Why We’re Mad About Cross Trainers
There are some things in the exercise world that are just a passing fad. Do not get us wrong, they can be great fun, but they are not going to be a long-term part of your training regime.
The elliptical cross trainer is not one of those here-today-gone-tomorrow trends, it is one of the megaliths of the modern gym. In this post, we are going to discuss which areas of the body this machine targets and the benefits of using regularly, as well as how to get started on it safely.
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What are the benefits of using a cross-trainer?
This guide will go into some depth on the pros of regular elliptical trainer use, but here’s the quick at-a-glance version if you just want the quick version.
- Low impact – That smooth motion without a single bump or judder.
- A really good workout – good at burning calories.
- Safe and easy to use – can you walk? You can use a cross trainer!
- Suits all levels of fitness – gym newbies to pro athletes use these machines
- Tone upper and lower body at the same time – Spend half the time training and get the same results.
- Turn up, tone up, lose weight – These machines are really good for leg, thigh and bum definition.
- Good for your heart and well-being – As a form of cardio exercise, a huge plus to using a cross training machine is improved heart and overall health.
- Makes you feel on top of the world – This one is personal! I always feel amazing after using a cross trainer. I bet you will too.
- You can ‘pedal’ backwards – Any decent elliptical will let you stride backwards – which really hits your glutes and leg muscles!
- Bonus benefit: They’re great for podcasts and Netflix – Unlike rowers or treadmills, there’s no wobbling or moving about. Put your table on the shelf and lose yourself.
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Elliptical Basics: What is a cross trainer used for?
A cross trainer – also known as an elliptical trainer – combines the best of several heavy-duty machines into one. If you like the treadmill, spin bike or step machine then you will love what the cross trainer has to offer.
On the bottom, it has pedals that the user works while standing. On the top, it has handles that the user pushes and pulls to engage the upper body. Not all machines have these handles (instead they just have a fixed-grip for balance) but the vast majority do.
This combination of pedal work and handle movements is what makes a cross trainer session an effective full-body workout.
The range of motion that the pedals give to the lower body allows for a more comprehensive engagement of the muscles than the treadmill, while simultaneously being a lower impact form of cardio.
Cross trainers are good for knees and bad backs
This is because your feet never come off the pedals, so there is no moment of impact – the primary cause of stress on the joints. The core muscles are also engaged when using a cross trainer when body weight shifts from side to side and is used to create force. With regular use, this will strengthen the oblique and ab muscles, helping to give definition and tone.
How many calories can you burn on a cross trainer?
Now it is time to look at the numbers. Specifically, how much bang for your buck does the cross trainer deliver? In a 30-minute moderate-intensity session:
- A person who weighs 125lbs / 57kg burns 270 calories
- Someone who weighs 155lbs / 70kg burns 335 calories
- If you’re a weight of 185lbs / 84kg, you’ll burn around 400 calories
(source: Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School). Those are some mega numbers! Burning calories efficiently is definitely a benefit of using a cross trainer.
Incorporating cross trainer sessions into your weekly exercise plan will quickly add up and help you to lose weight. What is more, as a vigorous form of cardio, it will help to protect your heart health and promote general wellbeing through the efficient delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the other organs.
Combined with the conditioning effects of the cross trainer on the upper body, lower body, and core muscles, melting away fat should reveal a more toned physique.
Suitable for everyone
As already mentioned, one of the advantages of the cross trainer is that it offers a calorie burning workout while having a low impact on the joints.
This underlines why we love the cross trainer so much: it is suitable for everyone. Senior people, newcomers to the gym, and overweight people can all feel intimidated by exercise equipment, whether they are worried that it will be too difficult for them or that they could hurt themselves.
The cross trainer allows users to go at their own pace, seriously reduces the risk of injury (the health and safety police will never let us say that there is no risk), while facilitating an effective exercise session.
Engaging in regular exercise and challenging the body is particularly important to seniors who are at risk of age-related muscle decay and loss of mobility. Moreover, the metabolism slows down as we get older so it is important to keep active to maintain a healthy weight – especially as this is a higher risk period of life for the majority of health complaints (for which weight tends to be an aggravating factor).
Recommended: Should you buy a treadmill or an elliptical?
Getting started: How to use a cross trainer
If reading about the benefits of the cross trainer has made you keen to hop on then bear the following tips in mind to ensure you get the most out of your session.
#1) Always warm up
First of all, it is extremely important to warm up before using an elliptical machine. Remember, even though it is a low impact exercise this does not mean that you can immediately start at full throttle! You could warm up with a brisk walk leading up to a light jog on the treadmill or do some medium intensity spinning for up to 10 minutes.
#2) Practice on a very low resistance
If you’re new to the wonderful world of cross trainers, take it nice and slow. To get the most benefit out of your training with this machine, take the resistance right down and get a feel for the somewhat unusual elliptical motion. (It takes a bit of getting used to!)
#3) Vary resistance and try some of the programs
Once you are on the cross trainer, pace yourself by doing a HIIT style workout. At first, focus on ramping up your resistance and speed. Then, once you are comfortable using the machine, work on lengthening the time of your intervals.
#4) Build up your cross trainer workout over time, don’t rush!
When you have built up your fitness levels, you can mix things up by having intervals without upper bodywork, intervals with backwards peddling (those really kill!), and pushing up the resistance and speed with minimal recovery in between.
Final Words: Cross trainers – are they good exercise?
If you haven’t guessed, we’re massive fans of cross-trainers here on Home Gym Experts. I hope we’ve shown some of the benefits of this incredible machine and maybe convinced you to either give one a go at the gym or pick one up for your home. They’re easy to use, ideal for getting in shape and losing weight, and suitable for all ages and abilities.
There are endless combinations out there, making the cross trainer a great place to both start your fitness journey and grow your physical ability. Be sure to let us know how you get on!
References & Further Reading
- NCBI have a worthwhile read – Are elliptical machines better than treadmills for basic aerobic workouts?
- Check out our guide: What is an Elliptical machine?
- NCBI – Comparison of elliptical training, stationary cycling, treadmill walking and overground walking
- Find out which is better – treadmill or elliptical?
- Precor – Are Cross Trainers Effective?