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The best elliptical machine 2019: get the best cross trainer for a full body workout

T3 logo T3 03/08/2019 Leon Poultney
Best Elliptical trainer: Nordictrack E11.5 © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Best Elliptical trainer: Nordictrack E11.5

It is puerile to view the humble elliptical – or cross trainer as it used to be known before 'cross training' came to mean doing one-armed pull-ups and weight exercises whilst being shouted at by a personal trainer – as the least worthwhile piece of equipment in the home gym arsenal. The best ellipticals/cross trainers are actually perfect for fulfilling New Year fitness resolutions.

Yes, it does look a bit peculiar when you see someone embroiled in a sort of imaginary cross-country skiing event, arms and legs flailing in harmony, face twisted as it desperately gulps oxygen.   

But it is thanks to this impact-free, gliding movement that users can easily and quickly increase their aerobic fitness without putting strain on sensitive joints, while the upper body receives a solid workout in the meantime. In terms of effect, it's more like a low-impact rowing machine than a surrealist take on a treadmill.

This multi-muscle training also makes an elliptical great for those who are looking to keep in shape but lack a lot of space at home.

More home cardio machines

a device with wires attached to it: ProForm 450 LE © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. ProForm 450 LE

What is the best elliptical trainer?

Taurus Ultra Trainer © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Taurus Ultra Trainer

NordicTrack is King of the Elliptical hot steppers (murderer), and its E11.5 Elliptical Cross Trainer, under £700 at Amazon, offers a staggering amount of bang for your buck. It has a large, 18-inch stride length and its rear-drive system offers an elliptical path that closely matches natural stride ergonomics.

Couple this with the adjustable pedals, extra tall workout arms and the 22 digital levels offered by the Silent Magnetic Resistance flywheel, and you have an extremely adjustable home system.

It also cleverly folds flat for storage and is priced so it doesn't break the bank, yet manages to crush the more budget offerings in terms of features.

How to buy the best elliptical trainer

a close up of a black device: Cardiostrong EX80 © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Cardiostrong EX80

Although broadly similar in design (two platforms for your feet and a couple of handles to grab), elliptical trainers differ greatly in terms of features, build quality and the level of resistance offered.

Similar to an exercise bike, the elliptical trainer uses a flywheel to create resistance and it is the weight and design of this wheel that will determine how buttery smooth the workout feels, as well as the amount of resistance one can pile on.

In general, the cheaper units will use a much lighter flywheel, which may not offer the sort of resistance true fitness freaks need to break a sweat, while shorter stride lengths and stubby handles can limit the muscle groups worked.

Also, the really cheap stuff does away with the magnetic motors entirely, which is great for electricity bills but terrible for anyone who actually wants to increase their heart rate.  

a device with wires attached to it: Life Fitness E1 © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Life Fitness E1

Naturally, space and budgets will be an important factor and in general terms, the more expensive you go, the larger and heavier the device becomes as manufacturers launch gizmos, gadgets and chunkier build quality at their models.

It's worth looking out for adjustable platforms, a multitude of grab handles, a decent spread of resistance and the more powerful drive systems if you want a trainer that's good enough to warrant ripping up the gym memberships.

As such, we've highlighted electrically assisted elliptical trainers from £400 to nearly £4k – a broad sweet spot, to be sure – which offer a good range of features to suit most budgets and needs.

Sole Fitness E25 © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Sole Fitness E25

The best elliptical trainers, in order

Technogym Synchro Forma © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Technogym Synchro Forma

1. NordicTrack E11.5

Best elliptical trainer pound for pound, with a superb array of features for the price


Dimensions: H166 W67 L204 cm | Foldable: Yes | Flywheel weight: 9kg | Resistance levels: 20 | Stride length: 20-22-inch


+ Powerful rear-drive system
+ Adjustable platforms
+ Foldable for storage


- Data screen looks a bit naff

Proof that a gym-worthy product need not cost the earth comes in the form of market leader NordicTrack's epic E11.5 machine.

With an improved 20-22-inch stride length, the powerful rear-driven unit works greater muscle groups thanks to the more natural movement, while adjustable heel/toe angles of the extra wide footplates allow the user to target specific body parts.

The NordicTrack E11.5 offers 20 digital levels of resistance, while a 10° to 30° digital quick incline offers a more intense workout for those who find even the hefty 9kg flywheel weight too easy.

Overall build quality is high and NordicTrack has considered a number of factors to ensure the E11.5 performs, such as the CardioGrab handles and centre grips, which allow for numerous holding positions to work a number of upper body muscle groups.

Said handles also include heart rate monitoring technology, and keen fitness fans will likely to rejoice to learn that the E11.5 now sports chest-strap compatibility (it needs to be purchased separately, though).

Granted, the digital display isn't as sexy as some of the touchscreen numbers found on more expensive models but it is simple and the important data, such as the ability to adjust resistance level and incline, is easily accessible.

The 5-inch display also offers 30 individual personal trainer workouts (10 calorie, 10 performance and 10 intensity), that automatically adjust incline and resistance, as well as revolutions per minute prompts to help users achieve a variety of goals, from losing excess flab to properly toning up.

As with many NordicTrack products, the E11.5 is compatible with a separate iFit module, which is designed to launch exercise into the digital age with interactive workouts, maps and more.

Another handy features of the E11.5 is the built-in CoolAireT oversized fan, which sits above the screen and keeps you cool during your training sessions. Listening to your best tracks is not only easy but also convenient too, due to the iPod/MP3 compatibility and the Intermix Acoustics 2.0 sound system.

Finally, while the 87kg E11.5 isn't exactly the most portable machine around, it has been designed to fold almost in half, so it can be lifted, wheeled away and stored in a cupboard when not in use.

2. ProForm 450 LE

Best space-saving elliptical trainer


Dimensions: H157 W69 L142 cm | Foldable: Yes | Flywheel weight: 6kg | Built-in speakers: Yes | Stride length: 18-inch


+ Folds up small
+ Good stride length


- Light flywheel
- Limited number of programmes

It may not look as professional as some of the other trainers here but the little ProForm 450 LE's main party trick is that it folds three ways so it can easily be stored in the corner of a room when not in use.

Despite that, the oversized EasyTone pedals offer a nice amount of foot adjustability and the rear-driven unit does its best to deliver a natural stride motion, despite the compact proportions.

The lower price is reflected in light, 6kg flywheel, which may feel slightly weedy for those who really like to bump up the resistance, while the very basic digital readout only delivers headline figures.

Regardless, there is a choice of 18 pre-programmed workouts, which isn't bad for the price, and the ergonomically designed handles feature built-in heart rate monitoring, with Bluetooth on hand if you want to bring your own chest strap.

The unit may not be the last word in sturdiness, but it offers a solid workout for the price, without taking up valuable abode floor space.

3. Taurus Ultra Trainer

Best elliptical machine with built-in Tabata workouts


Dimensions: H169 W78 L116 cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: N/A | Built-in speakers: No | Stride length: N/A


+ Combines elliptical training with a stepper
+ Built-in Tabata workouts
+ Burns calories fast


- Expensive
- Bulky
- Doesn't fold

Fresh in for 2018 is this intriguing hybrid machine by Taurus that blends the motions of an elliptical trainer with those often found on a traditional stepper machine.

The overarching idea is to engage more muscle groups and body parts in exercise, which helps to burn calories faster and offer an all-encompassing workout that shapes and tones numerous areas at once.

With 16 levels offered by the combination of air and magnetic resistance tech, there's a workout to suit everyone from the absolute beginner to the high intensity addict.

In fact, several Tabata-style programmes - where the user works hard for a short period, then rests and repeats - are built into the system, while technology built into the grab handles provide accurate heart monitoring.

4. Cardiostrong EX80

Size-adjustable trainer


Dimensions: H162.5 W81 L129 cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: 12kg | Built-in speakers: No | Stride length: 45-65cm


+ Adjustable stride lengths
+ Lots of workouts
+ Heart rate monitoring


- It's LARGE
- Poor display quality

Boasting similar stats and systems to many of the other elliptical trainers on this list, the Cardiostrong EX80 attempts to separate itself from the competition with an electronically adjustable function.

This allows users to swap between five levels, varying from 45.7cm to 65cm in length, which not only caters for a variety of body shapes and sizes, it also targets different muscle groups in the legs.

There are also 19 different programmes, including four heart rate-controlled options, which allows users to hit a variety of targets, from busting fat to improving cardiovascular threshold.

5. Life Fitness E1

High quality, very quiet cross trainer


Dimensions: 150x77x209 cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: N/A | Built-in speakers: No | Stride length: 20-inch


+ Whisper-quiet operation
+ Swanky data screen
+ Heart rate monitoring


- Premium product, premium pricingEmpty List

With an impressive 20 punishing resistance levels to work with, this gym-grade elliptical machine has been designed to emit as little noise as possible, meaning housemates don't have to put up with the unbearable whooshing of a flywheel. Although there may still be a certain amount of human grunting to endure.

The LCD data screen is crisp, clear and packed with numerous built-in workouts, not to mention bespoke profiles for multiple users.

Heart-rate monitoring is provided by a free Polar chest strap, as well as palm-based readings from the ergonomic 'ErgoGrip' handles, while a large, fixed 20-inch stride length and oversized pedals keep workouts feeling natural and free-flowing.

The price may be enough to have many Nordic-walking for the hills, admittedly, but Life Fitness has invested a wealth of gym knowledge into its range of home-friendly trainers, thus justifying the asking price somewhat.

6. Sole Fitness E25

A robust machine guaranteed to last a lifetime


Dimensions: H176 W61 L163 cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: 11kg | Built-in speakers: Yes | Stride length: 20-inch


+ Lifetime guarantee
+ Gym-like spec


- More expensive

If you're after a cross trainer that's big, chunky and manly looking, look no further than the beastly Sole Fitness E25, which boasts an 11kg flywheel and impressive 20-inch stride length.

A long stride is nothing unless you know what to do with it, but this dual wheel unit makes the most of its notable stats with a comfortable and balanced elliptical movement.

So confident is Sole Fitness that you won't shake its rugged E25 apart with a rowdy workout, it offers a lifetime guarantee on the parts, motor and frame. 

All that's left to do is strap on your heart rate monitor, plug in some tunes and do your very worst, sirs.

7. Technogym Synchro Forma

Professional grade cross trainer


Dimensions: H164cm, W79cm, L204cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: Not quoted | Built-in speakers: Yes | Stride length: Not quoted


+ Gives strenuous workout


- Has strenuous price

There is a reason why TechnoGym kit can be found in esteemed fitness establishments around the globe and that is because it is generally bloody excellent.

The Synchro Forma doesn't let the side down and its professional biomechanics make for one of the smoothest, most fluid workouts on this list.

Throw in the lush digital display, handle-mounted controls and TechnoGym's suite of excellent data tracking apps and you have a mean machine that will deliver serious results.

Unfortunately, you pay strong money for such performance and the machine is likely overkill for most households. For those with wild man-cave dreams, however, this is the stuff those dreams are made of.

8. ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Cross Trainer

A different take on the elliptical


Dimensions: 132x74x170 cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: 13kg | Built-in speakers: Yes | Stride length: 20-inch


+ Complete body workout with 32 presets
+ Small footprint


- Awkward workout motion

And now for something a little different... the ProForm Cardio unit combines the cardio intensity of boxing and stair climbing with a little dash of elliptical training thrown in for good measure.

Unlike the other trainers on this, the elliptical stepping path is only five inches (as opposed to 20-odd inches) but it includes a 10-inch vertical motion that activates a clutch of other muscle groups.

In fact, couple the unique motion with a high intensity interval workout and you have a machine that trains more muscle groups faster than others mentioned here, ensuring maximum workout efficiency.

That said, some may find the whole climbing/striding/arm-pumping motion a little awkward, especially at first, preferring a more familiar-feeling elliptical motion instead.

Those taking the plunge get 32 preset workouts, pretty fair built-in audio speakers, the ability to tether smartphones and tablets, a backlit LCD screen, albeit one with slightly crap graphics, and a face-cooling workout fan that you'll probably need.

9. Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer

Great, low-cost elliptical trainer


Dimensions: H169cm, W72cm, L135cm | Foldable: No | Flywheel weight: 9kg | Built-in speakers: Yes | Stride length: 15-inch


+ Excellent VFM


- Not the most demanding trainer

Neat, compact and great value for money, this budget offering from Reebok provides a neat, low-cost intro to the world of elliptical trainers.

The petite, 5.5-inch digital screen gives readouts on all the key info: speed, time elapsed, distance covered, calories burned, pulse, watts and RPM, while a number of preset programmes address a wide variety of fitness goals.

A short, 15-inch stride length and relatively light flywheel don't make for the most natural elliptical experiences but the extra long handles boast heart rate monitoring tech, so you can keep an eye on training zones and adapt effort accordingly.

a close up of a tripod: Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Reebok Z-Power Cross Trainer a close up of a device: ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Cross Trainer © Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. ProForm Cardio HIIT Elliptical Cross Trainer

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