In the most recent refresh of this higher-end elliptical article, we paid a little attention to our top five chart and moved a few things around.
We decided to remove some older models, and replaced them with the excellent ProForm Endurance 520 E, and the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3875.
Whether you are looking for a way to introduce low-impact cardio to your at-home workout routine, or simply want to add a new machine to your home gym lineup, an elliptical may tick a few boxes.
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That’s exactly what we aim to answer in this article!
We have tried to remove the hassle of shopping online for a great elliptical in the midrange category by highlighting seven of our favorite models on the market today.
Every model is listed in the chart below, along with their features, pros and cons, to give you a quick overview of what each can offer.
After the chart, we have prepared a buyer’s guide to finding the right midrange cross trainer for you, while we have also answered some of your most asked questions.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 20 levels
Features: 23lb flywheel, 7” LCD Screen, built-in speakers, cooling fan, multiple workout programs, heart rate monitor, rapid charge USB port, Bluetooth connectivity, media shelf
Horizon Fitness boasts a good selection of cross trainers that span the price ranges, although it’s the 7.0 AE Elliptical that catches our eye in this midrange category.
This impressive model features a 23lb flywheel for a smooth and quiet performance, while the 20” stride length caters quite comfortably for users over 6ft. It compares well to others in this range, with an advanced motorized incline featuring 20 levels, as well as 20 levels of resistance and a multitude of workout programs.
The main console is quite notable and one of our favorites, with a 7” LCD screen offering good workout feedback. There are also intuitive controls, built-in speakers and a cooling fan. Not the cheapest on this list, but it feels very high end.
Stride Length: 19”
Resistance: 18 levels
Features: Steel frame, 15lb effective inertia-enhanced flywheel, 5” backlit LCD screen, built-in 2” speakers, auxiliary port, water bottle holder, extra-grippy media shelf, iFit compatible, 300lb weight capacity
The ProForm Endurance 520 E is a fine example of a relatively affordable elliptical that possesses some higher-end features, all combining to offer everything you need for a comfortable ride.
The 15lb flywheel provides a smooth and steady motion, which remains whisper-quiet thanks to the inclusion of ProForm’s patented Silent Magnetic Resistance. There are 18 levels of resistance as well as up to 20 degrees of motorized incline to test even hardened athletes.
Meanwhile, the 19” stride length is pretty generous and another sign that this is a good midrange elliptical. The 520 E also comes equipped with a 5” backlit screen, extra-grippy device holder, built-in speakers and water bottle storage. For under a grand, this is a great buy.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 25 levels
Features: 16lbs flywheel, dual rail system, DualTrack display, USB charging port, Bluetooth connectivity, built-in speakers, adjustable cooling fan, heart rate monitor, 29 workout programs, media shelf
Nautilus is a big name in the home fitness market, so it’s no surprise to find out that they make a pretty mean elliptical. One model that sits on the more affordable side of $1,000 is their popular E616.
This Bluetooth-enabled machine features a sturdy build with a 16lb flywheel and 20” Precision Path stride on a dual rail system. This all adds up to a smooth and quiet ride. Combined with padded handles and oversized pedals, the E616 provides a comfortable low-impact workout, whatever your ability.
Comfort aside, finding a sweat-inducing workout is simple, with 25 levels of resistance and 10% of motorized incline available. Features such as a DualTrack display, USB charging port, cooling fan and 29 workout programs enhance the value of our top pick!
Stride Length: 10”
Features: Compact build, steel frame, variable magnetic resistance technology, adjustable cushioned seat, transportation wheels, adjustable multi-grip handles, LCD display, media shelf
Undoubtedly one of the most popular cross trainers in the sub-$1,000 price range is the Teeter FreeStep, which combines elements of an elliptical with a recumbent bike for a surprisingly effective zero-impact workout.
While it won’t satisfy traditional elliptical users due to the pressing action, this innovative cross trainer places you in a reclined position, removing any stress from your joints. The thinking is that the workout feels easier, although you burn the same number of calories.
You can also take your legs out of the equation and focus solely on your arms and upper body, depending on how you hold the adjustable multi-grip handles. Meanwhile, adjustable resistance allows even the fittest person to enjoy a challenging workout.
Stride Length: 19.5”
Resistance: 16 levels
Features: Steel frame, bidirectional pedalling, manual mode, oversized textured foot pedals, anti-slip handlebars, 24 preset workout programs, pulse grip heart rate monitor, backlit LCD screen, water bottle holder, media shelf, rear handle, transportation wheels, 300lb weight capacity
The SF-E3875 is one of Sunny Health & Fitness’s many midrange ellipticals, offering hassle-free low-impact exercise with plenty to challenge users of all levels.
It features a strong steel frame to take up to 300lbs of weight and promises a comfortable ride thanks to oversized textured pedals and non-slip padded handles. The 19.5” stride length is also long enough to cater for most users without feeling impeding in any way.
There are 16 levels of computer-controlled resistance to make use of, as well as 24 preset programs to work your way through. Conveniently, you can also use the SF-E3875 in manual mode with no power. Here, the machine uses the same resistance settings as the last time it was switched on – clever!
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 25 levels
Features: 17lb flywheel, cushioned foot pedals, 29 preset workout programs, dual LCD screens, built-in speakers, USB charging port, MP3 input port, heart rate monitor, Bluetooth connectivity
The 470 from Schwinn is another quality elliptical in this sub-$1,000 range, with a stylish build, good media options and solid core performance.
With a 20” stride length, motorized incline, 25 levels of resistance and 29 preset workout programs, it ticks a lot of boxes in this range, challenging even the toughest of athletes. While in motion, the 470 offers a smooth and efficient operation thanks to the high-inertia motor and 17lb flywheel.
The main console and dual LCD screens make this elliptical easy to use, with intuitive controls along with Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to sync the unit with RunSocial and Schwinn’s free Trainer 2 app, which can be used via a smartphone or tablet.
Stride Length: 20”
Resistance: 16 levels
Features: 44lb flywheel, non-slip pedals, multi-grip handles, 12 workout programs, hand pulse heart rate monitor, backlit LCD screen, media shelf, transportation wheels
While slightly less advanced than some of our top picks, the SF-E3865 from Sunny Health & Fitness is a solid elliptical that comes in at the more affordable end of this sub-$1,000 price category.
This stylish and streamlined machine offers a hefty 44lb flywheel for a very smooth ride, with 16 levels of resistance – great for raising the intensity and a torching a few calories. Your exertion can be measured by the heart rate monitors in the handles, with feedback delivered on the backlit LCD screen.
The 20” stride length offers good freedom too. If you don’t care for the additional features on offer with some machines, the core performance and price of the SF-E3865 will very much appeal!
Using an elliptical in the gym is great. It’s one of the best machines you will find for a low-impact but highly-effective workout.
Using an elliptical in the comfort of your own home? Even better!
However, dropping a grand on an elliptical to use at home isn’t a something we do every day, so you will want to ensure the model you buy is right for you. Whether you want something compact and streamlined, or something bursting with modern features, there’s an elliptical for everyone.
In this section we are going to give you the breakdown on what makes a good elliptical. Keep these factors in mind when shopping for an elliptical online!
Most midrange ellipticals will come with a pretty standard design featuring a pair of large pedals and two pairs of handles (one stationary, one movable), all connected to a flywheel.
Regardless of the elliptical you decide on, the quality and weight of the flywheel will largely dictate how good the elliptical will perform. There is a considerable difference between a flywheel found on these midrange models and those found on budget ellipticals.
The good news is that spending up to a grand will give you a significant improvement compared to the more basic flywheel systems you would find in lower price ranges.
However, weights will change drastically between models in this range, with anything from 16lbs to 44lbs. Note that the heavier the flywheel, the smoother the performance tends to be.
However, the most variation you will have between designs in this midrange market is the size of the unit. You can find both full-size units that compare to those commercial-grade ellipticals, as well as compact models.
Compact ellipticals have the advantage of taking up less room, so you can keep them in your den or bedroom quite comfortably. They are great for smaller homes and apartments, where space is at a premium.
Naturally, due to the smaller size of compact models, some compromises have to be made. For example, stride lengths will be smaller, consoles may be more streamlined, and things may feel a little more cramped.
If you have the space for a full-sized elliptical, this is what we suggest going for. However, if you don’t – or you don’t plan to use the machine every day – then a more compact model with transportation wheels may be the better option.
Another design point worth mentioning is that some cross trainers feature seats and, therefore, a more recumbent nature. Models such as the Teeter FreeStep are a good example of this.
The benefit here is that the machine takes stress off your body, turning a low-impact workout into a zero-impact workout. Workouts can feel easier, even though you are still pushing and burning as many calories. This may encourage you to push even harder.
These seated cross trainers won’t appeal to everybody. If you are used to the smooth gliding action of an elliptical, you may not appreciate the pressing/stepping action of these recumbent designs.
Our advice? Try one out if possible. Your local gym or sporting goods store may have a selection. Having experienced the action, you will then be able to decide if this design or a more traditional elliptical is best for you.
Sitting side by side with the build quality and how smoothly the mechanism moves, the stride length is one of the most important factors to consider. This is the length between the front of the front pedal to the back of the rear pedal, when the pedals are at their widest stride.
While you may not have noticed things like stride length when using a high-end elliptical at the gym, how long you can stride becomes more of an issue when there is a set limit.
For example, imagine the frustration if you wanted to break into a full sprint, but couldn’t because the pedal path was too short and didn’t allow for it. This is what some people experience with lower-end models.
Many entry-level ellipticals offer small stride lengths – as low as 10”. While these are fine for smaller users, many average-sized adults will find these machines uncomfortable at best, unusable at worst.
The good news is that pretty much all midrange ellipticals feature a decent stride length of around 20”.
This 20” length will cater for users up to around 6ft tall. If you are taller, you will still be able to use them very effectively, although an elliptical in the $1,500 price range may offer a longer stride length for a more comfortable experience.
As the price rises to the tune of $1,000, the resistance levels on offer become more flexible. You can expect to find adjustable resistance up to 25 levels.
This flexibility allows you to finetune the experience for your ability, your goals and your mood that day.
This means you can set the resistance to a low level if you want to enjoy a leisurely long-distance session, then crank up the resistance the next day for a higher-intensity fat-burning workout.
While you can do this to some extent on lower-budget ellipticals, it’s not as flexible or effective as the resistance found on these midrange models.
Like resistance, incline is another way of adding a challenge to your workout. This handy feature simulates a gradient, which boosts the intensity of the exercise and changes the way your muscles work.
Adding incline also helps increase the calorie burn – and who’d say no to that?!
Spending up to $1,000 doesn’t guarantee that your elliptical will have an incline option. However, it is a feature that you are much more likely to encounter when compared to spending less than $500.
The incline that is included on these machine will almost always be motorized, allowing you to select how much of a gradient you want (up to a certain degree or percentage) with the touch of a button on the central console.
One of the main factors that separates higher-end fitness equipment from their budget cousins are control modules. This is pretty much applicable across the world of at-home fitness gear, from treadmills and exercise bikes to rowers and ellipticals.
More affordable models will have rudimentary computers and can often rely on manual controls to set the resistance. As you start moving up the price ladder, you will find easier and more intuitive controls.
The control modules on midrange ellipticals are great. While some will still come across as a bit basic, others feel more in line with those you would find in commercial gyms.
You will usually find a mix of both quick-select buttons (allowing you to go from a low resistance to a high one in the press of one button) as well as precision controls to move up the levels slowly.
Taking center stage on the main console will usually be a screen or two. In this price range, this will either be a full-color touchscreen or a more basic LCD monitor, depending on how generous the manufacturer is feeling.
This screen will display workout feedback, giving you a good idea of how your session is going. You will usually find data such as workout time, speed, distance, calories burned, step count, and machine information such as incline percentage and resistance.
Of course, the screen will also display your heart rate data. Most models in this range will offer heart rate monitors built into one pair of handles.
It’s worth being aware that these integrated heart rate monitors are no match for a chest strap in terms of accuracy, yet they offer a good indication of your workout intensity.
Another big improvement that sub-$1,000 ellipticals offer when compared to those in the $500 range is the assortment of secondary features.
One thing that definitely improves is the range of preset workout programs. Switching up your workout is the key to keeping your body guessing and burning calories.
On these machines you can find programs tailored to multiple goals, whether that’s a straight up 5km run, or other targets such as calorie and fat burning, or max heart rate programs.
Ellipticals under $1,000 also come with a fine selection of goodies, that make working out more comfortable and – let’s face it – more bearable.
One of these things is an adjustable-speed cooling fan. Not every model offers a fan, but they can be a welcome addition when the sweat starts to pour.
Entertainment is another thing that is well catered for in this range. Built-in speakers that pump out your Spotify playlist are becoming more standard, while many models will feature a media shelf that allows you to rest your tablet on.
In addition to this, you may find things such as USB charging ports to keep your battery topped up, so your smartphone won’t quit before you do.
Of course, USB charging, fans and speakers shouldn’t be the main reason you buy any elliptical. As convenient as they are, the truth is that you could plug your tablet into the wall, buy a standalone fan, or wear headphones for similar results.
While ellipticals have their critics, there’s a reason they have been a gym mainstay for the past few decades – they can deliver an effective workout.
Even though it is a low-impact machine, using an elliptical can recruit more muscles than a treadmill, so there is great potential for working to a higher intensity.
However, the effectiveness is down to you. Just like a treadmill or rowing machine, unless you put in the effort to reach a certain level of intensity, you won’t experience much benefit.
For example, anybody can step onto an elliptical with the resistance set low and see out 30 minutes having barely broken a sweat. This, however, is not an effective use of the elliptical (or your time).
Ideally, you should have a goal to work towards. Are you trying to burn fat? Or build your stamina? Or just want to meet your daily step count?
Whatever your goal, having it clearly set out will give you a better chance of preparing for it and reaching it.
For example, if you want to burn calories, look towards high-intensity interval training on the elliptical. Here, you incorporate both high-intensity work with lower-intensity recovery. So, you may perform a sprint on the elliptical for 30 seconds, then jog lightly for 90 seconds. Repeat ten times and enjoy the calorie blitz.
If you are building your endurance, you can simply aim for a distance. Set a target on your machine – say 10km – then go reach it! Or try a present workout program, designed by experts to help you reach your goals.
So, providing you have a clear goal for your session, training on an elliptical can be a very effective workout.
In short, no – an elliptical should not hurt your knees. One of the biggest advantages of using an elliptical is that it is a low-impact way to simulate walking and running.
Because your feet do not lift off the pedals, there is no impact to cause joint pain. This means you can work out at a higher intensity, without having to endure the additional force on your joints.
Yet some people do experience knee pain while using an elliptical. However, this is likely to be down to some other factor instead of impact.
The stride length of the machine is important. The stride length is the distance from the toe of the front pedal to the heel of the rear pedal when the pedals are at their widest.
To avoid problems, ensure your cross trainer is able to cater for your stride. If you are using a lower-end elliptical that only has a short stride length, you may be impeding your natural stride – especially if you are a taller person. This restriction can result in a variety of problems.
Another possible problem that could result in knee pain is your posture. If you are leaning too far forward, you may be putting your body out of natural alignment, which can add stress to your knees and other lower-body joints. Therefore, aim to stand tall with a natural posture.
Also, if possible, use an elliptical with wider foot pads. This will give you the room to adjust your stance if you are feeling any discomfort.
Finally, try to warm up properly ahead of using the elliptical, and have proper rest to avoid overstressing muscles and joints. Be sure to cool down and stretch after a workout, as this can aid recovery.
If you are experiencing knee pain while using the elliptical, stop what you are doing and reassess. If you are working out at a gym, ask for help – an instructor may be able to see if you are doing something wrong.
If you have existing knee pain, or any issues affecting your joints, be sure to consult a physician before starting a new exercise program.
Fat thighs? We can sympathize! Most people have parts of their body they would like to improve, whether that’s chubby arms, a muffin top, or – in this case – fat thighs.
If you are looking for a low-impact route to fat loss, then an elliptical can certainly help.
However, the bad news is that you cannot target your thighs, just like you cannot target your belly or arm fat. Your body will store and lose fat from wherever it likes.
So, to reduce thigh fat, you will need to work on reducing the fat percentage of your entire body.
The simplest way to do this is to be in a caloric deficit – consuming less calories than you burn – over a consistent period. Putting yourself in a 500-calorie deficit every day will average out as a pound of fat loss per week.
This is why a good diet is imperative for fat loss. You cannot do an hour on the elliptical (burning roughly 700 calories for a 150lb woman), then eat a full pizza (around 1,500 calories) and hope to see fat melt away.
Still, a regular cardio workout on the elliptical can help you boost this caloric deficit. Choose a program you will stick to and then stick to it. If you enjoy high-intensity training, then go for some fat-burning HIIT sessions. If you prefer a long run, set your elliptical to a 5km target, then go for it.
As you are working through a fat loss program, you can complement your elliptical training with some resistance exercises for your thighs. This will give you more toned, defined legs that will be revealed as your body fat decreases.
You can try classic exercises that will help tone your legs, such as squat variations, lunges, box jumps, glute bridges and calf raises.
Sorting out your diet, adding some regular elliptical work, and incorporating some resistance moves will give you a pair of legs to die for in no time!
The elliptical delivers a surprisingly effective workout that can actually target your entire body – not only your leg muscles.
Of course, ellipticals are great for working your legs. Your quads are worked as you push your legs forward, while the glutes and hamstrings are worked as your thigh moves backwards in the movement.
Meanwhile, your calves and tibialis anterior (the muscles near the shin) are working throughout the workout to stabilize your lower legs.
The good news is that your upper body does not just come along for the ride and can be worked just as hard. By grabbing hold of the movable poles and actively pushing and pulling with your arms, you can target your biceps, triceps, shoulders and back in particular.
Your core is another body area that can be well worked during an elliptical session, although you may have to put in a bit more effort to ensure it is being targeted. Stand tall and brace your core as you move. If you have the balance, let go of the handles and use your core strength to keep stable.
Spending up to $1,000 on an elliptical is not a small sum of money, so you want to ensure you are buying the right machine for you.
If you have read our article and digested even a little of the information in it, you should be well prepared for embarking on some elliptical shopping!
All seven models on our chart are worthwhile considerations for anybody shopping for a new cross trainer in this price range. Take a good look, but don’t be afraid to head off and browse the market yourself – you may find something even better suited to you. Good luck!