7 Best Ellipticals for Heavy People

LiveLifeBig.net may earn a small commission when you use one of the links on this page to purchase.
best elliptical for heavy plus size

I’m a big fan of ellipticals when it comes to staying healthy and keeping my cardio in check. Running might be the better workout overall according to the experts but do you know what the absolute best workout really is?

The one that you do.

Because ellipticals are a heck of a lot easier on the knees compared to running, I’m much more inclined to use my elliptical machine than I am to go for a run or try to workout on the treadmill. That makes the elliptical the best option for me.

But even though an elliptical can relieve some stress on my knees, I’m still always worried about whether or not the elliptical can handle me. Most elliptical machines, along with most other exercise equipment aren’t designed for heavy or plus size people in mind. At a little north of 375 pounds I have to be careful and I can’t just jump on the first elliptical I see in the gym.

That’s why I’ve done the research to figure out what’s going to work for heavy guys and plus size ladies. That means less stress for me and less stress on my knees.

I’ll cover everything heavy folks need to know about picking out the perfect elliptical with options for people of any size. But if you just want to skip ahead and see what made the list, you can check out my favorites here:

Best Overall Rear Drive
Niceday Rear Drive Elliptical
  • Weight capacity of 400 pounds
  • Very quiet and surprisingly easy to assemble
  • Budget friendly pricing
  • More than 500 five star reviews on Amazon
Best Overall Front Drive
Bowflex Max Trainer M8
  • 300 pound weight capacity but the manufacturer notes that many users in the 290-pound range comfortably use this elliptical
  • Front drive design makes this elliptical more compact and easy to move around
  • Even though they offer expert assembly, it's pretty easy to do on your own
  • More than 1,500 five star reviews
Best On A Budget
FUNMILY Elliptical Machine
  • 390 pound weight capacity offers a wide range of inclusivity at a budget-friendly price
  • Rear drive combined with a unique foot angle could be better or worse for joint issues, depending on the person
  • Easy to assemble and you can check out the assembly video on the Amazon product page for a better idea of what's required
  • Budget-friendly

Now let’s get started!

What Heavy Guys and Plus Size Gals Should Look For In An Elliptical

You already know that as a person of size, you always need to be on the lookout for equipment that’s fat-friendly. Weight capacity and heavy duty design might be the first things you think of but there’s more to finding the right elliptical than just the weight capacity.

Front vs Rear Drive

If you’ve done any kind of research on ellipticals already, you’ve probably seen a lot of debates around front vs rear drive ellipticals. Rear drive ellipticals have the flywheel (the thing that adds resistance) in the back and front drive has the same mechanism but is placed in the front.

When it’s broken down like that, it seems pretty simple but once you get into the details it can actually be quite confusing.

However,  both can work for heavy people and there’s no problem if you simply pick based on what you’re most familiar with already. For those that are still unsure, this chart gives you some idea of the differences between the two types of drive:

Front Drive

Rear Drive

Size Usually more compact. Slightly larger and will need a bit more room
Price Often, but not always, easier on the budget. Can sometimes be more expensive.
Feet Movement Feet are usually moving front to back more than they are up and down with front drive ellipticals. Feet move up and down with a bouncy movement pattern on a rear drive elliptical.
Standing Position Most users will lean forward more with front drive ellipticals. Rear drive leads to a more neutral and upright position.
Muscle Groups
Greater focus on anterior (front of the body) muscles like your quads.
Greater focus on posterior (back of the body) muscles like hamstrings and glutes.
Calories Burned Burns slightly less calories as a result of targeting smaller anterior muscles. Burns more calories as a result of targeting very large muscles like hamstrings and glutes.
Impact On Knees
and Back
Some plus size users may find their knees and back are a little achier as a result of the forward-leaning position. Some heavier users may find rear drive more comfortable on knees and back thanks to the more upright position.

Stride length can also be different between the two but that’s usually less of a concern. Differences in noise levels are also frequently mentioned but I haven’t found any real difference in noise between front and rear instead, the bigger factor comes down to the brand rather than the drive train.

So what does all this mean for a heavy person?

In most cases, a rear drive elliptical is the best option for heavy people because it will put people of size in a more upright position. Not only can this position be better for your knees, but constantly leaning forward means that your low back will be very active in trying to keep you balanced.

This can wear anyone out but when you’re a person of size, it can be even more exhausting which makes the neutral standing position that most rear drive ellipticals provide the better choice.

However, if you’ve been using a front drive for weeks without issue or you just want something that’s a little more compact, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with what you’re used to. So while there’s a case to be made for rear drive, especially if you’re a person of size, there’s plenty of room for personal preference too.

For this reason, we’ll include a mix of both front and rear drive ellipticals.

Stride Length

Besides front vs rear drive, you’ll probably hear a lot about stride length and why it’s important to match stride length to your height.

However, this is one of the more overhyped features and unless you’re especially tall (like over 6′ 4″) or especially short (under 5′) you probably don’t need to worry about this too much. Even if you are on the exceptional side of height, it still may not be an issue since you’ll still get a great workout.

In other words, long strides aren’t required and neither are short strides- it’s about staying active.

Additionally, it’s worth pointing out there isn’t a perfect correlation between height and gait length and it’s actually quite a complex subject. Some studies also suggest that heavier people have shorter strides so people of size are usually fine with the standard stride options available even if you are on the taller side.

Overall, stride length isn’t a major point of concern for most heavy people and is only a concern for the extreme ends of height.

Weight Capacity

Weight capacity is, of course, going to be the limiting factor for a lot of heavier folks but you already know that. I’m always wondering “Will this hold me?” whether we’re talking about a bicycle, exercise ball, treadmill, or any other piece of exercise equipment- and it’s no different when it comes to an elliptical.

But you can find quality exercise equipment that can support your weight and every elliptical on this list has a weight capacity of at least 300 pounds including one option (that you can see here) with a weight capacity of 400 pounds.

Resistance Type

Resistance is another one of those features that gets a lot more attention than it really should. Most modern ellipticals use eddy current magnets to increase or decrease resistance. While there are differences between brands, the concept is generally pretty similar. The other resistance type you could run into are fans which generate resistance using air currents.

Most of the time, the magnetic resistance is going to be quieter and still quite affordable but there’s nothing wrong with air resistance either.

So don’t worry about the hype and the majority of the time, resistance is resistance and there’s nothing that a heavy person needs to specifically look for here.

Storability and Size

Heavy-duty and high weight capacity can often mean big, bulky and a pain to move around.

But it doesn’t have to.

You can find ellipticals that can support heavy people while also being easy to move and stash to the side. If easy storage is a priority for you, then you’ll want to focus on front drive ellipticals which are usually a little more compact. Because the resistance mechanism sits below the handles, you end up with a lot of open space in the back that makes them easier to store.

Not only does this reduce the overall footprint of these ellipticals, but it can also make them easier to move as the majority of the weight is focused on the front of the elliptical. That makes the machine easier to tip to its side and roll around compared to a rear drive elliptical that may have its weight more evenly distributed.

And if you’re worried about moving a 100+ pound elliptical in the first place, just know that as a bigger person you’re very unlikely to have a problem. I’m not nearly as strong as my husband, but as a plus size gal, I can still lean in and get enough leverage to tip our elliptical and roll it around.

When it comes to the footprint or the amount of floor space the elliptical takes up, we’ve included a wide range of options with everything from the super-compact Schwinn to larger recumbent-style ellipticals.

Best Heavy Duty Elliptical For Bigger People

Now that you know exactly what we’re looking for, let’s get into the reviews starting with our best overall.

Best Overall Rear Drive: Niceday Rear Drive Elliptical With 400 Pound Weight Capacity

Best Overall Rear Drive
Niceday Rear Drive Elliptical
  • Weight capacity of 400 pounds
  • Very quiet and surprisingly easy to assemble
  • Budget friendly pricing
  • More than 500 five star reviews on Amazon

If you’ve read any of my other reviews, then you know that when we pick the best overall we’re looking for something that can work well for 95% of fat folks, and this affordable but high-quality elliptical from Niceday delivers exactly that.

To start with, there’s a 400-pound weight capacity along with a heavy-duty design that makes this a great option for heavy guys and plus size ladies. 400 pounds is on the higher end of what you can expect to find in most ellipticals (even the commercial grade stuff) and while that won’t cover everyone, it’s still pretty darn inclusive.

It also features a rear drive design that can help keep us bigger folks stay in an upright and more comfortable position. If you’re dealing with knee issues, that same upright position may also help keep joint stress to a minimum.

I also love how quiet this elliptical is, even with a bigger person using it. That may not be a huge deal for some people, but if you’re someone that likes to work out early in the morning then not making a huge racket can be a big bonus.

I also haven’t seen any big difference in sound as you switch between the 16 resistance levels which are also great as I’ve seen some ellipticals that seem to be louder the higher you increase the resistance. You can see it in use (but hardly hear it) in this video.

Assembly is another factor that’s not specific to heavy folks but still worth mentioning and this elliptical is super easy to put together. Trust me, if an elliptical isn’t easy to put together then you’ll hear all about it in the reviews. Instead, you’ll find dozens of reviews from happy people that haven’t had any issues with the assembly of this elliptical.

Speaking of reviews, there are more than 500 five star reviews on Amazon at the time of writing and many of them are from bigger people which is just what you would expect from an elliptical with a higher weight capacity.

As if all that wasn’t enough, you can also pick up this heavy-duty elliptical for a surprisingly budget-friendly price. You can take a closer look at the compact size, read more reviews from plus size people and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Best Overall Front Drive: Bowflex Max Trainer M3 With 300 Pound Weight Capacity

Best Overall Front Drive
Bowflex Max Trainer M8
  • 300 pound weight capacity but the manufacturer notes that many users in the 290-pound range comfortably use this elliptical
  • Front drive design makes this elliptical more compact and easy to move around
  • Even though they offer expert assembly, it's pretty easy to do on your own
  • More than 1,500 five star reviews

Just a head’s up that the Amazon page for this product has 3 different versions of the same elliptical but we’re focused on the one labeled “M3 Trainer Only” which is more than enough for most folks.

Bowflex is a popular name in the fitness industry and for good reason- they’re consistent when it comes to producing high-quality products and this elliptical is no different. However, the only downside is that the weight capacity is 300 pounds which is far less than our previous pick.

Still, if you check the “Customer questions & answers” section on the Amazon product page you’ll see Bowflex responding to customers that are over 290 pounds and ensuring that they shouldn’t have a problem. So even though you usually don’t want to be at the absolute max weight limit at all times, when the manufacturer comes out and says to go for it you’re probably in the clear which makes this elliptical a bit more size-inclusive than some other options on the market.

I also love that Bowflex themselves is responding to these types of questions and that’s always a good sign (at least in my book) when it comes to future customer support.

The front drive design means that this elliptical takes up even less room compared to our favorite rear drive option and on top of that, it also folds up nicely for an even smaller footprint. For a better idea of the size, you can check out the video and image reviews on Amazon to see how others have fit this elliptical into their living room or similar spaces.

Because there are several Bowflex products on one product page, it can get a little confusing to figure out which reviews are actually referring to the M3. Remember that the M3 is the simplest of the bunch so when you see issues with the interface or Bluetooth, they aren’t talking about the M3 which doesn’t have any kind of major display.

The biggest downside, and a possible deal breaker for some bigger folks, is the heart rate monitoring system which uses a chest strap instead of placing the sensors in the handles. Depending on your size and where you carry your weight, it could be difficult to get this to work.

However, a lot of folks aren’t worried about their heart rate when working out and if that’s you then this won’t be a problem either way. You can see the key features like the heartrate sensor in this video, then decide if this model is going to work well for you.

If this front drive elliptical sounds like a good fit, you can take a closer look at the heavy-duty design, read more reviews from big people and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Best On A Budget: FUNMILY Elliptical Machine With 390 Pound Weight Capacity

Best On A Budget
FUNMILY Elliptical Machine
  • 390 pound weight capacity offers a wide range of inclusivity at a budget-friendly price
  • Rear drive combined with a unique foot angle could be better or worse for joint issues, depending on the person
  • Easy to assemble and you can check out the assembly video on the Amazon product page for a better idea of what's required
  • Budget-friendly

This elliptical from FUNMILY is a bit newer to the market and as a result, there aren’t nearly the number of reviews that you’ll see in some of the other products on this list. However, if you’re focused on sticking within a specific budget and need a high weight capacity, your options are going to be a bit more limited and it’s worth checking out this rear drive elliptical.

With a weight capacity of 390, there’s a lot to work with here and 390 is definitely on the high end of elliptical weight capacities. Even at a budget-friendly price, you’re still going to get all the basics like a heart rate monitor (built into the handle), magnetic resistance, and a quiet design.

The big thing that’s missing (at least at the time of writing) is brand history but with a decent warranty and the backing of Amazon’s return policy, it’s definitely still worth considering. You can see some of the key features that users love in this Youtube video.

I’m also a big fan of the simple assembly and they include the entire assembly video on the Amazon product page so you know exactly what you’re getting into. This is something I wish more elliptical brands would start doing since it makes it much easier for folks to compare between ellipticals.

The other notable feature here is the pedal or step design which has a steeper angle at the top compared to some other ellipticals. You can see this if you take a closer look at the first picture with the step at its peak and this going to be a pro or a con depending on your body and your preferences. Either way, take close look at the pedal angle before you buy and make sure it’s a good fit for you.

Overall, this is a solid, but newer to market, elliptical that combines a great price with a very inclusive weight capacity. You can read more reviews, take a closer look at the angle of the steps and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Budget Runner Up: HASIMAN Elliptical With 350 Pound Weight Capacity

Budget Runner Up
HASIMAN Elliptical With 350 Pound Weight Capacity
  • 350 pound weight capacity at an affordable price
  • Rear drive and especially upright handles puts users in a neutral spine position which can be great for heavy people
  • Lifetime warranty on major defects for extra peace of mind
  • Quick to put together with full unboxing and assembly video included

I’ve included another budget option since ellipticals especially seem to come in and out of stock pretty regularly. Additionally, this elliptical from HASIMAN has a slightly lower weight capacity compared to our other budget option and if you’re under 350 it’s a good idea to compare the current price of both to find the best fit for you.

But beyond the generous weight capacity and heavy-duty design, I’m a big fan of the handle and pedal layout on this design. In the locked position, they’re especially upright which can put the user in a more neutral spine position.

This is a good thing for anyone but especially bigger folks that could end up with back problems if they’re constantly leaning forward to get into the best position. Still, the angle on this elliptical isn’t a huge difference but it’s still worth pointing out especially when it comes to figuring out which budget option makes the most sense for you.

I also love that this looks fairly easy to install. This guy gets it done pretty simply in this 8 minute assembly video.

As with our other budget pick, this elliptical is a little newer to the market and so you’re not going to see the same number of reviews that you’ll see in something like a Bowflex elliptical.

While that can make some folks uneasy, this elliptical is backed by a lifetime warranty that covers major issues and the team from HASIMAN is active in the Q&A section of the product page which is always a good sign in terms of customer support.

So if you’re looking for a good budget option that can still support people plus size people, it’s worth checking out. You can take a closer look at the upright handles, read more reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Best Premium Pick: Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine With 375 Pound Weight Capacity

Best Premium Pick
Sole Fitness E35 Elliptical Machine With 375 Pound Weight Capacity
  • 375 pound weight capacity with a broad and sturdy base makes this a great option for people of size
  • Excellent standard warranty which includes 2 years on labor and 5 years on parts which is above and beyond the typical elliptical manufacturer
  • More bells and whistles than other ellipticals on this list with the ability to set an incline, a built-in fan, multiple training programs and a sound system
  • Dozens of five-star reviews on Amazon confirm the long term durability of this machine

If your motto is “Buy nice or buy twice” then you’ll probably want to take a closer look at this premium elliptical from Sole Fitness. You’ll find all the bells and whistles of more commercial-style equipment along with a generous 375-pound weight limit.

But it’s not just the weight capacity that’s appealing to heavier people and the overall design is heavy-duty enough that bigger folks won’t need to worry about shaking or wobbling when they use this machine. For some perspective on just how heavy duty we’re talking, our best overall elliptical weighs 106 pounds when fully assembled while this elliptical weighs a whopping 244 pounds. That’s more than double the weight which means some heavy duty gear went into this elliptical!

It’s also heavier than the Sole Fitness E25 model, which is why it has a higher weight capacity. You can see some more differences between these two models in the following video.

Of course, the downside of that extra weight is that this elliptical isn’t going to be as easy to move around compared to ellipticals which are half the weight. On top of that, the package weight is 300 pounds so you’re to need some extra help when it comes to getting this where you want it.

But for many heavy guys and plus size ladies the extra heft in this elliptical is going to be well worth it and you’ll notice the difference in design and construction compared to more budget-friendly options. You’re paying for bigger pedals, a sturdier base, and heavier materials. Overall this elliptical is closer to what you’d find in a commercial gym which can make using this machine more enjoyable for heavy people.

You’ll also get plenty of other commercial gym features like the option to set an incline, your own personal fan to keep your cool, and an onboard sound system. There’s also a good variety of workout routines that are built into the elliptical and you should be able to get plenty of mileage out of them (pun intended).

All these features are also backed up by one of the better warranties I’ve seen on any elliptical which can give you some extra peace of mind.

If the price works for you, then the biggest downsides are the weight of the assembled machine, the 300-pound package it arrives in, and the floor space that this elliptical takes up. As I’ve already mentioned, those can also be major positives and even more so for larger people.

So if you have the space and budget, this could a great pick. You can take a closer look at the design, read more about the warranty and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Best Heavy Duty Recumbent Elliptical: ProForm Recumbent Bike and Rear Drive Elliptical Combination With 350 Pound Weight Capacity

Best Heavy Duty Recumbent Elliptical
ProForm Recumbent Bike and Rear Drive Elliptical Combination
  • 350 pound weight capacity offers a lot inclusivity
  • The same machine can be used as a recumbent elliptical/exercise bike hybrid or a traditional upright elliptical
  • A recumbent design with elliptical style pedals can be helpful to those with knee and joint pain
  • Shorter stride while in recumbent mode isn't a good fit for taller people
  • More than 500 five-star reviews on Amazon

When most people think of ellipticals, they think of standing upright and not in a recumbent position.

And those people aren’t wrong, but I still felt that this hybrid between a recumbent exercise bike and a typical elliptical deserved a spot on this list. Not only can the recumbent position be easier on the back and knees but the heavy-duty weight capacity makes it a good option for bigger people.

You also still get the option to use this elliptical in the upright or traditional position. That makes it an interesting option for people who want some variety or are planning on sharing their elliptical with someone else. If you’re like me and seem to have joint problems that “rotate” from your knees to your back and everywhere else, it can be nice to have the choice to switch between upright and recumbent positions based on whichever position is more comfortable that day.

While traditional recumbent exercise bikes still work for heavy people, they’re also going to have traditional pedals that rotate rather than the up-and-down motion of these elliptical-style pedals. That up-and-down motion can be easier on the joints and it’s one of many reasons why ellipticals are so popular when it comes to managing knee pain. By sitting down instead of standing up, you can also reduce the load on the knees and some heavy folks may find this even more comfortable.

Getting into a seated position can also be more comfortable for folks with mobility issues but that’s going to vary between individuals. However, just note that you won’t be able to use the arm movers when you’re in the seated position and those are only used when using the elliptical in the upright position.

While stride length usually isn’t a huge factor, it does become more important when it comes to the recumbent position and taller people (over 6’2″ in this case) may feel a bit cramped while riding this elliptical. Still, those folks can switch to the upright position where the stride won’t make as much of an impact.

As with every other elliptical on this list, you also get the benefit of a higher weight capacity and this elliptical can support up to 350 pounds. Heavy folks may also appreciate the option to sit which can make the overall machine feel a bit more stable when in use. You can see it in use in both the standing and sitting positions in this video.

Overall, this unique elliptical hybrid is best for folks that can make full use of both the recumbent and upright modes. If you’re only interested in recumbent, then a traditional exercise bike is probably a better option and if you only want to use the upright mode then one of the other ellipticals on this list is a better choice.

But if you want a little of both, this one is worth checking out. You can take a closer look at both modes, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Most Compact: SCHWINN Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical With 300 Pound Weight Capacity

Most Compact
SCHWINN Fitness 411 Compact Elliptical Machine
  • 300 pound weight capacity
  • Smaller footprint than most other options with front wheels for easier moving
  • The entire elliptical weighs just 100 pounds which also makes it easier to move around and store when not in use
  • More than 500 five star reviews on Amazon

While most ellipticals on this list (outside of our premium pick and recumbent option) can be moved off to the side and stored easily, this front drive elliptical from Schwinn has a few extras that make it even easier.

To start with, the elliptical has a very small footprint and the total square inches for the Schwinn is 1,000 compared to the 1,200 square inches from our best overall. It’s not a massive difference but if you’re working with smaller spaces then every inch counts. When compared to the 1,566 square inch footprint of our premium pick elliptical from Sole, you can really start to see the difference between this compact option and other ellipticals.

This elliptical is also lightweight with the fully assembled machine coming in at only 100 pounds. That’s 6 pounds less than our best overall and 144 pounds lighter than our premium pick. The lightweight design combined with the front wheels makes this relatively easy to wheel around.

All this mobility means this can be a good option for folks that want to wheel this elliptical out when they’re working out and stash it in the corner when not in use.

However, the downside is that with a weight capacity of 300 pounds it’s not going to be a good fit for everyone and a lower weight capacity is usually the price you pay for more mobility when it comes to exercise equipment.

This elliptical also isn’t as quiet as our top pick, but it isn’t obnoxiously loud either. You can hear it being used in this video.

Still, if easy mobility is a major priority, it could be worth checking out this option from Schwinn. You can take a closer look at the compact design, read more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.


Closing Thoughts

Thankfully, we’re way past the days of assuming that big, heavy, and plus size people don’t work out or exercise.

But despite an ever so slightly more englighted society, there’s still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to designing ellipticals and other exercise equipment in a way that’s better suited to bigger and heavier people.

With a lot of research and even more patience, you can find ellipticals that work for fat people but hopefully, I’ve been able to save you the hassle.

I’d love to hear what you think! Did you find an elliptical that worked for you?

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

Recent Posts