A Buyer's Guide To Cross Trainers

Offering a full body or lower body only workout, elliptical cross trainers have become a staple part of workout routines. However, understanding the exact benefits of individual cross trainers can be difficult for people who are new to them as there are many components which make up each model, with each providing a unique combination of benefits and features due to the subtle differences and nuances in their designs. In this guide we have looked at all the aspects of elliptical cross trainers and discussed each in turn so that you can make an informed decision when trying to find your ideal machine.

Fixed Elliptical Cross Trainer

This will most likely be the type of cross trainer that people picture when they think of a cross trainer. It's the most basic type of cross trainer, the pedals or footboards will move in a fixed elliptical path and the machine will offer a range of resistance settings. On these models, there's no option to adjust the movement angle or stride length so it will be exactly the same movement for every user. A fixed elliptical cross trainer is a great starting point for anyone who's new to this type of exercise, they're simple, easy to use and offer a low impact but highly effective cardiovascular workout. Please note, even though the movement is fixed on each machine, the stride length and angle of the movement will be vary on different makes and models.

Full Body or Lower Body Cross trainer

A key difference between cross trainer models will be if the machine is designed to work your full body or lower body only. Lower Body cross trainers will have pedals or footboards that move in a elliptical motion to work your legs, glutes and provide a good CV workout. However, there will be no moving arms and instead, there's normally a large fixed rail for you to hold onto during your workout. Total Body cross trainers take everything that you get on a Lower Body Elliptical and add moving arms to change the movement into a full body workout. Total Body cross trainers will normally still have a small set of fixed handles as well as the moving arms so you get the option of either a full body or lower body workout all in one machine, this can be a real benefit for interval training as you can easily switch between the two movements. However, if you don't plan to use the moving arms then the Lower body cross trainer is definitely the best option for you and these models normally come with a good price saving too.

Adjustable Incline Cross trainer

As suggested by the name, incline cross trainers allow you to work on an incline. The incline is adjustable allowing you to mimic walking on flat ground or up hill providing variation in the muscle groups you can work on. Cross trainers with this feature are particularly good for targeting your upper thighs and core muscles. You will find that this type of machine is also ideal for working your glutes. It produces a well-rounded, low-impact, varied workout and is a popular choice amongst people who are exercising for weight loss. Not all cross trainers offer incline functionality so make sure to find one that does if you are seeking the benefits described above.

Variable Stride Length Cross trainer

When you hop onto a treadmill you are in control of your stride length, with cross trainers this is not always the case. Most machines have a set stride length, this varies from one machine to another and typically ranges from 22” to 12”. The shorter the stride distance the more it will replicate a walking motion which can sometimes throw you off balance if you attempt to move too quickly. If you wish to be able to alternate between shorter and longer stride patterns, you will require a machine with adjustable stride lengths. If, however, having adjustable stride lengths is not a priority you should try different fixed elliptical models first to find the best fit for you and the workout you are adhering to. 

Cross trainer machine resistance types

Speed and incline are two ways to adjust the intensity of a cross trainer workout but another way to do this is to adjust the resistance. The resistance is controlled via one of two main ways (with a third, less common, alternative we will discuss later); belt and magnetic. Magnetic resistance cross trainers are more common in commercial gyms whereas home gyms will more typically use cross trainers which use belt resistance. With the simple touch of a button magnetic resistance applied to the flywheel can be increased or reduced to alter the intensity of the workout.

A belt can also adjust the resistance, but it is less consistent and has a higher chance of wearing down but in a home gym where it is not subject to the same heavy footfall of a commercial gym it is a perfectly viable option.

A third kind of resistance which can now be found on many cross trainers is a fan based system which uses natural air resistance. This type of resistance has fewer settings and is designed solely for shorter bursts of exercise. Cross trainers with this type of resistance are more limited but if your workout falls within the parameters of the exercise you can achieve on one of these machines it should not be ruled out as an option. 

Rear or front driven cross trainer

Rear driven and front driven are terms which reference the position of a cross trainer’s fly wheel. A rear driven cross trainer has its flywheel positioned at the back of the machine and a front driven cross trainer’s flywheel is at the front of the machine. Neither are deemed to be better than the other and it comes down to personal preference as to which is best for you. There are many other components which require greater thought when choosing the perfect machine for you and your workout goals, but you should keep in mind which you prefer. 

Console Options

Another area to look at when making a purchase of a cross trainer is the console. If you are only just being introduced to cross trainers or are casual about exercise, then you are unlikely to pay much attention to the console but for many people this is a highly important aspect of the machine. Gyms will almost always take the console into consideration in order to purchase the machines with everything their visitors are looking for, you probably only need to cater to your own needs but it is still worth taking the time to find one with everything you are looking for.

Firstly, consoles come in two forms; embedded and LED. Choosing between embedded (LCD) and LED generally comes down to a combination of personal preference and budget. The embedded displays are commonly LCD touchscreens which allow you to enjoy music or tv whilst you track your run. LED screens are typically more simplistic in terms of displaying your workout and with a more limited range of entertainment features. LED consoles are typically better value and more durable if you feel like the entertainment features are not important to you.

From tracking basic stats to providing you with a screen for entertainment, such as watching a movie, consoles come in all shapes and sizes with a widely varied range of features but as a beginner it is advised that you pay more attention to getting the right machine than the best console. 

Cross trainers are stationary exercise machines designed to simulate walking, running or stair climbing. They can offer amazing, low impact cardiovascular workouts but if the machine is not right for you, you will not maximise your results and reap the potential benefits cross trainers can provide. Take into consideration each of the aspects covered in this guide to help you make the right purchasing decision. 

Whether you are a regular gym user, already have a selection of gym equipment, or are looking to make your first step into a new healthier lifestyle, you can find all the gym equipment you need from us, here at UK Gym Equipment Ltd.

If you're still not sure which cross trainer is the right model for you, please get in touch and we'll be happy to make some more tailored suggestions.