An elliptical trainer is one of the best cardio machines you can buy. Ellipticals provide rigorous exercise that gives your body a full workout, gets your heartrate up, and protects your joints from impact damage. However, not all ellipticals are created equally. When you set out to buy ellipticals, you need to consider things like your budget, the space you have available for the machine, what you need the elliptical trainer to do for you, and much more. This buying guide will help you determine what to look for in these excellent cardio machines and how to make sure that you get the best deal for the money you spend.
Goals for Elliptical Training
Everybody starts their search for cardio machines with a specific budget in mind, but you need to make sure that you are budgeting appropriately for your exercise goals. The range of ellipticals out there can cost you from as little as $500 to as much as $2,000, so your knowledge of your needs is important when it comes to sticking to your budget. Make a list of the things you want out of an elliptical trainer and prioritize them to the best of your ability. Do you want something that is compact? Do you need a machine that provides constant heart rate monitoring? What sort of customizable features do you consider to be a priority? How much are you willing to spend? With these goals in mind and your budget set, you can start to narrow down the elliptical trainer field to machines that fit your custom parameters.
Do you have a specific workout space in mind for your elliptical trainer? If so, how much room do you need? Many people opt for foldable trainers or small ellipticals that are compact enough to tuck away in the corner of a room. Most foldable ellipticals are front drive trainers, which have the flywheel in the front of the machine. By comparison, stationary ellipticals that are not meant to be moved around are usually rear drive trainers that have the flywheel in the back. Note that some modern models use a compromise center drive design. This type of elliptical trainer has a flywheel on either side of the machine and sometimes has a foldable design as well.
If you don’t have a designated workout room and have little space to put a large exercise machine, then seeking out a smaller, more compact elliptical trainer is usually the right choice. These ellipticals usually come at a lower cost but give up special features that can be found in larger machines as part of a compromise. For those individuals that have plenty of space, a larger, less compact elliptical trainer provides more options and allows you to create an exercise area around it. At the same time, the cost of these ellipticals can break some people’s budget. Don’t always assume that bigger models have more features, as many modern ellipticals offer more bells and whistles for less money.
Brake and Resistance System
The brake and resistance system of your elliptical machine serves as the biggest factor in determining the value of the trainer and its overall durability. The brake and resistance system determines the feel of the machine and the amount of noise it makes during operation. Most modern trainers use electronic magnetic resistance systems, which provide smooth braking and good resistance. In these systems, the machine’s computer system sends an electronic signal to magnets in the brakes to determine how much resistance you need for a given exercise. This allows you to change the resistance with the push of a button. By comparison, older models that use a tension knob instead of an electronic magnetic resistance system do not allow for this level of adjustability.
In an elliptical trainer with an electronic magnetic resistance system, the flywheel serves as the key component that provides tension. The heavier the flywheel is, the smoother each stride becomes. Most modern trainers use a flywheel that weighs at least 15 pounds, and you should treat this as the minimum when looking for options yourself. If you can get a flywheel that weighs 17 pounds or more, that is even better. Do note that heavier flywheels offer smoother operation but increase the cost of the machine as well. Also bear in mind that not all ellipticals list flywheel weight. If the model you are looking for does not list the flywheel weight, be sure to ask the seller or manufacturer before you make your purchase. Console and Heart Rate Monitor A trainer’s console often boils down to how many modern bells and whistles you want with your workout, but there are a few conveniences that can improve your cardiovascular results. If you exercise in a dark room and want to make sure you see your controls, paying a little bit of extra money for a backlit console is worth it. If you feel that exercising with music, television, or some other distraction will help you, then you should choose an elliptical that has built-in speakers and perhaps a screen. You should also think about what sort of fitness apps you intend to use with your exercise. More modern elliptical machines have built-in wireless and Bluetooth technology, while older, less expensive models tend to lack those features.
The elliptical heart rate monitoring system is especially important when considering the console you need. If you have another device that measures your heart rate, you might not need much from this feature. However, it helps to have a heart rate monitor built into the machine so you can adjust your exercise appropriately or even have the option for the exercise to terminate early if your heart rate starts entering a danger zone. Most elliptical machines measure your pulse through the hand grips, but some have heart rate attachments that you can place on your chest. The latter are more accurate and useful if you choose to go hands-free at any point during your exercise routine.
Every elliptical trainer provides a certain standard exercise, but some more advanced trainers can offer expanded options that allow you to vary your exercise routine. You should consider what muscle groups you want to exercise, whether you want a “smart” elliptical that adjusts the level of difficulty as you get better at the exercises, and what other workout equipment you might purchase. If you plan to buy other workout machines, then you don’t need as much customizability. On the other hand, many people use an elliptical machine as their primary trainer due to cost or space constraints. In these cases, it helps to have a machine that can work as many different muscle groups as possible while also giving you a complete cardiovascular workout experience.
Common customizability features for an elliptical trainer include the ability to adjust your stride, pivot pedals differently, and adjust inclines. More advanced trainers offer automatic adjustments where you tell the trainer what you want to work on and the machine develops an exercise that matches your needs. If your body type is taller or shorter than average, the ability to adjust your stride is of paramount importance, as it allows the trainer to be more ergonomically fit for your body. If you have joint or foot problems, you should prioritize adjustable pedals to make sure that you put less strain on your lower body during your workout. Adjustability does come at a higher cost than fixed machines, but is usually worth it for people who have different body types than average or health concerns.
Durability and Warranty
Always make sure to get a warranty on any workout equipment that you buy new. This protects you as a consumer and also allows you to gauge the level of faith that the manufacturer has in their product. Because simpler trainers come with fewer parts that might break, their warranties tend to be the shortest, often ranging from between 90 days to one year. For higher-end ellipticals, you should look for a parts and labor warranty that is at least one year long, and many modern machines offer warranties for as much as five years. Anything above the $1,000 price point should have a parts warranty of at least three years and a labor warranty of at least one year. Make sure to read the warranty information carefully so you understand what is covered under parts, what is covered under labor, and what might not be covered at all.
An elliptical trainer can be one of the best purchases you ever make. The right choice on this machine can provide you with great health and an improved body image. The key is to make sure that you choose a trainer that you will be happy with for a long time to come. If you follow the advice above and consider this information carefully, you should be well on your way to choosing a machine that works well for you. By setting your budget appropriately and shopping wisely, you will find yourself with a very powerful fitness tool.