwards and forwards motion.
The resulting action produces an almost elliptical shape, hence the name. This motion combined with the large pedals means that the foot never actually lifts up from the pedal, but does encourage the muscles in the feet and legs to move as though you are walking or jogging, thus reducing the overall strain on the joints.
Most elliptical machines have upright handle bars that you can hold onto and use to help increase momentum. They also work the muscles of the upper body. However, some machines don’t have this option, whilst others are so poorly designed that the handle bars are shown to be completely pointless because all of the movement is controlled by the feet. The intensity of the workout can be increased by adjusting the stride or incline of the machine, depending on the model.
Generally speaking, there are three types of elliptical machine, based upon the location of the fly wheel: rear drive, front drive and centre drive.
Rear drive machines were the first machines that were produced and basically means that the fly wheel, which is what provides momentum for the pedals, is located at the back of the machine.
Front drive machines have the fly wheel located at the front of the machine.
Centre drive machines have the fly wheel located in a central position on either side of the machine and the user; these are the most current designs on the market.
Most elliptical machines are electrically powered in the sense that they use electricity to run the control pads that can keep track of time spent on the equipment, as well as other data such as miles walked, calories burned, heart rate etc.
They also use electricity to adjust the incline and stride of the machine, to increase the overall intensity of the workout. It is important to bear in mind, however, that the actual pedals are driven by the user’s legs, with the arms providing a secondary source of power via the handle bars.
Using an elliptical machine safely
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use an elliptical machine, or any other piece of exercise equipment, if you have just had major surgery or are recovering from a serious injury. Advice should always be sought from your doctor beforehand.
That said, most people recovering from minor injuries, or those who are starting to heal nicely from major injuries and surgery, should be able to use an elliptical machine to help ease them back into their daily exercise routine, under the guidance of a medical professional.
To use elliptical machines, you make sure that at least one of the pedals is close to the ground before you step onto it whilst holding the handle bars, then stand your other foot on the other pedal. Whilst standing upright, straight back, not hunched forward, you start to move your feet backwards and forwards whilst gripping the handle bars and moving your arms backwards and forwards. You will notice that your knees do bend slightly as your legs move, but perhaps not as much as if you were walking normally.
Depending on the model of machine you are using, you can adjust the incline and the stride to suit your individual needs, either to make it harder and provide more resistance, or simply to suit your height and ability.
Benefits of owning and using an elliptical machine at home
There are several benefits linked to owning and using an elliptical machine at home and they include:
Improved fitness levels – regardless of your fitness level, you should have no trouble using these machines and should be able to get a truly excellent, all over workout. They exercise and tone nearly every muscle, but also provide an amazing cardio workout that is on par with using a treadmill or exercise bike. Most people can use them, making them ideal for the elderly (also see recumbent bikes) and those who are easing themselves into regular exercise, either because they are recovering from an injury, have taken an extended break or are overweight and find other forms of exercise too difficult.
Protection from exercise-related injury – because of how these machines work, the sorts of injuries that would normally occur from running or jogging, e.g. pulled muscles, or damaged ligaments, are far less likely to occur. As previously described, because the feet never actually lift up from the pedals, they are provided with more support when using the elliptical machine than when they are running on hard pavements. This reduces the amount of shock that the knees and ankles have to absorb, which in turn reduces the risk of injury.
Provides an excellent cardio workout – a study was conducted in 2004 that examined a group of females who either used a treadmill, elliptical trainer or climbed stairs three times a week for 30 minutes. The researchers found that if the participants were working just as hard on the elliptical trainer as they would if they were on a treadmill or climbing stairs, then they received a cardio workout that was just as beneficial. The key is to make sure that you are working at an intensity that means you can really feel the workout: in other words, it shouldn’t be too easy.
Things to consider before buying an elliptical machine for home use
Elliptical machines can vary in design and price, so it is important to give consideration to several factors before deciding which one to purchase, and they include:
Features – deciding what features you would like your elliptical machine to have is an important factor to consider when making your purchase. Features might include the ability to adjust the incline or stride of the machine, or a display that records data such as miles walked and calories burned.
Type – the type of elliptical machine is another thing to consider. For example, you can get very basic elliptical steppers that have no handles and work like elliptical machines. These can be easily stored away, making them perfect for small spaces. But you can also get larger pieces of equipment that require a lot more room. Something else you may wish to consider with the standard elliptical machines is whether or not they are front, rear or centre drive designs. On the whole, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference which type you get, but some people have reported that the rear drive design feels like it provides better balance than the front drive design.
Price – elliptical machines vary greatly in cost, depending on what it is they provide, as well as their overall design and the manufacturer who produces them. It is important to remember that an expensive machine is not necessarily going to be better quality than a cheaper one, but cheaper machines can often be quite basic.
Risks and warnings
There aren’t many risks or warnings related to the use of elliptical machines, however it is important to make sure that you only use them under the guidance of a doctor if you are recovering from major surgery or an injury. It is also wise to check with a doctor if you are easing yourself back into exercise and are overweight, are an older person or have a health-related condition that might be affected by starting up exercise after taking an extended break.
Another thing to be aware of is using an elliptical machine safely: make sure that you get on to it carefully, ensuring that one of the pedals is close to the ground, and that you wait until it has stopped before getting off at the end of your workout. Don’t hunch over whilst using the machine because this can cause neck, shoulder and back problems over a prolonged period.