Choosing the best cross trainer for your fitness needs can be challenging, especially as there are a ton of different cardio machines out there to choose from, so what exactly separates a cross trainer from the rest of the crowd?
Well, while not too dissimilar to exercise bikes, a cross trainer allows you to work both your upper and lower body by mimicking a motion best described as cross-country skiing.
Therefore, you should find you burn a ton of calories in a relatively short space of time using a cross trainer despite the movement being a fairly low-impact exercise.
If this sounds like the machine for you, then our list of top picks has you covered. These cross trainers stand out to us thanks to their price, reviews, and features which, we feel, give you all the tools you need to complete a tough cardio session.
Whether you're looking for something compact, like this Schwinn Fitness 411, to save space, or for one of the best ellipticals under 500 dollars, like this Exerpeutic 6000 QF, then our list has everything you need to start your search.
We've also answered some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding cross trainers to help you come to an informed decision on which to buy. Before that though, let's get into our list...
Best cross trainer
- Best cross trainer for home gyms - JLL CT300
- Best budget cross trainer - Exerpeutic 6000 QF
- Best smart cross trainer - Life Fitness E1
- Best compact cross trainer - Schwinn Fitness 411
- Best cross trainer to use at work - Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3872
- Best cross trainer for beginners - Gazelle GEDGECAT Edge Glider
Best cross trainer for home gyms - JLL CT300
JLL Fitness looks to be an excellent fitness equipment manufacturer that focuses on creating quality products, like the CT300, at a great price.
The machine comes with a two-way, 5.5kg flywheel, designed to provide a challenging yet smooth workout, plus 8 levels of magnetic resistance for when you need to take that next step up in difficulty.
It also comes with an LCD display with 8 readouts including time, speed, distance, and more, all of which are crucial for tracking how hard you're working, helping you to know where it is you need to improve.
All in all, this compact machine looks to be a great pick for home gyms, especially because it comes with built-in wheels which should make it easier to move and store away once you've nailed your workout.
Best budget cross trainer - Exerpeutic 6000 QF
The Exerpeutic 6000 QF looks to be a great option to consider if you're limited by your budget but still want to level up your home setup.
What we like about this machine, in particular, is that it comes with an LCD display which you can connect to via the free MyCloudFitness app to track your workouts with your mobile device.
In terms of design, Exerpeutic states the distance between the two pedals (Q Factor) is only 6” to minimise joint wear caused by a wide workout stance.
It's also worth noting it comes with a double transmission, designed to reduce the overall length and size of the machine. Overall, a great-looking pick!
Best smart cross trainer - Life Fitness E1
If you're searching for something akin to the cross trainers you get in a commercial gym and have the budget for it, then the Life Fitness E1 might be for you.
Although the Life Fitness E1 is a premium product, it comes with a few smart features that make it slightly more advanced like the contact heart rate sensors to help you keep track of which exercise zones you're working in.
Moreover, this elliptical offers 20 levels of resistance allowing for plenty of room for progression, regardless of your experience and fitness level. As a result, we'd argue this machine could also be considered one of the best exercise machines for weight loss as well.
On the whole, if you're looking for something similar to what you'd find in a commercial gym, then this machine is definitely one to consider.
Best compact cross trainer - Schwinn Fitness 411
If you're limited for space, then we feel this Schwinn Fitness 411 is definitely worth checking out.
Even though it features a space-saving design, you still get an 18” stride length which should be more than suitable even if you're tall.
Also, it comes with 16 levels of adjustable resistance so you can dial up or down depending on how challenging you want your workout to be, which is great as it allows for heaps of progression.
It's also worth noting that you get what Schwinn calls a built-in media rack to hold your tablet, so you can watch your favourite TV shows or play games on your tablet whilst exercising, thus making it, in our opinion, well worth considering.
Best cross trainer to use at work - Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E3872
Not only did we discuss Sunny Health & Fitness earlier in this list, but we've also featured the brand before in our best exercise bike under 500 list as it is one of the top manufacturers of fitness equipment around.
Although this may not be your conventional cross trainer, the Sunny Health & Fitness Under Desk Elliptical will likely be a great way of incorporating lower body movement into your working day.
Measuring just 20.5" long and 10.5" tall, this machine should easily fit under your desk and it comes with an integrated handgrip so you can pick it up and store it more easily.
In terms of difficulty, the elliptical has 8 levels of magnetic resistance to make things progressively harder if you feel like it, and a 3.52lbs flywheel which will likely be heavy enough for low-intensity exercise whilst working.
Ultimately, this may not include all the features of a standard cross trainer, but it does tick a lot of boxes in terms of the perfect machine for office workouts.
Best cross trainer for beginners - Gazelle GEDGECAT Edge Glider
If you're just starting your fitness journey or perhaps recovering from injury, then a low-impact machine like this Gazelle GEDGECAT Edge Glider could be the way to go.
It works using a dual-action suspension system that moves with your body through a complete range of motion, allowing you to increase or decrease the intensity at your own pace.
Moreover, it comes with a display that will keep track of your speed, distance, time, and calories burnt, helping you follow your progression through informed statistics.
Overall, we feel this manual cross trainer could be a great option to consider if you're after something low-stress and impact to kick off your workout journey.
Frequently asked questions about cross trainers
People often have a tonne of questions about ellipticals, but we're here to clear up a few common queries to help you make your purchase.
Is a cross trainer worth it?
Ultimately, this depends on your budget and what you're looking for in a piece of cardio equipment.
Generally speaking, using an elliptical is a good way of incorporating your whole body into one workout which is ideal for burning calories and for improving mobility.
If you're looking for a way to build muscle, then even the most intense elliptical workout won't compare to weight training with a top barbell, but, for improving cardio, the cross trainer is up there as one of the best, even compared to some of the best spin and air bikes around.
Is a cross trainer better than a treadmill?
We have previously covered whether a treadmill is better than an elliptical and, in the said guide, we state that both can offer an effective cardio-based workout.
However, a cross trainer has an advantage over running in that it's a much lower impact activity which is ideal if you're a beginner, you're recovering from an injury, or you're looking to complete longer sessions regularly.
With that being said, you may be able to burn more calories more efficiently on a treadmill compared to an elliptical.
For example, a 2017 study into the effects of HIIT training found a treadmill to be effective for burning calories, reducing body fat, and improving cardiovascular fitness in a short period of time.
Also, if you're training for a specific goal like a marathon, for example, then regularly running on a treadmill will likely be a better tool to help in your preparation.
Ultimately, we feel both treadmills and cross trainers are great for their own specific purposes, and choosing which is right for you will come down to personal preference and your fitness goals.
Can you lose weight using a cross trainer?
According to Havard Medical School, a 155lbs person will burn 334 calories in 30 minutes on an elliptical, therefore suggesting you can lose weight whilst using an elliptical.
However, it is important to pair your training with the right nutritious diet.
The key here is to be in a calorie deficit, i.e. burning more calories than you consume throughout the day.
A handy way to track this is by picking up a top smartwatch which should give you a general estimate as to how many calories you burn during your day, which you can then compare to the calories you consume.
Can you use a cross trainer every day?
Even though you can use a cross-trainer every day, it is normally advised, like with any form of exercise, that you incorporate at least one rest day a week to allow your body time to recover.
This is because your muscle fibres are broken down whilst exercising, so need time to repair in order to continue to grow. In turn, this should also minimise your risk of injury.
So, while the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week to stay fit, we'd suggest not spreading this time out across all seven week days.
Also, undergoing the same exercise every day can become repetitive and your muscles will likely adapt to the elliptical motion, so a smart choice would be to incorporate other forms of exercise like walking, running, or swimming to avoid repetition and muscular imbalance.
How long should you use a cross trainer for?
There's no one definitive answer to this question as it will vary depending on your type of training.
However, research suggests that at least 15 minutes a day on a cross-trainer can have major health benefits, most notably improving your cardiovascular fitness.
If 15 minutes is all the time you have to use your elliptical, then the American Council on Exercise recommends you use that time as efficiently as possible by doing High-Intensity Interval Training to maximise your benefits.
How do you use a cross trainer?
The key to using a cross trainer is coordination which may sound daunting, but is actually pretty straightforward to pick up with just a small amount of practice.
Simply place your feet on either side of the stand and take hold of the arms with your hands.
Drive your dominant foot forward to begin the movement. You'll notice that your arm will also move with your foot as you hold on to the poll. Then do the same on the other side and repeat.
Make sure you engage your arms as well to avoid allowing your legs to do all the hard work. Also, make a note of your resistance level after each session so you can keep track of your progress.
Are cross trainers good for bad knees?
As previously mentioned, a cross trainer workout should be a relatively low-impact session.
Low-impact exercises typically put less strain on your joints, therefore, cross trainers are widely regarded as good exercise machines to use if you've got joint pain or health conditions such as arthritis.
Mayo Clinic supports this as it states an elliptical machine provides a less stressful way for people with bad knees to get a regular workout compared to using a treadmill or jogging and running.
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