Cross Trainer vs. Exercise Bike – Which One is Right For You?

Stuck on whether to buy an exercise bike or cross trainer?

Putting together a home gym is about more than just choosing good quality equipment. Most of us are on a budget and cannot afford to buy multiple machines. We have to keep in mind space too because, unless you live in a very large home, it is unlikely that you can dedicate a lot of room to working out.

In this post, we are going to concentrate on the two most popular pieces of home cardio equipment – exercise bikes and cross trainers – and give you some advice on how to choose between the two. To be sure, both are great options in themselves, but we understand that practicality means most people can only buy one.


Which is better exercise bike or cross trainer?

Exercise bikes and cross trainers both offer an effective cardio workout, which helps to support heart health and overall wellbeing when done regularly. Sessions on either machine burn some serious calories. Committing yourself to a 30-minute workout a few times a week will help you to shed body fat.

Bike vs cross trainer calories burned

During a moderate session on an exercise bike, a 125lb person burns around 210 calories, a 155lb person burns around 252, and a 185lb person burns around 294. This rises to 278, 315, and 441 calories for a 125, 155, and 185lb person respectively if the session is of vigorous intensity.

A 30-minute session on a cross-trainer burns a comparative number of calories. A 125lb person burns around 270 calories, a 155lb person burns around 324, and a 185lb person burns around 378.

JTX Zenith Cross trainer
Cross trainers are capable of burning some serious calories. Pic: JTX Zenith

The cross trainer lends itself to a more intense style of working out, which is why we are only including one set of data for this machine. It should also be kept in mind that these are only estimates and that the numbers you achieve in a workout will depend on how hard you push yourself.

Another similarity between the two is that they offer a low impact workout, which means that they are safe on the joints. This is an important point for all of us.

For those that do not have any joint problems, low impact workouts protect against damage that can cause pain and injury. For those that suffer from joint problems (such as age-related deterioration or who are recovering from injury) or are vulnerable to them (such as pregnant women whose bodies are under strain from carrying around the weight of a growing baby), these machines offer a safe way to workout.

Who should get an exercise bike?

We are now going to look at the differences that might sway your choice either way. Starting with the exercise bike.

For online classes

If you enjoy taking exercise classes then you might consider the range of guided spin workouts that are available (both pre-recorded on-demand style and live classes).

There is certainly more of a developed culture around spinning that you can tap into if you opt for a bike. This can motivate you and help you to enjoy your sessions more. There are guided cross trainer workouts too, but the variety and community are not as well-established.

Sitting exercise

The exercise bike also offers the ability to sit down while working out. For older people and pregnant women, sitting down means that the entire body weight is supported so they can work out safely and comfortably.

The sit-down option also makes it more suitable for people who want to park themselves in front of a screen and zone out while their body gets on with things. As we saw from the calorie numbers above, this sort of distracted moderate workout burns fewer calories, but it is better to work out at a moderate intensity than to not do it at all.

A spin bike engages the lower body and the core, whereas a cross-trainer offers a full-body workout.


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Why you should get a cross trainer

Work out more of your body at once

Cross trainers have handles that should be actively pushed and pulled – we say actively because some people just hold onto them while their legs do the work, unsurprising this does not do much for the upper body!

But grabbing those handlebars and really balancing out your legs and arms in a workout can mean that you’re training both your upper and lower body at the same time.

Easy going exercise

If I had to pick an exercise that’s easier to do, it would be the cross trainer. Anyone can step onto a cross trainer and you don’t need any training to be able to use one.

Cross trainers also offer the option to pedal backwards, which add variation and target even more of your muscles. This challenges muscles that are otherwise not engaged through forwards pedalling and benefits the joints too. An exercise bike, by comparison, does not offer this.

Cross trainer vs exercise bike: which should you buy?

The bottom line is that both an exercise bike and a cross trainer will deliver a great workout. You might lean towards a bike if you are someone who likes guided classes, who wants the option to do a less intense workout, or if you have a health condition that means you find it more comfortable to sit down during a workout.

Because it does not engage the upper body, you might want to complement a spin workout with some upper body training. A cross trainer, on the other hand, is an all-in-one machine that is suitable for people who always want an intense workout and who do not particularly want the ‘frills’ of spin culture.


References and Further Reading

Tom Armstrong

Hey! I've been training in all kinds of places, with all kinds of equipment for the best part of 30 years. I love training with my weights at home and writing about new products and training methods online. Well, with a name like Armstrong, I would have to be into training, right?

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