Low-Impact but High-Intensity: The 8 Best Ellipticals for Home Gyms

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Ellipticals have made a cultural splash since their 1995 debut, from appearing on Tony Little's famed Gazelle to the machine Elle Woods determinedly swayed on in Legally Blonde. And in that short lifetime they also managed to become a home gym staple. The popularity of the low-impact elliptical makes perfect sense—sports medicine physicians shed their favor on ellipticals for their ability to deliver an intense cardio workout without the wear and tear on joints. So if you're ready to kick it up a notch with your workouts, you'll want to find the best elliptical for your home gym.

The ACTIVE Reviews Team assessed the most popular elliptical machines for home gyms on the market. The goal: Find out which ellipticals would add the most bang for the buck to your home gym and cardio routine. We factored in qualities like noise level, size and included features. We also had expert advice from our network of fitness fanatics and swayed and sweated it out to dozens of home gym elliptical machines ourselves. These were deemed the eight best elliptical machines for your home gym:
 
Best Ellipticals for your Home Gym - Our Top Picks: 

Editor's Pick: NordicTrack Commercial 14.9

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The NordicTrack Commercial 14.9 might sound a little over the top for a humble home gym. But it actually works great for home gyms and commercial gym settings and is worth the investment if you're a serious elliptical lover. It's designed to help you stay in the zone during your full-body workouts, led by coaches on the 14-inch Smart HD touchscreen via iFit that's free for one year. You'll also have a fan to cool you off, comfortable grips and one-touch controls that seamlessly adjust your resistance level. Incline settings can go up to 20 degrees, plus 26 digital resistance levels to boot. You can also adjust stride length depending on your height or target certain muscle groups. The NordicTrack Commercial 14.9 is one of our pricier picks but is definitely worthwhile if you want gym-grade equipment in your home.

BUY: NordicTrack Commercial 14.9, $1,999

Best Hybrid Elliptical: Proform Hybrid Trainer XT

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The Proform Hybrid Trainer XT is a perfect elliptical if you're also a fan of recumbent exercise bikes but not the space they take up in your home gym. With this machine you get both: a recumbent bike for cardio that won't aggravate back pain and a traditional elliptical for full-body training that doesn't wear on your joints. Pair a smart device via Bluetooth, then sweat it out on the Hybrid to personal trainer-led dynamic workouts via iFit, which you get free for six months. The LCD display also lets you check your heart rate—measured by handlebar grip sensor—and other metrics while you work out at home to one of 16 digital resistance levels. 

BUY: Proform Hybrid Trainer XT, $599

Best Elliptical for Low-Impact Cardio: Sole E25

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The Sole E25 is hyper-detailed in its design to mitigate strain on knee, hip and ankle joints. Designed by physical therapists for max ergonomic comfort, it uses oversized foot pedals to keep pressure off your joints. That makes this elliptical ideal for those seeking a low-impact home gym machine with a big impact on cardio. Users of all fitness levels should get plenty of mileage in their home gym out of the Sole E25's 20 adjustable incline settings and 10 workout programs. The Sole E25 also features a durable steel frame and Bluetooth speakers. And best of all, it rings in for under $1,000.

BUY: Sole E25, $999.99

Best High-End Elliptical: LifeSpan E3i+ Elliptical Cross Trainer

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The E3i+ is a "cross trainer," which are ellipticals with moving handlebars that engage both the upper body and lower body. One of the high-end features touted by the LifeSpan E3i+ is its proprietary CoreBalance technology: Pedal sensors calculate how much pressure each leg is exerting during your stride and then shows the data on the E3i+'s console. That way you're aware and able to correct your stride's form—an asymmetrical stride can lead to unbalanced muscle tone and more importantly, aches and pain throughout your neck, back and joints. You also get 20 levels of intensity and incline, easily adjustable with ramp and resistance toggles integrated into the non-moving handlebar component. The heavy 34-pound flywheel and 20-inch stride give the E3i+ a truly suave, luxurious feel. And if you're already splurging on a high-end home gym elliptical trainer, you might want to add even more luxury in the form of LifeSpan's white glove delivery. For an extra $299 the E3i+ can be delivered and assembled in your home gym.

BUY: LifeSpan E3i+, $1,999

Best Quiet Elliptical: Proform Carbon E7

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Have a partner working from home or a sleeping baby in the next room? A quiet elliptical is your best bet for squeezing in a workout from home. Proform makes its second appearance in our roundup of best ellipticals for home gyms, and this time for a very different reason: the Carbon E7's impressive lack of noise. The Carbon E7 features patented silent magnetic resistance technology adjustable to 24 levels by a digital screen. That means you get a smooth and quiet workout even as you ramp up the intensity, making it ideal for those whose home gyms are in close quarters with others. The Carbon E7 also features an adjustable 19-inch stride, 7-inch high-definition touchscreen and incline that can be adjusted to 20 degrees. But one of the biggest value items included with the Carbon E7 is a three-year iFit family membership so your home workouts will have the structure of a coached class. 

BUY: ProForm Carbon E7, $1,403

Best Elliptical under $1,000: Horizon 7.0 AE

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If you're thinking you can't get an elliptical for under $1,000, think again. The Horizon 7.0 AE will give you commercial-level equipment in your home gym for a super affordable price. We love the durability of the frame, allowing you to quickly and smoothly shift through 20 levels of incline and resistance. And although there isn't a digital touchscreen included, handlebar controls let you modulate your media through the elliptical's Bluetooth speakers. Time to turn up the volume and enjoy the smooth sway to Horizon 7.0 AE's 23-pound flywheel and 20-inch stride length.

BUY: Horizon 7.0 AE, $999

Best Elliptical under $500: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic SF-E3912

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You might be building out a home gym on a tight budget, and that's where the Sunny Health Magnetic SF-E3912 can be a real lifesaver. While there's a whole lot of numbers and letters in the name of this elliptical, there's no comma in the price tag. But you also don't want your home gym elliptical to be compromised in quality, and fortunately, that's where the SF-E3912 really shines for the price.  It features a smooth magnetic resistance system with 16 levels of resistance and a strong steel frame. This elliptical also has 24 workouts programmed, which is great for beginners. The SF-E3912 does have its shortcomings, including its modest stride length of 14 inches, but that shouldn't be a dealbreaker unless you're more than six feet tall. And because other models in the $500 range have strides as short as 11 inches, the Sunny Health Magnetic SF-E3912 remains the better budget elliptical for your home gym.

BUY: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic SF-E3912, $499.98

Best Compact Elliptical: Bowflex Max Trainer M8

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Space can be a huge issue for home gyms, which is why we love the compactness of the Bowflex Max Trainer M8. But best of all, the Max Trainer M8's small size doesn't come at the cost of having a well-rounded elliptical. The Max Trainer M8 is a space saver that's still stuffed with modern features, like interactive, color backlit LCD and LED screens, Bluetooth connectivity and an integrated heart rate monitor. Bowflex is also integrated with the JRNY app, which with a paid subscription gives you personalized daily workouts that adjust in intensity per your training. One of the only high-end perks missing on this elliptical are cooling fans, so you'll want to make sure you can stay cool in your home gym via other means.

BUY: Bowflex Max Trainer M8, $1,899

Elliptical Features to Look For

Footprint

 You may have an entire basement, garage or even floor dedicated to housing your home gym. On the other end, you might be committed enough to your fitness routine to make it work, despite living in a small apartment with no dedicated workout room.  Whichever the case, you'll need to factor in your space limitations—or lack thereof—when looking at ellipticals for a home gym. Some ellipticals are larger, like the Proform Hybrid trainer, but would be a space-savvy choice if you were looking to get a recumbent bike regardless. Others, like the Bowflex M8, are compact, but its smart design puts it a bit on the pricier side. You'll also want to factor in durability when it comes to the size and weight of an elliptical: Some budget-friendly and compact models may not feel as sturdy beneath you, so if some wobbliness will throw you off mentally, consider a more durable elliptical for your home gym.

Programming Availability

The Peloton was able to skyrocket into the fitness consciousness thanks to its interactive programming. While it set the bar high, these days Peloton has plenty of friendly competition in that category. Programming offered by apps like JRNY and iFit are fine rivals to Peloton's slate of instructors and classes. And if you're old school and following a class or trainer isn't a requirement, some ellipticals that don't have interactive programming integrated will still help you structure your workout with pre-programmed settings and a display to track your progress. Many ellipticals even use sensors to monitor your heart rate in real-time, then adjust the resistance accordingly, making it easier for you to stick with that day's workout plan. 

Price Range

Whichever way you structure your workout, its intensity is determined by resistance applied to your elliptical's flywheel. Heavier flywheels create more momentum when they spin and will make your elliptical workout feel smoother and tougher. If you want a heavier flywheel—something in the 20- to 30-pound range—you'll likely need to opt for a more expensive elliptical. More budget-friendly models will often have lighter flywheels, weighing as little as 13 pounds.

Another elliptical factor to consider when determining your price range is stride length. The stride length refers to the amount of space between the foot pedals as they swing from front to bac—similar to the length in your stride as you walk. You need an elliptical with a stride length suitable to your height to ensure an effective workout at home, and compact and budget-friendly elliptical machines tend to have shorter stride lengths. That might really hamper your ability to get much out of your home gym elliptical if you're tall, so you may need to look at the pricier models that offer a stride long enough to really push yourself.

Rear-Drive vs. Front-Drive

The difference between a rear- versus front-drive elliptical looks how it sounds: A rear-drive elliptical flywheel is in the front of the bike, and a rear-drive flywheel is located in the back. But the difference between the two is more than aesthetic.

Front-drive ellipticals are generally more compact and feel more like "stepping up" since you'll feel like you're leaning forward a bit as you work out. Front-drive ellipticals can make more noise during a serious workout but are less expensive than their rear-drive counterparts.

With the rear-drive elliptical, the pedals will probably feel more level, so posture tends to fall more neutral. Rear-drive models are generally more expensive than front-drive but experience fewer maintenance-related issues. Fortunately, if you think you made the wrong choice between the two types, most elliptical brands will give you a trial period of 30 days or more to return the machine after testing it out. Some brands require you to return your elliptical in the original packaging, though, so hang on to the box during your trial run.

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