Compact Elliptical Trainers

Compact elliptical machines are the space saving alternatives to the standard models commonly found in gyms. They are a popular choice for those that want an elliptical in the home that is not bulky. Compact elliptical trainers come in several variations.

Many argue that compact models are not as effective as standard ones due to compromised build quality but like everything else, it is important to invest in a quality product.

Like all exercise machines, compact elliptical trainers have their pros and cons. For starters, they are really affordable. Getting a quality machine does not require a hefty investment making them ideal for those on a budget. Aside from price, they require less floor space which is perfect for smaller rooms. Some ellipticals are so compact that they can be used and stored under a desk. In addition to occupying minimal floor space, compact trainers are very lightweight and often come with wheels for additional mobility so users are able to move the machine around with ease.

As for cons, a major one is a lack of features. Since they are smaller, most compact models do not have a wide variety of resistance levels and stride lengths and have few if any programs. Some also lack an upper body option.  Rather than a con, a lack of features should be seen as more of a tradeoff. Saving space is worth fewer features for those that want to conveniently work out at home without having a large machine taking up space.

The bottom line is, a compact elliptical is more than capable of delivering a great workout. The key is finding the right one. Things to look for include an adequate weight limit, stable frame, the right size (length and width) and additional features (heart rate monitor, resistance levels, preset programs, etc.). All in all, a compact trainer is a wise option for those unable to house a bulkier machine.

Best Compact Ellipticals
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-4% Stamina InMotion Compact Strider
The Stamina InMotion Compact Strider is a great choice even if you are looking to test the waters with an under-desk elliptical. It’s price tag is undoubtedly ...
$94.98 $99.00
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-1% Jfit Under Desk Elliptical
It was the ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ buzz that first brought our attention towards office desk workout equipment. Hell, if no amount of gym time is going to ...
$136.61 $137.32
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Editor choice
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a smart compact elliptical designed for desk job holders. This is also the first smart elliptical that directly syncs with Fitbit
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-58% Body Champ BRM3671 (2 in 1 Dual Trainer)
This is the best elliptical under $300. The number of features that you get from the BRM3671 will surely surprise you. At this price point, none of the good ...
$169.99 $399.99
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-1% Stamina 55-1610 InMotion E1000 Elliptical Trainer
It is a cost effective piece of home gym equipment that everyone can benefit from. The E1000 is an impressive, space saving trainer constructed from quality ...
$89.03 $89.99
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-0% Body Rider Fan Elliptical Trainer
At a Glance: Body Rider Fan Elliptical Brand Body Max Capacity 240 lb. Price Range Under $200 Resistance Dial ...
$134.96 $134.99
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Compact Elliptical Trainers: Do They Really Work?

Some refer to the compact elliptical as the laziest fitness machine in the world but compact trainers offer more of a workout than most would expect. If you’ve always wondered if they work and if buying one is worth the money, the answer to both is yes! They burn calories, promote the development of lean muscle mass and more so get one right now.

It is common sense to assume that compact elliptical trainers work since full-sized elliptical trainers are recognized as one of the top fitness machines. The major difference is that most compact elliptical trainers do not have handles so the upper body motion is removed from the equation thus impacting calorie burn and making it a lower body specific workout. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. Especially when you see how many calories you can burn sitting down. We can’t provide you with an exact number because factors including weight, workout intensity and duration play a role so grab your fitness tracker, get comfortable and pedal away.

Speaking of calories, that is where the effectiveness of compact ellipticals lie. They make it easy to literally pedal the pounds away and, although an option, you don’t have to stand to do it. Along with giving something for your lower body to do for whatever duration you choose, the resistance levels contribute a lot to the quality of each workout. Whenever resistance is involved, the muscles work harder. This results in an increase in muscle activation along with protein breakdown. By working against resistance, more tears are made in the muscle fibers so along with burning calories due to work output, even more energy (calories) is burned to repair and recover. You are also likely to work out 20% longer. Having the ability to multi-task creates a distraction and when distracted, the effects of fatigue are blocked.

With regular use, a compact elliptical can have a huge impact on your fitness progress. Thirty minutes a day or even a few times each week can get you closer to your weight loss goals, tone the lower body, boost metabolism, and increase muscle mass. The key to reaping those benefits is continuous exertion at 80-90% MHR. On top of that, change things up. When presented with variation, the body rises to the occasion and muscles are confused meaning greater activation. The easiest and most convenient way to do that is putting the resistance levels to good use. There is also the option to work in intervals and engage the upper body by using dumbbells or a kettlebell.

Bottom line is, compact elliptical trainers do work. Despite their size, they get the body moving and that’s the key to staying fit and healthy. Of course, you shouldn’t solely rely on a compact elliptical for your physical activity but having one is a good addition to your collection of gym equipment. It’s great to turn to when you either don’t have time for a workout or just want to conveniently burn additional calories. When you’re moving, even if it’s just the lower body, you are expending calories, promoting an anabolic environment for muscle gain and the circulation of oxygen-rich blood.

What to Look for When Buying an Under Desk Elliptical

So, you want a compact (also known as an under-desk) elliptical. As discussed, it is a great addition to your collection of fitness equipment. This type of elliptical is something you’ll likely use on a regular basis. The thing is, if you’ve never purchased one prior, you probably don’t know what to look for. No sense spending your money on a subpar trainer so check out what you should look for below.

Before adding to your cart and completing the purchase, take a close look at the dimensions. Not only do you want to ensure that the elliptical fits under your desk but you need enough room to pedal without hitting your knee on the desk. To get the right measurements, first, take note of the amount of floor space underneath your desk to ensure the trainer fits. Then, look at the height of the trainer but keep in account how much leg room you need and the additional inches required to pedal comfortably.

It’s nice to have an under-desk elliptical that you can move around with ease but don’t chose a model that is too light. The stability of under-desk trainers lie in the materials used and build quality. Most under desk ellipticals worth buying have a steel frame making them heavier than aluminum and much more durable. As for build quality, look for hints that the machine is well built. As said, steel tubing is one as are the little details like anti-slip foot plates and plastic coverings to protect the flooring underneath and absorb shock. If still in doubt, head to a local fitness store that has the model you want and try it out.

Resistance Levels
Some feature three while others offer more. This really depends on your needs. Just don’t expect a wide range of options from this type of elliptical. Since they are compact, there is only room for so much.

Digital Display
A digital display that tracks your progress is often a sign of a quality product. We live in a modern age so models missing a basic display may not be worth your money. Make sure the under-desk elliptical you choose at least tracks the distance covered.

Convenient Handle
This isn’t an absolute must but is certainly a nice feature. Many under-desk elliptical trainers have a handle so you can easily pick it up to store it away or move to another location. Although much more portable than full-size models, compact ellipticals still have some weight to them so you want to be careful and a handle makes moving it around super simple (and you get a little arm workout).

Since you’re going to use the trainer while working and doing other activities, it must be quiet. Fortunately, this isn’t a problem for the majority on the market. Mechanisms of this type are pretty basic so there’s nothing to cause unnecessary noise. To make sure, either try it out if you can or turn to online reviews. If an elliptical is noisy, people will mention it.

Mini Elliptical Trainers: Pros and Cons

Like all things, mini elliptical trainers have their pros and cons. Instead of going over the basic pros that you probably already know like the space saving benefit, ease of use, safety (elliptical training is low impact) affordability and cons like limited resistance levels, let’s go over the things that really matter to you. Check out the pros and cons of mini ellipticals below.

Pro: They’re Ideal for Those Transitioning to an Active Lifestyle
Those making the switch from a sedentary to an active lifestyle have a difficult transition period. They either can’t get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis or their bodies have a hard time adjusting to being more active. Since mini ellipticals can be used sitting down, working out with one is an excellent starting point. Perhaps use it for 30 minutes once a day to set the foundation for good cardiovascular health. From there, gradually increase resistance to better engage the muscles and slowly start trying other forms of exercise until you develop a workout groove you can stick to.

Con: Not Suited for all Desks
Yeah, this kind of sucks but it happens. Don’t be surprised if you place your compact elliptical under your desk and can’t pedal without hitting your knees. If so, it really isn’t a huge deal. There’s always the couch or your favorite chair.

Pro: Mini Ellipticals Allow You to Be Easily Distracted
You can seriously watch your favorite television show/movie as you stride away. After gaining your balance, it’s easy to get wrapped up in whatever you’re doing without realizing your work output. Compact elliptical trainers present the opportunity for an experience similar to listening to music while you exercise but just expands the list of activities you can do to distract yourself. For example, there is the option to sit at your desk and get work done, do some online shopping, catch up with a friend via text, and more.

Cons: Weight
Although compact and much smaller than standard models, mini trainers are not exactly lightweight and are therefore a bit difficult to lug around. That being said, an elliptical without some weight is a low-quality one. It must be sturdy enough not to tip over during use.

Pro: They Make You More Inclined to Exercise
Due to their versatility, mini elliptical trainers make you more inclined to exercise by eliminating excuses. It is nearly impossible to think of a reason not to pedal away while on the couch watching a film or binge watching your favorite television show. All you have to do is place the compact machine in front of you and get started. You don’t even have to change clothes unless you plan to work up a real sweat. On top of that, mini ellipticals are easy to assemble so you don’t even have that as an excuse. Even the most inexperienced users will have it ready to go in 10-15 minutes.

Full-Sized vs. Compact Ellipticals

To round out this informational piece on compact ellipticals, let’s go over the differences between full-size and compact models. The size difference is the obvious one but their differences go beyond that. Continue for a detailed comparison of full-sized and compact elliptical trainers.

Price is another obvious difference when comparing full-sized and compact elliptical trainers. Although the price range is wide, a standard sized elliptical will set you back a minimum of $300. Low-end models that people often buy for their home gyms range anywhere from $300-$1,000 while others can cost anywhere from $1,000-$4,000+. As for compact trainers, they cost less than $300 dollars. Models at or considerably below the $300 mark are usually compact ellipticals that fit underneath desks. Some even have special add-on options like cords that come at an additional price.

Stride Length
Compact ellipticals have short stride lengths. It is unavoidable because they are much smaller but since you’re not taking full strides like on standard sized models, limited stride length isn’t a huge issue for most. On the other hand, full-sized models allow you to adjust stride length to correspond with your height. Some offer a 16-18-inch stride length while others feature a 20-inch stride length which suits a number of people, short or tall.

Resistance Options
Ellipticals feature one of the three types of resistance which are manual, motorized and electromagnetic. Whereas full-sized models can feature any one of the three, most compact ones are manual. Tension is increased and decreased with the turn of the dial.

For portability and convenience, most compact models only have pedals so they require less space and give the user more options in terms of where they exercise. That being said, handles do bring the benefit of an upper body workout. By engaging the arms, chest, and shoulders, the upper and lower body are simultaneously put to work. Additionally, there’s the potential for more calorie burn with an upper body motion.

Both types of elliptical trainers have useful features. Compact ellipticals are more basic which appeals to those who don’t like a lot of fluff. They often have a digital display that houses a fitness monitor. The monitor usually tracks the number of strides, distance covered, and calories burned along with workout duration. Some even have extras like cords for an upper body option. When it comes to full-sized models, expect more. Certain ones actually adjust tension level based on heart rate while others have preset workouts, and even sound systems.

Drive System
Lastly, when comparing full-sized models and mini/compact ones you can’t forget about the drive systems. Compact trainers either have a center drive since that’s the only system the compact design will accommodate or a chain drive which is what you’ll find on many under desk options. For full-sized trainers, front, rear and center models are available.

And now you have the complete scoop on compact elliptical trainers. We covered a lot so if you’re going to take one thing away from all this info, that should be to get a compact elliptical NOW. They have so much to offer and eliminate excuses.

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Waste of money, these machines do not give a cardio workout.


looks uncomfortable


Thanks for this post. I think I will get one for my office.
PS: Loved your doodles 😛