Compact Elliptical Trainer: Pros, Cons, and FAQs

A compact elliptical trainer can be incredibly convenient fitness equipment for those who want to be able to do home based workouts but have...

Compact Elliptical Trainer: Pros, Cons, and FAQs
Compact Elliptical Trainer


A compact elliptical trainer can be incredibly convenient fitness equipment for those who want to be able to do home based workouts but have limited space. Just like any exercise machines, a compact elliptical trainer has got some positive elements, but also there are some downsides. To start with, they are super affordable, which makes them an accessible purchase for anyone who wants to create a small home gym and you can find a good quality mini elliptical for an affordable price. Unlike standard commercial ellipticals, they hardly take up any space and some can even be folded up and stowed away in the corner or under your desk at work. You can just pull them out every time you want to do an elliptical workout and achieve your fitness goals. These types of training machines also have the added bonus of being lightweight, so you can move it around easily and use it whenever and wherever you like.

With regards to the negative elements of investing in a compact elliptical trainer, their one major flaw is a lack of intelligent features that the bigger machines have. Since these models are much smaller, they tend to lack the range of resistance levels that normal cross trainers offer and don’t expect to find any workout programs either. Several compact machines also do not provide an upper-body option either, resulting in a less effective workout. However, instead of seeing this as a huge drawback, remember that this is basically just a trade off for getting a piece of gym equipment that is affordable and space saving, meaning that you can conveniently work out in the comfort of your home and not waste time commuting to the gym.

Ultimately, a compact elliptical machine has got the capacity to deliver an effective workout, but you need to make sure that you take the time to buy the right one. Here are just a few things you should look out for before investing in a compact elliptical trainer:

  • A decent weight limit
  • A stable frame
  • The right size for you
  • Additional features like heart rate monitor and resistance

And as long as you do your research, you should be able to find a compact elliptical machine that is able to meet your exercise needs.

Do Compact Elliptical Trainers Work?

A compact elliptical trainer might seem a bit gimmicky but in actual fact, they do work if you use them properly. Buying this type of fitness machine for home use is an excellent option for those who want to burn calories and build up muscles. However, there are a few major differences between these mini machines and their full-size counterparts that you need to be aware of before you get over excited about affordable pricing and the fact that it actually works.

A word of advice, though. No piece of equipment is going to give you the results you desire unless you adopt a lifestyle change and you make the smart choice to eat smaller portions of healthier food, exercise regularly (preferably daily) and cut back on empty calories like alcohol.

Most of Them Don’t Have Handles

Probably the major difference between a compact and a full-size cross trainer is the fact that the smaller models do not have handlebars. This means that all upper body motion is out of the picture and will have an impact on the number of calories burned. Now, this definitely isn’t a deal breaker. When you think about how many calories a person burns from just sitting down you are still going to burn some calories using a mini machine.

You Do Not Have to Stand Up to Use a Compact Elliptical

You Do Not Have to Stand Up to Use a Compact Elliptical


I used to love going for long runs until I injured my knee quite substantially due to the impact of the treadmill. Therefore, my physio advised using an elliptical trainer to aid my recovery. One of the awesome things about a compact elliptical trainer is that you don’t actually have to stand up to use it. You can essentially pedal away the pounds without having to worry about balancing without being able to hold onto the handlebars.

Resistance Levels Are Everything

The resistance level you choose to engage when working out on a compact elliptical trainer is important because more resistance means that your muscles have to work harder. This then results in increased protein breakdown as well as muscle activation. When your legs (or any part of your body) are working against resistance, your muscle fibers begin to tear and you will continue to burn calories in recovery mode post-workout in order for your body to repair these little tears.

Longer Workouts

If you are able to just pedal away while reading a book or scrolling the Internet on your phone, then it is likely that you will get less bored and you will end up working out for longer. 20% longer, according to recent statistics. Distracting your thoughts from the fact that you are working up a sweat and getting out of breath is the perfect motivation not to quit until you have reached the goal you have set for yourself in each workout session.

How Often Do You Need to Use a Compact Elliptical to See Results?

As with any type of workout, if you use a machine like this on a regular basis you can look forward to experiencing a big impact on your fitness levels. All you need to commit to is 30 minutes a day—or at least three times a week—and you will begin to notice your body changing. Here are some benefits you can look forward to experiencing:

  • More stamina and energy
  • Weight loss
  • Toned muscles
  • Increased muscle mass
  • A boosted metabolism

If you really want to take things to the next level, then you could place the machine under your desk at work and steadily pedal for hours without even thinking about it.

So, when we take all of the above into account and start looking at the pros and cons of using a compact elliptical machine, it is clear that if used correctly, you can and will lose weight via the use of a mini cross trainer.

Understandably, you shouldn’t rely on a compact elliptical as your sole method of training, but it can be an excellent complimentary addition to your collection of home gym equipment. Remember, even 10 minutes of exercise is better than just sitting in front of the TV eating a bag of chips!

Compact Ellipticals: The Good and the Bad

Aside from the fundamentally obvious points like the fact that mini elliptical machines offer you a more affordable space-saving solution, here are some of the pros and cons of a compact elliptical that really matter.

They’re an Ideal Piece of Beginners’ Kit

Many people reach a point in their lives where they just feel fed up of being lazy, out of shape and feeling sluggish, so they want to ease themselves into an exercise routine. However, most people transitioning into fitness don’t want to (or aren’t able to) sign up to a gym and jump in headfirst. If you are working toward leading a more active lifestyle, then a mini elliptical is a great way to get started, even if your fitness levels are right down to 0. Most of these compact machines can be stored under your desk and used sitting down. So why not spend 30 minutes pedaling away while sending some emails or finishing some work to boost your cardiovascular health? You can then build up the resistance levels until you can commit to partaking in a tougher workout each day.

You Can Still Multitask

I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say “I don’t have time to go to the gym or workout” and while this can be the case for most of the working population, a mini elliptical machine crushes that excuse. You can stride away while sending an email, watching your favorite movie, or even reading a book. All you need to do is get balanced, start peddling and forget about the fact you are even working out until your timer goes off to alert you that freedom is just on the horizon.

You Will Be More Inclined to Exercise

You Will Be More Inclined to Exercise


Compact elliptical trainers are versatile, which means that you will have fewer excuses to avoid a workout. Got too much work? No worries. You can do both at the same time. Got a friend coming over? You can still talk whilst you work out on a mini elliptical. You literally just have to put the machine in front of you and start. These compact machines are also super easy to put together and even complete novices can set one up in less than 15 minutes.

The Downsides

They Can Be Heavy

While these machines are much smaller than standard ellipticals and they are lighter, they are not necessarily going to be light enough to carry around easily. They almost always come with transport wheels. So, while you might not be able to take your mini machine on holiday with you, you shouldn’t have any issues pushing it around your living room or home workout space.

They Lack Features

Most of the good quality modern gym equipment now comes with onboard computer displays that make it easy to track your progress in real time. You can connect to a fitness app on your phone, monitor your heart rate, and set resistance levels at the touch of a button. Many cardio machines also offer a few pre-programmed workouts specifically for fat burning or toning. A compact elliptical trainer is not going to be able to give you all of these features—so you need to consider whether or not you are happy to forfeit all of this just to save some money buying a super simple cardio machine. Remember, you can always purchase a heart rate monitor that connects wirelessly to your phone separately to monitor your fitness progress.

Full Sized Cross Trainers vs. Compact Elliptical Machines

Before we move on to look at the best compact elliptical machines available to purchase, let’s quickly look at some of the main differences between a full-sized machine and a compact model. Obviously, there is a size difference, but there are more important comparisons between the two that need to be taken into account.


It goes without saying that there is a marked difference in price between standard machines and compact ones. While there is a wide price range depending on the equipment you choose, you can expect to spend around $300 for a standard sized elliptical trainer and this is when you select a model that falls into a budget category. Some standard cross trainers can set you back as much as $4000 if you choose one that comes with all the bells and whistles. A compact or under desk elliptical is going to cost under $300 and you can even pick up a super simple model for a snip over $100.

Stride Length

Stride length is important when it comes to working out on an elliptical machine and you must be aware that, due to their size, a compact elliptical will have a short stride length. This is unavoidable, but not a deal breaker—you might just find it a bit awkward to adjust to initially and you will probably have to work a bit harder to burn an equal number of calories as you would on a full-size trainer.


Elliptical trainers usually offer one of the following types of resistance:

  • Manual
  • Motorized
  • Electromagnetic

A full-sized machine could offer any one of the above resistance types, but a compact one will only ever be manual. You increase and decrease resistance by turning a knob manually. Some people see this as a bit of a hassle but, in all honesty, it really isn’t that much of a big deal.


Compact ellipticals tend not to have handles for portability and convenience reasons. They usually tend to just have pedals, as this way they require less space and offer the user more flexibility. While a compact elliptical can be useful for a lower body workout, full-sized machines offer you the potential to burn more calories via incorporating upper body motion as well.

Should I Buy a Compact Elliptical?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer here, as every individual is different when it comes to their fitness needs and goals. If you are serious about weight loss and you already have some experience with training, then you might find you become frustrated with a compact elliptical machine, as it isn’t going to give you the full workout experience where you work up a real sweat. On the other hand, many people spend a ton of money on buying full-sized machines that never get used and just sit in the corner collecting dust. I would say that a compact elliptical can be a good complementary tool to other pieces of gym equipment for beginners and avid gym-goers alike. As we mentioned earlier, the efficacy of the machine comes as a result of how frequently and appropriately you use it. If you are just starting out creating your own home gym, then a compact elliptical is an excellent space and money sa​​ving solution.

Our Pick of Compact Ellipticals for 2019

Now that you understand the main differences between compact cross trainers and their full-sized counterparts, it’s time to take a look at which mini ellipticals are going to provide you with the most value for money. All of the machines listed below are available to purchase from reputable online sources such as Amazon and many of them are subject to free and fast shipping.

Amazon also offers its own buyer protection schemes, so if there is a fault with your item you will be able to exchange it much quicker than if you had to send it to the manufacturer to be replaced or repaired.

Cubii: Smart Under-Desk Elliptical


Cubii Smart Under-Desk Elliptical


This compact elliptical is one of the best you can find on the market and as it fits snugly under a desk, it is ideal for use at home or at work. It is the very first of its kind to offer users the ability to sync directly with FitBit and it even offers eight different programs that come built into the machine. It offers excellent value for money and it is far more personalized and interactive than other models. Its sleek design and virtually silent operating mode mean that you can easily keep it under your desk in the office and no one will bat an eyelid. Its ergonomic design caters for taller people in a fuss-free manner and the only drawback is that it does fall into the higher price range of compact ellipticals, but it is worth it when you consider that it is one of the few smart under-desk ellipticals in existence.

FitDesk Under Desk Elliptical

FitDesk Under Desk Elliptical


This under desk elliptical is a purpose built, sturdy device that lets you keep up with your fitness routine while at work. The fluid shuffle motions that are commonly found in full-sized machines makes this item superior to the rest in the same price bracket and even has the added bonus of a built-in foot massager. The resistance is easily changed via a foot lever. As the FitDesk is less costly than the Cubii, the design isn’t as sleek. For starters, it is a bit longer than you would expect, which gives it a bulkier appearance. It also does not guarantee a smooth, silent experience that can be a deal breaker if you work in an open plan office.

iDeer Under Desk

iDeer Under Desk


This versatile compact elliptical machine offers users the opportunity to work out in both standing and sitting positions and comes with a multi-functional monitor. There is also a brake resistance system in place and it can be used comfortably at home or in the office. It features an LED screen with five different settings allowing you to keep track of how far you have pedaled and how many calories have been burnt. It is easily adjustable and built to last for customer satisfaction.

Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical

Cubii Pro Under Desk Elliptical


The Cubii Pro offers Bluetooth connectivity and patented ergonomic technology. It is lightweight, making it easier to transport between your home and office and it is incredibly easy and quick to assemble. While it lacks an LCD display, you can connect it straight to an app on your phone to accurately track your progress and its sturdy build makes it more robust than many of its competitor products. The price tag is not expensive when you consider all of the options it offers and when you take into the account that if you order online from Amazon, shipping is fast and free.

Final Thoughts

As you know by now, a compact elliptical machine can be a great solution to getting started on your journey to becoming a fitter, healthier you. Affordable pricing and versatility are what makes these machines appealing to both novices and avid fitness freaks that want to supplement their existing workouts while they are bored at work or lounging around at home watching TV. As with full-sized machines, prices vary greatly for mini ellipticals, so don’t fall into the trap of buying the cheapest one you can find if you want it to last and actually be effective. Before making any kind of purchase, you should take the time to consider if this is the right kind of machine for you to invest in. Even though they are all pretty affordable, there is no point spending money on something that you are not going to use. Furthermore, modern machines offer far more than a standard water bottle holder and provide everything you need for a good cardio workout. With regards to results, the products we have mentioned above have received consistently good feedback across a wide variety of reviews online and they are by far the most superior models that we have found.