How do I Choose the Best Commercial Elliptical Trainer?

T. E. Snow

For many people looking to increase their heart rate, burn calories, and become more physically fit through cardio exercise, elliptical trainers can be an alternative to traditional treadmills. Elliptical trainers generally offer the same cardio workout benefits as a treadmill with significantly less strain to the joints and muscles, as well as an added strength-training component due to the resistance in the pedals and arms. Choosing the best commercial elliptical trainer usually involves contemplating your fitness goals, budget, current physical shape, aesthetics, and location. Before performing any cardio exercise, however, it is typically recommended that you to consult with a health or fitness professional to determine your physical condition and what level of exercise is appropriate for you.

Women on elliptical machines.
Women on elliptical machines.

While commercial elliptical trainers may be purchased for home use, this type of machine is generally found in health-and-fitness clubs due to the high cost of commercial machines. The minimum price for commercial-grade elliptical machines is generally around $1,000 US Dollars (USD), and may cost as much as $6,000 USD. Commercial elliptical trainers are significantly more expensive than home-use trainers due to their weight, computer system, program options, and relatively high quality of construction components.

The design of some elliptical trainers may require more space than available on a gym floor with other equipment.
The design of some elliptical trainers may require more space than available on a gym floor with other equipment.

In order to choose the best commercial elliptical, you typically need to consider the size of the machine. Elliptical trainers usually are about 5 feet (about 1.52 m) long and 1 foot (about 30.48 cm) wide. Commercial trainers, however, are built to withstand regular, heavy use and may be slightly larger than a typical machine. They also usually weigh more than a typical machine, which can be up to 400 pounds (about 181.44 kg).

It is also important to consider the stride length and load-bearing capacity of a commercial elliptical. Most commercial trainers have an 18- to 25-inch (about 45.72 to 63.5 cm) stride length and can bear up to 300 pounds (about 136.08 kg). Choosing a machine with enough stride length usually is a key factor in choosing the right elliptical — too little stride length could result in pain and discomfort in the legs and hips.

Commercial trainers typically come with a variety of programs and resistance levels. The best quality elliptical trainers usually have approximately 20 resistance levels and between eight and ten exercise programs, including fitness tests and manual-use modes. Additionally, the best commercial elliptical trainers typically will include heart-rate sensor pads and wheels on the rear of the machine for ease of transport. Due to their size and weight, commercial machines are generally not available in fold-up or portable models. Despite their cost and weight, however, commercial models usually are the best choice for anyone looking to purchase a high-quality, durable machine with a long warranty and typically low maintenance.

An elliptical machine with too little stride length may result in hip pain.
An elliptical machine with too little stride length may result in hip pain.

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Discussion Comments


@croydon - Going to the gym is the best way to try out a variety of exercise machines and see which kind you like the best anyway. But I wouldn't just go on that as the only factor in my choice. If you find a particular type of machine to be easier than most it might be too easy.

You will want to get something that will challenge you. If it's already easy when you first get it home, then you've got nothing to work towards.


@clintflint - You can get a used elliptical for fairly cheap, but I would make sure to use it a few times at the gym before buying one for my home.

It took me a long time to get to the point where I felt comfortable on one. I can't imagine it would have been easy to keep up a regular exercise routine on it if it was my only option.


An elliptical trainer is pretty much the best type of fitness gear you can get if you can only buy one kind. It works all the muscles in the legs (as long as you make sure to work your legs backward as well as forwards on it) and helps with both running and cycling, plus it's supposed to burn the most calories per hour of almost any kind of exercise you can do.

They can be expensive and you have to make sure you get one with a good, long leg movement, but generally they are what I would recommend to anyone looking to buy a piece of exercise equipment for their home.

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