Fitness Equipment Reviews

The 5 Best Ellipticals Compared

When it comes to getting in a great cardio workout, strengthening your lower body, and taking care of your joints, it’s hard to go past the elliptical. Its unique action simulates the natural running motion that is extremely low impact while also burning a ton of calories
The elliptical market is, not surprisingly, saturated. So, how do you choose? In this article, I put the 5 best elliptical brands head to head to help you make the smartest buying decision.

5 Top Elliptical Brands

Since 2001, Octane has been dedicated to producing the best zero-impact elliptical machines on the planet. They are true innovators in the industry, having introduced such elliptical firsts as the seated machines, recumbent ellipticals, lateral movement machines, and the zero-gravity runner.
The Octane product range falls under the following categories:
  • Zero Runner
  • Standing
  • Recumbent
  • LateralX
Brand Highlights
Zero Impact – Octane’s Zero Impact technology makes their Zero Runner the ideal choice for people who are coming back from a joint injury.
Ergonomic design – Octane machines feature an adjustable stride length, rotating pedals, and a range of heights to allow for body customization.
Innovation – Octane is a leader in elliptical technology. That’s why they feature product designs that you don’t find elsewhere such as the recumbent elliptical that allows you to protect your back as you exercise and the LateralX that provides movement through multiple planes of motion.
Smartlink – All Octane ellipticals feature Smartlink technology so you can sync your workout data to your tablet or phone.
Frame – All Octane ellipticals feature commercial-grade frames that come with lifetime frame warranties.
What’s Not So Good
Octane ellipticals are among the most expensive on the market.
Precor has been a leader in the fitness market for close to thirty years. They produce all kinds of cardio machines but are especially known for their elliptical range. They produce both commercial and home use versions but there’s not much difference between the two. That means when you purchase a home use elliptical you are getting a machine with specs that are very similar to what you’d find in a gym.
The Precor Range falls under the following categories:
  • Rear Drive Series
  • Cross Ramp
  • Precision Series
  • Adaptive Motion Trainer Series
Brand Highlights
Rear Drive – Precor was the first to introduce the rear-drive elliptical and they still do it the best. The rear-drive allows you to better target your posterior chain.
Cross Ramp – this technology molds the ramp to your foot to reduce your injury risk and improve ergonomics. It also provides an adjustable include, ranging from 13-60 degrees.
Adaptive Motion Technology – the AMT series is in effect a combination of an elliptical, stairclimber, and treadmill. They allow you to walk, run, bike and climb all in one machine and all with low impact.
What Not So Good
Precor home use ellipticals are noisier than competitors like Octane and Life Fitness. That’s a result of the commercial-grade specs of their machines, but may be a problem for those exercising in proximity to other people. The warranties on Precor machines are not very impressive, averaging at about 7 years on the frame and two years on moving parts. Precor is also among the most expensive ellipticals on the market.
Life Fitness
Life Fitness has been producing commercial and home cardio equipment since 1970, when they introduced the first electronic stationary bike. The Life Fitness line of elliptical key selling points is their whisper-quiet Eddy Current resistance system. They are also known for their high-end consoles and ergonomically designed frames.
There are 4 series of Life Fitness ellipticals:
  • E Series
  • X Series
  • Club Series
  • Platinum Club Series
Brand Highlights
Commercial Grade Steel Frame – even the home models feature gym-quality framing!
Quiet Drive Technology – this reduces the noise level significantly, making it convenient for apartment dwellers.
Customization – Some Life Fitness ellipticals allow you to adjust the stride and foot pedals to customize your training experience. However, this is not the case on all of the machines in the Life Fitness lineup.
Warranty – the majority of Life Fitness ellipticals come with a lifetime frame warranty.
What’s Not So Good
Even though the Life Fitness consoles are attractive and functional, many of them lack such basic extras as a fan, cup holder, and accessory tray. These are also expensive trainers.
The Matrix elliptical range covers both fixed stride and variable stride models. Variable stride models include the option to tilt the pedals up to 54% to provide a similar effect to using an incline on a treadmill.
Matrix ellipticals come under three categories:
  • Standard Elliptical
  • Ascent Trainer
  • Suspension Trainer
Brand Highlights
Variable Stride – The Ascent Trainer series provide you with stride adjustment between 20 and 24 inches so you can get a full range of movement
Incline Settings – Matrix Ascent trainers allow you to target your glutes, hamstrings, and calves with incline settings. You can adjust the pedal angle up to 54%, significantly increasing the intensity and calorie burn of your workout.
Lifetime Frame Warranty – You get a lifetime frame warranty on all Matrix Ellipticals, along with 5-7 years on parts and 2 years on labor.
What’s Not So Good

Matrix elliptical stride lengths begin at 20 inches and range through to 24 inches. If you are a shorter person, you may struggle to use these machines. These ellipticals can also be quite heavy, with some of them weighing in at more than 300 pounds.

Cybex Arcs
Cybex is a well-established company that manufactures both strength and cardio training equipment. Their arc trainers are an adaptation on the elliptical that has your legs moving through an arcing rather than an elliptical range of motion. Cybex claims that the arcing movement is more natural and less impacting on your joints.
Cybex makes two types of arc trainers. One version has fixed handlebars and concentrates on the lower body while the other includes moving handles that bring your upper body into the movement. Arc trainers include variable stride technology so that the machine can be used for climbing and gliding as well as striding.
Brand Highlights
Multi-Function – the variable stride technology and unique movement angle that the arc trainer provides gives you more training variety than a standard elliptical provides. This allows you to include striding, stair climbing, and gliding in your workout.
Full Body Exercise – Cybex Total Body Trainers bring the upper body into play to provide a full-body workout.
Joint Friendly – Cybex arc trainers are claimed to be even more joint-friendly than elliptical trainers. That’s debatable but they are certainly on par with the Octane elliptical range, which is generally acknowledged as being the lowest impact ellipticals on the market.
What’s Not So Good
Cybex arc trainers are generally more expensive than ellipticals. Keep in mind, though, that they provide you with more training options.

Bottom Line

As we’ve seen, each elliptical brand has its pluses and minuses. At the end of the day, the best machine for you is going to be the one that best suits your unique situation. In terms of joint friendliness, ability to train the entire body, and versatility of workout, however, my recommendation is the Cybex Arc Trainer. If you’re after a pure elliptical, however, the Octane Zero Runner is a standout, providing near-zero joint impact, 15 resistance levels, and 11 workout programs.

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