ProForm Endurance 520 E Elliptical Trainer
ProForm is a high-end home fitness equipment manufacturer. The company occupies a middle space between low-cost units from makers like Gold’s Gym and the indestructible but expensive gym-quality offerings of Rogue Fitness.
ProForm has been in business for more than 30 years. Their mission is helping people meet fitness goals with reliable, full-featured, easy-to-use machines that can quickly become part of one’s daily regimen. ProForm provides treadmills, elliptical trainers, HIIT trainers, and digitally connected cardio machines called the SMART series.
You can also purchase rowers, hybrid trainers, and specialty trainers from ProForm. Finally, the iFit programs replicate group fitness and one on one coaching, at a moderate price, from home or the road.
In this review, we will drill down on the Endurance 520 E indoor elliptical trainer and all of its features, so let’s lace up our trainers, step into the pedals, and figure out if the ProForm Endurance 520 E is worth the price tag for your personal home fitness goals.
Widely adjustable stride length for different users
Compatible with mult-featured iFit coaching from ProForm
18 pre-programmed workouts and 18 resistance levels
Ramp inclines up to 20 inches
Front drivetrain means a comfy, trouble-free ride
Movable upper arms feature soft hand-friendly grip surfaces
Magnetic/digitally connected/silent resistance with 15 pound flywheel
Manual, not power, incline--can only raise and lower when standing off the pedals
Pedals don’t stop immediately when you get off because of inertia flywheel
First up, a word of caution: the pedals keep spinning after you get off. That is because they create inertia which drives the flywheel, instead of the pedals having a chain, third wheel, or other connectors to the flywheel. This means you shouldn’t jump off the machine when you are at full speed, as part of a HIIT workout. The spinning pedals could cause you to trip. Instead, end your session with a brief cool down, getting the pedals as close to still as you can before you dismount.
User weight capacity is a generous 300 pounds. The unit is not rated for commercial gym use, just residential, which is a bit of a downer because you can get gym quality machines for around the same price from some makers. Not to worry, though, because the 520 E is backed by a warranty from ProForm. Like many built-in heart rate monitors, the one on the 520 E is not 100% accurate and ProForm advises using it as a guide. For nearly perfect accuracy, a chest strap heart monitor is still your best bet.
Preventive and standard service plans are available, too, on a tiered price and benefit system.
The machine is 5 ft 8 inches long, 2 feet 2 inches wide, and features front wheels for easier transport. Assembly seems straightforward, though time-consuming, with a total of 20 steps and 64 nuts, bolts, screws, and washers to tighten and adjust. Once the unit is assembled, reviews indicate it is stable and durable, with identical parallel leveling feet on the front and back. There is a handle on the rear leveler, to facilitate transport along with the wheels.
Despite the quirk, there are some cool basic and extended features to keep you interested. They include an adjustable tablet holder, to let you stream media or read while you pedal. The tablet sits up high, too, at eye level for some of us. That cuts down on neck strain. There is an older model 520, still on the ProForm site, which has no tablet holder, no iFit connectivity, and a more simplified control panel. It is a bit confusing, especially if you buy from a third-party retailer because the units have identical names and similar appearances.
You also get a built-in speaker and accessory tray, where you can store your smaller mobile device or water/shake bottle. Pedals are oversized, textured, and have a lip around the perimeter. The handlebars are ergonomic and comfy. They move while you pedal, letting you get an upper-body workout. The motion of the pedals, bars, ramp, and flywheel are all low-noise and feel fluid. Magnetic resistance cuts down on noise even more.
The preprogrammed options include a plan with Jillian Michaels and a handful of other celebrity trainers. You can train for a specific event, like a 5K or half marathon, though we are skeptical about the elliptical alone strengthening the muscle groups you need for effective sustained road running. Onboard Google Maps capability lets you run in different cities and terrain, with a street view for a partially immersive experience.
You can also challenge others who use the 520 E to real-time races, which does sound like fun. The iFit suite gives you workout tracking and data on any mobile device once you download an app. iFit does require a paid subscription. You can use the elliptical without iFit if you do not want to spend the money--you will still get a rewarding heart rate and body strength workout if you use the device consistently.
The 520 E and 720 E both have 5-inch backlit displays. The 1120 E has a 6 inch backlit display, while the Endurance 920 E offers a 7 inch HD touchscreen.
All Endurance series ellipticals have grip heart rate sensors, except for the 920 which uses a chest strap for heart rate. The 520 E is the only model that does not have digital power incline.
The other ellipticals in the line all offer more workout apps/programs than the 520 does. All units feature solid steel frames and components, front rolling casters, parallel leveling feet, and comfort grip movable upper arms.
An elliptical will also strengthen and tone your legs, making them effective cross trainers for a variety of sports. With its movable upper arms, too, the 520 E lets you push and pull to work your arms, chest, back, and trunk. The 520 E is a one-stop-shop for non-load bearing resistance training, and the variable resistance allows anyone to push themselves through a tough workout or go easy on more restful days.
We think you will find the 520 E gives you results and keeps you coming back when used consistently as part of an overall fitness and healthy eating plan. In fact, if we could only use one cardio machine for the rest of our lives, many of us would choose the elliptical. It stays easy on the joints as the body ages, and the standing position eliminates most back strain and pain.
The Final Word
However, we should also note that spending a bit more will get you an Endurance series elliptical with power incline and more workout programs. The 520s 19” stride will be enough for most users, but not all.
Other Endurance units can also offer more resistance levels because of the larger flywheels, without becoming too heavy to move easily. While the Endurance 520 E isn’t low end or lacking in features, it also comes up short when compared to other members of the Endurance line. If you are okay with the limitations of the 520 E, we can recommend it as a solution for your home gym that will last a long time and help you stick with the fitness habit for long term health gains.