Elliptical Trainers are quickly becoming the most popular pieces of cardio equipment for people to add to their home gym.
What makes a good elliptical trainer? How much should you spend on a good elliptical trainer. I’ll answer those questions and more in my Elliptical Trainer Buying Guide.
Stride Length, Comfort and Adjustability
Most budget elliptical trainers don’t offer much in the way of adjustability, you get what you get.
Some of the upper end ellipticals offer adjustable pedals that vary your workout angle and provide a more natural ankle and knee alignment. It’s a nice feature to have and will help avoid stress injuries and ankle problems that the cheap ellipticals can produce.
One of the features you should pay close attention to is the elliptical’s stride length. The stride lengths vary from 7″ on the lower end machines, up to about 23″ on the better ellipticals.
***Never buy an elliptical trainer with a short stride length. Demand at a minimum of 18″. The longer the better in most cases, and if you can get an elliptical with adjustable stride length or a 20″ plus stride like the Sole elliptical trainers do it.
The longer the stride length, the better. Short stride lengths have a tendency to give a more up and down choppy ride and aren’t effective when you speed up. The fast you go, the longer length should – it’s just like running.
I think you’ll find most of the elliptical trainers in my reviews to provide a comfortable ride. They’re definitely not going to be as high impact as a treadmill workout.
Resistance and Operation
Elliptical trainers offer two forms of resistance. The first form of resistance is the tension or friction on the flywheel, and the second (and less widely available) form of resistance is incline control.
Most elliptical trainers don’t offer any incline adjustment. So you’re just left with how the elliptical machine delivers it’s resistance on the flywheel.
Flywheel resistance comes in two forms: Belt tension (cheaper models under $300) and magnetic resistance.
Magnetic resistance is best (eddy current). Insist on good magnetic resistance on your elliptical trainer if you’re a serious trainer, or you may find yourself replacing the machine sooner than later because it’s not challenging enough.
Heart Rate Monitor
Most of the better ellipticals but the very low end bargain basement models have a built in heart rate monitor these days. The most common variety of heart rate monitor is the pulse grip sensor.
The pulse grip sensor heart rate monitor is a system that provides a rough estimate of your heart rate through electrical impedance. This method of monitoring is acceptable for elliptical machines in the sub $1000 price range and can be improved by purchasing a separate heart rate monitor.
When you get into the mid-level ellipticals, you’re machine should come standard with a wireless or telemetric heart rate control unit. The wireless heart rate monitor is the most accurate method for measuring heart rate available.
Look for an elliptical that has wireless heart rate control, and heart rate controlled workouts. Heart rate controlled workouts are where the elliptical trainer will adjust resistance automatically based on a predetermined user input.
Display Console and Built-in Workouts
The display console is the heart of any elliptical trainer. A good console can provide extra motivation and feedback while your using your elliptical trainer.
If you don’t think a good display console is important, take it from someone who knows better. I’ve owned elliptical machines on the low end, and the high end of pricing and can tell you a good display console that provides feedback on speed, distance, heart rate and workout information is essential for a good workout.
My old Nordic Track elliptical has a very minimal display and crappy heart rate monitoring with an ear clip (old machine technology from about 10 years ago) and I couldn’t get any visual cues about how my workout was progressing.
If you have a good display console (like I do on my Octane q45e elliptical) you can monitor exactly how your workout is progressing and fine tune your upcoming workouts later based on feedback and results of your current workout.
It also gives you additional motivation when you glance down at the console and see you’re almost done!
Make sure your elliptical trainer has built-in workouts. You’ll thank me later when you’re still using your machine everyday, while the people who bought the cheap elliptical trainers are using them for coat racks.
Shopping for an elliptical trainer and don’t know how much to spend? That’s a common problem for most people. There are just too many choices available today.
Unlike treadmills, elliptical trainers are much more closely grouped in price, and you can get a good machine without breaking the bank.
Don’t even consider spending less than $500 bucks for an elliptical trainer or you’re going to be sorry later. Cheap elliptical trainers are just as bad as cheap treadmills. If you buy an elliptical based solely on price you may as well take your money out of your wallet and set it on fire.
To get a quality elliptical trainer expect to spend in the neighborhood of $800 dollars and up. That won’t get you the top of the line ellipticals, but you can do pretty well for yourself in that price range.
High end elliptical trainers range in price anywhere from $1200 to $4500 dollars. The high end machines offer must have features like built-in workouts, longer stride lengths, wireless heart rate monitoring, longer warranties, higher user weight limit, a more natural elliptical motion and better ergonomics.
Buy the best elliptical trainer you can afford even if you have to stretch a bit to get one. You’ll be glad you did.
Elliptical Trainers Buyer’s Guide Bottom Line
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge you need to get an elliptical trainer, go see my picks for best elliptical here. Or go read the elliptical reviews and see how the machines on your list stack up to the competition.