Elliptical Trainer Buyers Guide

Exactly what makes a good elliptical trainer? What kind of features? Comfort? Durability? How much money to spend?

Don’t worry too much. After reading Building Muscle 101’s elliptical trainer buyers guide you will know exactly what kind of elliptical trainer you need to suit your needs and to match your budget.

The following points will help you decide what kind of elliptical trainer you need to your particular fitness needs.

Home elliptical trainers

Because of the elliptical machines popularity, more and more people are buying home elliptical trainers. Because of this fact, more and more exercise manufacturers are producing all types of elliptical trainers.

There are just so many elliptical trainers on the market today and buying one can be quite a confusing task. There are good elliptical trainers and there are bad elliptical trainers.

After reading this article, you should have an idea of how to spot good ellipticals as opposed to bad elliptical trainers.

I’d like to go over some of the in’s and out’s of what to look for in an elliptical trainer. I think it’s very important that you understand what you are buying and to get the best elliptical trainer for your needs for the right price.



Some elliptical trainers are long, up to 5 feet long and over 4 feet tall at their highest point. Make sure you measure the space in which you plan to put the elliptical trainer in.

Some elliptical trainers like the Precor models are as long as 6 ½’ long, 2 ½’ wide, 5′ high and can weight 200 plus pounds. Others like the Smooth Fitness elliptical models can be as small as 4′ in length, 1 3/4′ wide, and 5′ high. These types of models tend to be a little lighter and easily portable.

Make sure you know what size of elliptical trainer you want. Consider the dimension of your workout space and storage space to that of the elliptical trainer.


If you plan on transporting the elliptical trainer from your bedroom to the living room, you might want to get an elliptical trainer such as the Smooth ME that’s light, portable and has transport wheels under the base.

Certain ellipticals have transport wheels under it’s base for easy transportation that you easily tilt forward and move it to it’s new location.

Otherwise, you will have a heck of a time getting the elliptical trainer in front of your living room television set.

Quiet operation

There’s nothing worse than trying to workout on a noisy piece of exercise equipment. I know, it may seem like such a small thing but over time, that repetitive, irritating sound can grow on you to the point of abandoning the exercise.

It can drive you crazy!

You will want to ensure that you get an elliptical trainer that’s quiet especially if you want to listen to music or watch your favourite T.V show while exercising.

User weight

Very important!!

Elliptical manufacturers will specify a maximum user weight that an elliptical trainer can handle for safe and trouble free operation.

Consider your goals and the goals of other exercisers in your home before you start your search. It’s important to consider who else might be using the elliptical trainer before making your purchase.

Be sure not to under buy when it comes to elliptical trainers. Make sure that the frame is sturdy enough to support all potential exercisers in your home.

Elliptical trainers come with a certain maximum weight capacity that they will hold. Some can hold 300 plus pounds while others have a hard time adjusting to 250 pounds.

Buying an elliptical trainer that can’t support your weight or someone else’s weight will eventually break down. You will want to ensure that the elliptical machine can support the weight of any potential user in your family.

Please make sure that the elliptical trainer can support all potential exercisers in your household.

User height

Very important!!

Elliptical trainers with a smaller base frame will usually have suggested height limitations. Due to the smaller base frame, the elliptical pattern is greatly reduced and condensed for taller individuals.

Taller individuals may not experience the full elliptical range or the total body workout.

If you or someone you know is over 6′ in height, you might want to consider an elliptical trainer with a larger base frame.

Of course, there are elliptical trainers that have small base frames that come with adjustable foot peddles. This way you can adjust the foot peddles to match that of your own height.

Adjustable foot peddles are a great option to have since it allows most exerciser of all height to use the elliptical trainer.


Choosing a frame will depend on two things. Stationary and portability. A heavy sturdy frame will most likely be made of solid steel. These kind of frames are made to last and will more likely have a solid feel to it. These kinds of elliptical trainers can weight upwards of 200 pounds or more.

Portability is difficult with heavier frames.

On the other hand, a light frame can be easily transported from room to room, provided it has transport wheels.

It will depend on your goals and the space you have at home. If you want a heavy, solid piece of elliptical exercise equipment, you might want to consider having an exercise room.

If on the other hand you want to park your elliptical trainer in front of a TV, you might want a lighter frame for easier transport, provided it has wheels.

Adjustable resistance

Variable magnetic resistance offers the best ride. With variable magnetic resistance, you can choose which levels of resistance you want to workout to. Easy, medium or hard, a variable magnetic resistance system can easily and automatically adjust to your workout needs.

Make sure that the elliptical machine has electronic resistance levels. This way, the resistance can be controlled from the display/control panel that’s easily and readily accessible and you don’t have to stop and adjust the resistance manually.

Most elliptical machines now have electronic resistance controls, so I would suggest you try and stay away from manual settings.

You will want to ensure that the elliptical trainer has an adjustable and automatic resistance setting, preferably magnetic since it offers the quietest and smoothest action.

Adjustable peddles

All elliptical trainers come in different shapes and sizes. With elliptical trainers, one size definitely does not apply to all. If you plan on having more than one person use the elliptical trainer you might want to get an elliptical machine with adjustable foot peddles.

With quality elliptical trainers, you can adjust the foot peddles to match that of your own needs or have someone else adjust the peddles for their needs. The beauty of having adjustable foot peddles is that you can add variety to your workouts.

Let’s say you have two exercisers in your family. One is 5′ 6″ and the other is 6’2″. The adjustable peddles allow the exercisers to both get the same kind of workout regardless of their height.

Take the Smooth CE for example, it has moveable foot peddles that allow you to adjust the elliptical motion based on your height. This allows the you to get the optimum stride regardless of your height.

You will also want to ensure that the foot platform is large enought to accommodate all users of the elliptical trainer.

Elliptical stride

The elliptical stride or range of motion on an elliptical trainer is determined by the orbit or arc of the elliptical trainer.

The longer the stride on an elliptical trainer the better. The shorter the pattern, the more choppy the stride becomes. Why? Shorter patterns tend to go up and down as opposed to an elliptical pattern. You don’t want this. You want an elliptical trainer with a nice full stride.

If the pattern isn’t expansive, then the workout isn’t nearly as effective.

Strides can vary anywhere from 7″ to 21″. Just remember that the longer the stride, the more you’re going to be paying. Certain elliptical trainers will also provide adjustable foot peddles so that you can match the range of motion to your body type.

Ramp settings/Incline capabilities

An elliptical trainer with incline capabilities will work different muscle groups. Depending on the level of incline, you can work either your upper body or lower body. A high incline position will work the back and lower legs. A low incline will work the upper body.

If you can afford it, adjustable ramp settings is a nice option. This way, you can adjust the intensity of the workout by targeting different muscle groups.

Display/control panel

Some of the more expensive elliptical trainers will display feedback such as:

– Calories
– Calories per burned per minute
– Heart rate
– Resistance levels
– Strides
– Strides per minute
– Time
– Room tempature
– Programmes

Quality elliptical trainers will have a full display console and control panel that gives the user feedback and that extra motivation.

I use a Precor 5.23 at my gym and I don’t think I could handle not seeing any feedback on my progress. As well as feedback, I get to choose from 9 pre-programmed courses ranging from cross training and intervals to weight loss.

Pre-programmed workouts

If you need something to keep you motivated while exercising, you might want to look into programmed elliptical trainers. Pre-programmed elliptical trainers will keep you focused and motivated while keeping you on track with your goals and objectives.

Using pre-programmed courses adds variety and excitement to your workouts. You can vary and adjust your workouts based on your fitness objectives. Let’s say you want to lose weight, just punch in the program and presto, you have a weight loss program.

I strongly suggest you look for an elliptical trainer with an easy to read and effective control/display panel and if at all possible, pre-programmed courses. It will make your workouts all that more effective and entertaining.

Power source

Most elliptical trainers need a power source for the electronic magnetic resistance and control panel features. Most home elliptical trainers will come with a power cord that you simple plug into a power outlet on your wall.

Others will require a battery. Make sure you know which power source you want to use.

Test the elliptical out

Be prepare to go to the store prepared to test the equipment in the manner in which you will be using it. Put the elliptical trainer through it’s paces and go all out for a little while.

After a good ride you may notice some wobbles, creaks, or vibrations which you may want to stay away from. Plan on wearing comfortable exercise clothes and shoes. Don’t hesitate to spend 10 to 15 minutes on an elliptical trainer.

It’s your purchase, take your time and make sure it’s what your looking for.

I think it’s very important that you understand that elliptical trainers are not designed as “one size” fits all exercise equipment. Make sure that the elliptical trainer can support all potential exercisers in your home. Otherwise, your elliptical will break down.

All the best,


Blake Bissaillion

Blake has been weight lifting for about 28 years now. He's 45 years of age and started seriously training when he was 18 years old.

Blake is the founder of Building-Muscle101.com, a successful fitness website that has been around for more than 15 years.