Best Compact Ellipticals of 2020
Compact and folding elliptical trainers alike are ideal for home cardio and strength training. Relative to traditional home ellipticals, they take up less floor space and are easier to move. Yet despite their smaller stature, the best of these models don't compromise on mechanics or features. They should support full strides and offer comfort as well a variety of resistance options.
Center-drive elliptical machines have the smallest dimensions and are non-folding. Front- and rear-drive ellipticals have longer frames, but may be foldable for storage. Check out our top three compact and/or folding ellipticals below, and read on for an in-depth buying guide for these types of elliptical trainers.
Three Best Compact/Folding Elliptical Trainers
Just like a standard elliptical machine, a compact elliptical can also have a front-, center-, or rear-drive. We’ve included a ‘Best Buy’ option for each category to help delineate the differences. Convenient size and good ergonomics are not the only reasons these three ellipticals are so popular. Depending on the machine, highlights include touchscreen displays, wireless heart rate monitoring capability, interactive video workouts, power inclines, built-in speakers, and mobile app compatibility.
Buying Guide for Compact Elliptical Trainers
What can you expect from a compact or folding elliptical trainer? The best options will feature all the functions you’re used to from a traditional cross trainer. However, sometimes a folding elliptical will cost a few hundred dollars more than a non-folding alternative with similar specs. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid confusion when shopping.
Every performance level is available with compact ellipticals if you know what you're looking for. Compact, non-folding ellipticals are sold in every price class, from budget-friendly models to commercial health-club quality machines. Folding ellipticals aren't built for commercial use. That said, you can find a wide range of performance quality throughout the category. Here are some important factors to consider.
Resistance: The best elliptical machines provide enough resistance to support smooth motion. This is important because the smoother the exercise, the longer a person can exercise before tiring. Smooth resistance also helps minimize the risk of injury. For most elliptical brands, the flywheel weight is an excellent clue to determine this aspect of performance. It can also tell you the top skill level that's supported on that machine. Although beginners may be satisfied with a flywheel weight of just 18 pounds, intermediate and advanced trainees will want more heft. Individuals who weigh more will also need relatively more resistance to gain a comfortable momentum.
Stride: Narrow foot spacing is part of a healthy, natural stride. You can identify this when slowly walking across a room. When your feet move past each other, they should be separated by no more than 2 inches. Thus the best compact elliptical trainers have virtually no gaps between their pedals. Another aspect of healthy stride is length. The best ellipticals for adults of average heights have about 20” long footpaths. People with shorter inseams might prefer ellipticals with 18” strides, but should probably avoid anything smaller. Some of the best ellipticals have adjustable strides such as 18 to 22 inches to fit a variety of users (or at least more dramatic ranges to also serve as stairclimbers and treadmills).
Incline: Adjustable stride is useful for enhanced calorie burn and targeted muscle toning, but an incline can also help meet these needs. Many ellipticals and hybrid trainers have power inclines. A maximum tilt of about 20% is typical, but specialty trainers have even steeper slopes. There are even workout programs that can pair the incline training with scenic interactive video for a more immersive exercise experience.
The best compact ellipticals are long lasting and rarely need maintenance. Here are some features to consider when assessing durability.
Drive Design: The only potential drawback of a rear drive elliptical is the floor space required, but choosing a folding model could be an easy fix for those with a space problem.
Maximum User Weight: A good compact elliptical trainer can safely hold at least 300 pounds. Some of the best ellipticals on the market (compact or not) have 400-pound maximum user weights. In most cases, the higher the maximum user weight, the more durable the product.
Warranty: The parts warranties on compact and folding ellipticals vary greatly. Moderately priced machines generally have parts warranties of two to five years. Lifetime coverage is usually included for the frame, and labor costs are free during the first year or two.
The best compact home ellipticals have the same features as larger machines, just with a less bulky frame or the option of foldability. Here are some features to look out for.
Folding: Adjusting a folding elliptical is easy. Hydraulics or electronics do most of the work, so little physical strength is required. It typically folds into half the size, saving significant space in the process.
Interactive Workouts: Some of the best compact ellipticals support interactive workouts as well as classic workouts. Interactive workouts use technologies such as Google Maps with Street View to take you around the world without ever leaving your elliptical. Some workouts offer ambient sound as well as visuals to deepen the immersion.
App Integration: These days, the top elliptical trainers include built-in apps or are WiFi enabled. This allows you to sync your machine with a variety of mobile or tablet apps for fitness stats tracking, interactive workouts, and entertainment.
List of Compact and Folding Elliptical Trainers
Three of our favorite compact ellipticals are shown above and below. For the overall value, they can't be beat.
Best Compact/Folding Ellipticals
|NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE9i||5-stars||18 LBS||24 Digital Levels||Under $1,500||See best price »|
|Horizon Fitness Evolve 5||5-stars||23 LBS||20 Digital Levels||Under $1,500||See best price »|
|Bowflex Max Trainer M3||4-stars||N/A||8 Levels||Under $1,000||See best price »|