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The 4 Best Rear Drive Ellipticals for Your Home Gym

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 


In an increasingly competitive fitness equipment market, people have become more selective about which machines they want to invest their time and money in. Among the potential candidates, elliptical trainers have a long-standing reputation for being one of the most effective pieces of cardio machines available.

But how can rear-drive machines in particular boost your workouts? Their fewer moving parts, naturally smooth motion, and the ability to provide multiple levels of resistance are just a handful of the advantages that make up some of the best rear-drive elliptical models.

A man using the best rear drive elliptical at home
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In A Hurry? Here’s Our Best Picks

NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i Rear Drive Smart Elliptical with Folding...
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Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Exercise Machine Trainer with Optional...
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ProForm Hybrid Trainer Recumbent Bike and Rear Drive Elliptical, Compatible...
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BowFlex Max Trainer Series
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Product's nameBest Overall
NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i Rear Drive Smart Elliptical with...
Best Budget Option
Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Exercise Machine Trainer...
Best Hybrid Option
ProForm Hybrid Trainer Recumbent Bike and Rear Drive...
Best Compact Elliptical
BowFlex Max Trainer Series
Final ThoughtWith a solid steel frame that's engineered to last, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i is a fantastic elliptical machine with a lot to offer.The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical features a programmable magnetic resistance that relies on a heavy flywheel of 15.4 pounds to achieve its impressive performance.The obvious benefit of the ProForm Hybrid machine is its versatility - you can switch between recumbent cycling and elliptical workouts in an instant.Sitting at the top of Bowflex's range of Max Trainer ellipticals, the M6 takes up minimal floor space but has maximum potential for a full-body workout on par with commercial-grade machines.
Machine Size80"L x 32"W x 67"H55"L x 23"W x 64.5"H70.5”L x 24.5”W x 70.5”H49.3”L x 30.8”W x 65.7”H
Resistance Levels22161620
Stride Length10%NoneNoneNone
Incline Features10%NoneNoneNone
Max User Weight325 lbs330 lbs250 lbs300 lbs
Machine Weight215 lbs105 lbs117 lbs148 lbs
Price$$$$$$$
Learn moreSee at AmazonSee at AmazonSee at AmazonSee at Amazon

Why You Should Trust BoxLife

The BoxLife team proudly specializes in conducting thorough research and in-depth analysis of the latest fitness equipment to hit the market. We’re vehemently enthusiastic about pushing the boundaries of traditional training experiences and remain dedicated to helping users with varying workout goals reach their full potential.

Being beginners once ourselves, we understand how overwhelming the process of researching and selecting a particular machine can be – from understanding the technical jargon to deciphering which additional features are deemed essential versus simply nice-to-haves. We understand the necessary factors that could either make or break your current workout goals and we’ve done the legwork so you don’t have to.

Who Is This Guide For?

Since using these types of ellipticals is generally seen as a full-body workout for users of all fitness levels, there’s no limit to who can benefit from them. Whether you’re a professional athlete, an occasional gym-goer, or someone who’s never stepped foot inside a fitness center, you can easily get the hang of these devices to help maximize your gains.

How We Picked the Best Products

When selecting the best rear drive elliptical models for our list, we paired our personal experiences and research with customer reviews and feedback. Naturally, discussion platforms like Reddit and Quora are inherently unbiased and unfiltered sources, with people often being adamant in their opinions and beliefs on specific topics.

We also had a look at elliptical reviews on the most common retail sites like Amazon, Titan, and Rogue Fitness, where customers often left detailed comments about their overall experience with a product. Each feature, technical specification, and customer comment was carefully analyzed to ensure that the ones we selected made the cut.

People at the gym using the best rear drive elliptical
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How We Graded Each Product

The way each potential contender for the best rear drive elliptical machine was graded followed a strict set of criteria that set the bar for all devices. While some options may have scored higher in certain categories than others, there was an overall equal playing field for each entry across the following categories:

  • Rear Drive Design – Certainly the defining feature of these types of ellipticals, this serves as a synthesis of the overall build quality, strength, sturdiness, and durability. How well the generated motion mimics natural body movement, as well as the smoothness of the ride, can influence the general functionality of the device.
  • Resistance Levels – Being able to control and adjust the intensity of your workout is an indispensable feature that keeps users motivated and within their current fitness level. Having adjustable resistance and customizable programs are two fundamental pieces of the elliptical puzzle that, when assembled correctly, can catapult your cardio routine to the next level.
  • Stride Length – Measured as the distance between the foot pedals of an elliptical machine, this number determines the average length of time it will take for you to complete one full stride. Depending on your height and physique, having fixed or adjustable stride lengths could increase your muscle engagement and build momentum over time.
  • Noise – A common annoyance that often plagues many exercise machines, excessive noise can make an otherwise pleasant experience quite unpleasant. The level of sound generated is also a good indication of the quality and durability – if a machine makes loud, high-pitched noises, chances are its components aren’t on par with standard expectations.

The Products

Once all the major stats and features were carefully weighed and analyzed, four machines emerged as the most suitable candidates for our best rear-drive elliptical list. Of course, they all have their unique features and characteristics that nudge them ahead of the competition – which is why we’ve labeled each one accordingly.

NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i – Best Overall

Few fitness brands are as renowned and respected as NordicTrack, so it’s no surprise that their SpaceSaver SE7i model managed to outshine the competition across all categories. A sleek, minimal elliptical cross trainer fused with a sturdy frame and incredible performance results in a smooth workout experience that’s hard to beat. 

Its folding design is a nice space-saving touch, with a few thoughtful extras included to help make your journey much more enjoyable.

Pros

  • Dedicated 30-day iFit membership off the bat
  • Silent magnetic resistance technology with immersive preset workout programs
  • Soft-touch upper body grips and oversized cushioned pedals
  • AutoBreeze workout fan on the central console

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than other models dispute the foldable design
  • Somewhat larger footprint when fully expanded

Key Specs

Machine Size80″L x 32″W x 67″ H
Digital Resistance Levels22
Incline Options10%
Maximum User Weight Capacity325 lbs

Why It’s Great

With a solid steel frame that’s engineered to last, the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i is a fantastic elliptical machine with a lot to offer. The magnetic resistance technology is remarkably silent, allowing you to immerse yourself in your workout without any distractions or disturbances. Every transition among the 22 resistance levels is effortless, with a generous stride length that ensures your movement remains comfortable and natural.

Moreover, the auto-breeze workout fan manages to keep you cool and focused during even the most challenging workout. It’s directly linked to the intensity of your exercise, so the harder you push it, the more air it circulates.

When you feel like kicking things up a notch with some high-intensity interval training, the iFit subscription included in the purchase will come in handy. With dedicated Google Maps compatibility, it’s easy to explore new trails and terrains right in your living room. Plus, the pair of speakers on the central console can provide you with some crisp acoustic entertainment while you’re at it.

As for ergonomics, NordicTrack certainly didn’t skimp on the details. Soft upper body grips and oversized adjustable pedals along with sufficient cushioning result in a pleasant and overall well-rounded workout experience. When you’re done, the SpaceSaver SE7i can be easily folded away and tucked into a corner – taking up virtually no space at all.

Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical – Best Budget Option

When it comes to affordable ellipticals, few brands can rival the quality and performance of Sunny Health & Fitness. Their pre-programmed rear-drive elliptical trainer offers exceptional value for money, with all the necessary features for entry-level and even more advanced athletes. Its electromagnetic resistance system is quite reliable, with plenty of onboard workout options and customization for a smooth, consistent ride.

Pros

  • Intuitive backlit LCD screen with straightforward multi-function options
  • An affordable device with tons of features and customization options
  • Simple and efficient design with folding capability for easy storage
  • Ergonomic handlebars and oversized pedals ensure maximum comfort during the workout

Cons

  • Slightly shorter stride length
  • A shorter warranty period in comparison to other models

Key Specs

Machine Size55″L x 23″W x 64.5″H
Digital Resistance Levels16
Incline OptionsNone
Maximum User Weight Capacity330 lbs

Why It’s Great

The Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical features a programmable magnetic resistance that relies on a heavy flywheel of 15.4 pounds to achieve its impressive performance. You have full access to the 16 levels of difficulty, which keeps the challenge fresh and continuously evolving. Couple that with 24 preset workout programs that target body fat, cardio endurance, heart rate control, and interval training to name a few – and you get one of the most complete entry-level ellipticals on the market.

All of these workout stats are displayed on the onboard backlit LCD screen that’s easy to read and navigate. You can easily switch between manual mode and any of the preset programs with a simple push of a button. Plus, you have a dedicated device holder for your tablet or smartphone if you want to keep up with your favorite TV shows or movies while you’re exercising.

Moreover, the handlebars for full arm motion provide a solid workout grip, with simultaneous movement of the arms and legs for a smooth, natural motion. The oversized foot pedals have a textured surface for secure footing, while the adjustable stabilizers ensure a safe and stable ride.

As you’d expect with affordable choices for people looking to cut down on expenses, the Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical is a bit more unstable than higher-end models. This doesn’t necessarily mean it rattles during a more challenging workout though, it just means its compact design can’t exactly withstand any vigorous movements. As such, it might not be the ideal solution for taller users with longer stride lengths and higher weight limits.

ProForm Hybrid Trainer – Best Hybrid Elliptical

In a nutshell, hybrid trainers provide a 2-in-1 workout by combining a recumbent exercise bike and a standard elliptical cross trainer. For those who are looking for the ultimate full-body workout experience, the ProForm Hybrid Trainer could tick all the right boxes. It’s equipped with a heavy flywheel that uses inertia-based levels of resistance that are just as effective as their manual counterparts.

Pros

  • Hybrid machine with both cycling and elliptical training capabilities
  • Cushioned and adjustable seat that glides along the rail for extra comfort
  • Resilient alloy steel frame with durable construction
  • iFit programming and integrated Bluetooth 

Cons

  • The maximum user weight limit is limited to 250lbs
  • Slightly bulkier footprint due to the dual-purpose design

Key Specs

Machine Size70.5”L x 24.5”W x 70.5”H
Digital Resistance Levels16
Incline OptionsNone
Maximum User Weight Capacity250 lbs

Why It’s Great

The obvious benefit of the ProForm Hybrid machine is its versatility – you can switch between recumbent cycling and elliptical workouts in an instant. This is particularly useful for users who can’t decide whether they prefer one type of exercise over the other, or simply want to mix things up with their fitness routine.

Additionally, the inertia-based flywheel generates more resistance than manual options, with the steady cushioned pedals facilitating a natural stride. Their non-slip texture and adjustable power incline options create a solid workout that can be tailored to your exact needs.

The 16 levels of resistance coupled with the iFit programming capabilities are yet another plus, allowing you to track your progress and reach your goals more efficiently. The subscription gives you full access to on-demand workouts, live classes, and interactive training sessions, all led by certified personal trainers.

All of these tech features are controlled through the backlit LCD, which also includes a tablet holder so you can stream various media or play music on the dual 2-inch speakers while exercising. It doesn’t have an actual touchscreen but it’s still easy to navigate with the 9-inch display, giving you real-time stats and feedback throughout each training session.

However, the main issue with hybrid machines is that compromises were made to combine both the cycling and elliptical functions. As such, the stride length took the brunt of the limitation to accommodate the comfortable seat, with the maximum length being slightly lower than regular models – coming in at a modest 15 inches. While this might not be an issue if you’re a shorter user, taller customers may find it a bit uncomfortable.

Bowflex Max Trainer M6 – Best Compact Elliptical

In a perfect world, we all have enough floor space for an elaborate setup of fitness equipment that we can use at home. However, this usually isn’t the case, which is why compact elliptical trainers like the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 exist. Its cleverly engineered metal frame can substantially reduce the required footprint without compromising on performance.

Pros

  • A full year’s subscription the to Bowflex JRNY app out of the box
  • Can be used as both an elliptical trainer and a stair climber machine
  • Onboard workout options for both high-intensity and low-impact training
  • Space-saving design that can withstand even the most demanding workout routines

Cons

  • Requires a consistent JRNY subscription to access content beyond the first year
  • Warranty coverage could be better

Key Specs

Machine Size49.3”L x 30.8”W x 65.7”H
Digital Resistance Levels20
Incline OptionsNone
Maximum User Weight Capacity300 lbs

Why It’s Great

Sitting at the top of Bowflex’s range of Max Trainer ellipticals, the M6 takes up minimal floor space but has maximum potential for a full-body workout on par with commercial-grade machines. The key to its success lies in the combination of a low-impact stride and powerful resistance, resulting in an efficient workout that feels fluid and natural.

The premium 16” HD touchscreen monitor boasts a crisp display and intuitive navigation, with quick touch controls to access Bowflex’s JRNY app and its library of customizable programs. The subscription also grants you access to live classes with professional trainers and ‘Explore the World’ virtual adventures, which take you through on-screen tours around the globe. While the JRNY membership is free for the first 12 months, you do have to continue paying for it if you want to keep having access to extra content.

Moreover, the 300-pound user weight capacity is more than enough for the average person, with a reinforced metal frame and clever flywheel positioning that results in a stable and seamless experience. A total of 20 levels of resistance with automatic trainer control and a variety of onboard workouts make the Bowflex Max Trainer M6 an ideal choice for both rigorous HIIT and low-impact cardio.

Another excellent feature of this machine is the six-grip handlebars with special sensors that monitor your heart rate, which offer multiple points of contact for added comfort and safety. This allows you to target different muscle groups throughout your workout regardless of your body type, with a focus on arms, legs, and core strength.

Other metrics that the device tracks include calories burned, time spent, distance traveled, and speed. The M6 also features Bluetooth connectivity for syncing with compatible fitness apps and streaming audio directly to your Bluetooth-enabled devices. You can also stream Netflix and YouTube, with a few built-in apps that provide access to online content.

A man at the gym using the best rear drive elliptical available
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Tips on Buying a Rear Drive Elliptical

Pushing different manufacturers and their respective models aside, your own needs should be the primary factor when selecting an elliptical for your home gym. After all, not even the most expensive and high-end equipment will be able to help you if it’s not the right fit for you across the following categories:

Size and Available Floor Space

Even though we all wish that we had enough room for an elaborate setup with enough room to move around comfortably, the reality is that space can often be limited. How much are you willing to sacrifice in terms of free space?

While most people focus on the floor space as the central determining factor, you should also have a look at your ceiling height to see if there’s enough headroom to accommodate an elliptical. Bear in mind that you should look at the device’s specifications and your height as well when calculating how much space you’ll need. The whole point is to have proper ceiling height clearance as you stand in an upright position with each training session.

Another point to consider is the effect the machine will have on your flooring. Most of the models are quite heavy and when you add the weight of your own body, you can end up with a quite substantial force pressing down on just one corner. This could be potentially damaging to certain types of flooring, such as carpets and hardwood. To mitigate these effects, you should consider using a protective floor mat or a rubberized layer underneath.

Finally, some devices come with transport wheels and compact storage options, which can be very helpful if you’re dealing with limited floor space. But even then, you’d have to go through the hassle of packing it up and dragging the device around just to use it, which can be rather inconvenient.

Maintenance Costs and Concerns

Getting a rear-drive elliptical is only the first step in your fitness journey, but you’ll also need to think about how much it will cost to maintain in the long run. With rigorous use, you might need to replace some of the parts over time, particularly those that are related to wear and tear.

One of the major maintenance concerns with these types of ellipticals is the belt drive system. These parts require periodic lubrication to prevent them from wearing down too quickly since constant friction and heat can cause them to deteriorate sooner than expected. The flywheel generally requires similar treatments, with the added step of actually removing it and cleaning it off properly.

In terms of general maintenance concerns, you should perform regular checks for any loose or rattling parts. Make sure to tighten them up if needed and also check the battery of your console to verify that it’s still in good condition. If all else fails, you can consult the included manual and contact customer support if necessary.

A man using the best rear drive elliptical at home
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Stride Length and Capacity

There’s no such thing as an ideal stride length, as it will depend on your height and the way you move. The general numbers usually fall within the 15 to 20-inch range, but you can always adjust the device to fit your needs.

If you’re over six feet tall, then you’ll want to look for models that offer an extended stride length setting, since the standard settings won’t be enough. Going for something that doesn’t fall within these parameters might result in an uncomfortable workout and rigid movement, which defeats the purpose of having an elliptical in the first place.

As for the max weight limit, most devices fall in the 300 lbs range, but it’s always best to double-check the specifications before investing in a particular model. Don’t get too close to the weight limit though, as it could potentially cause the machine to break down sooner than expected due to the added strain that’s put on the frame.

Budget

No matter how much we try to avoid it, the financial aspect of shopping for new equipment will always prevail in the end. Back in the day, going for a more affordable option normally meant sacrificing features and quality, but that’s no longer the case.

These days you can find some good ellipticals at a reasonable budget, with slight compromises here and there to make up for the price. Even so, you can still get the basic training intensity and customization options that are present in more expensive models. You don’t necessarily have to go for the most expensive item on the shelf to get a satisfactory workout experience.

Warranty Coverage and Service

Last but certainly not least, the warranty policy is a common feature in many items, but it can often be overlooked during the selection process. When you’re tackling a major purchase like this, it’s always good to know that someone will be there to help you out in case of any mishaps.

Now, some manufacturers are so confident in their products that they offer a lifetime warranty on the frame, as well as a few years of coverage on the electronics. Don’t let this sway you too much though, since the availability of these particular offerings is quite rare. If you do happen to stumble upon one though, it’s worth giving it a look.

In a more realistic setting, you can expect the usual 3-year warranty on the frame, with some brands going as high as a 10-year warranty. In addition to this, a 2-year parts warranty and a 1-year labor warranty are normally included in the package. This should be more than enough to keep you reassured and your machine in top condition.

A fit man using the best rear drive elliptical at the gym
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Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better: a front or rear drive elliptical?

It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. A front-drive elliptical is an excellent choice if you’re looking for greater adjustable incline customization and a more traditional feel, whereas a rear drive will give you a smoother and more natural uphill motion.

Is 30 minutes on the elliptical better than walking?

Since elliptical trainers offer plenty of training variability, they can be a lot more effective than walking. The ability to vary the speed and resistance on ellipticals based on your body type and fitness level is an invaluable asset in promoting muscle growth, improved cardiovascular health, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

Are ellipticals good for knees?

Generally speaking, the inclining factor of an elliptical trainer is great for your knees, as it helps minimize the impact your exercise routine has on your joints. When paired with the right form and proper assembly, you can expect a low-impact workout that’s designed to target multiple muscle groups safely and effectively.

About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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