Not all ellipticals are created equal, and it will behoove you to remember as such when you're on the hunt for the best cross trainer for your home gym. One of the most popular pieces of equipment in the gym which, like the treadmill, can see queues at peak times, this is a machine that offers eminent fat-burning and calorie-obliterating potential without the comparative injury risk of high-impact running.
Similar to rowing machines and exercise bikes, the cross trainer presents the perfect opportunity to stay fit at home without risking your knees and ankles by overusing the treadmill. Even if the rest of your cardio minutes are spent pounding pavements in your favourite running trainers, then, the cross trainer is still a good idea: it's always advisable to vary your routines. Plus, it's the best piece of gym equipment for simultaneously binging new episodes of The Idol and Hijack while you work out.
If you're keen on installing a cross trainer in your home, the first thing you're going to want to do is measure your space. If the pedals of your elliptical extend beyond the limits of the frame, make sure you factor that into your calculations. Looks like it'll fit? Next up is bells and whistles: do you want a machine complete with HD touchscreens and tailored apps? This and many more elements of the gym staple are considered in our following list of the best.
And to help you figure out which cross trainer is right for you, we've compiled some tips on what to look out for, including expert input from Jack Claxton, Personal Trainer at David Lloyd Clubs.
What’s the best cross trainer?
Your favourite high-end London gym probably loves Technogym, and there's a reason for txhat: the price tag mirrors what you get here, which includes a suite of workouts and a premium design in a package that folds for space-saving capabilities.
If you're working on a relative budget, JLL has some wonderful options in all of its categories, and its CT500 cross trainer is no different. A hardy option thanks to its solid steel composition, there are twelve resistance levels to choose from so even beginners can get involved, and there are tablet-holding capabilities to help you get through the burn, too.
At over 2m long and 96kg, the Life Fitness E1 has the dimensions of a small shark and is ideal for those of you hoping to fill a particularly large home workout space. Preset workouts, 20 resistance levels and tracking compatibility complete a picture of what is an impressive machine.
SKIP TO: What's the difference between an elliptical and a cross trainer? | What type of cross trainer resistance should you choose? | Is a cross trainer as good as walking? | How much time should I spend on a cross trainer? | Do you need a cross trainer with a heart rate monitor? | What kind of cross training programmes can you use? | Is a cross trainer better than a treadmill?
What's the difference between an elliptical and a cross trainer?
“The biggest difference between the two is the movement,” says Claxton. "The movement of a cross trainer includes working your arms in a pull and push motion as the handles move and resistance can be added or reduced. An elliptical machine will have static handles and only allow the legs to move but the range of movement is different. This might be particularly good for someone with an upper-body injury. Since cross trainers have improved, they now provide a static handle which is more central, so overall a cross trainer would be my preferred kit as a trainer.”
What type of cross trainer resistance should you choose?
Many cross trainers are hard to differentiate by eye alone, but not all use the same resistance type. The two kinds to spot are belt and (more commonly) magnetic. While the latter tend to make for quieter, smoother flywheels, they're also often more expensive than their belt equivalents.
Some of the most high-end options incorporate digital resistance, too, meaning that you can further alter resistance through a series of button presses. Premium brands such as TechnoGym love this addition since it allows trainers leading virtual training classes to increase and decrease your resistance for you. Not interested in whether yours is magnetic or belt operated? Definitely take resistance levels into consideration nonetheless: more challenging workouts will require levels that meet and exceed 20.
Is a cross trainer as good as walking?
According to Claxton, “A cross trainer could arguably be better than walking as you can target more muscle groups whilst training. However, walking outside can have many mental health benefits as well as physical.” In other words, mixing things up is, as usual, your best bet. A blend of cross trainer sessions and some more relaxed fresh air walking seems a safe bet for mind and body.
How much time should I spend on a cross trainer?
“Time would always depend on your goal," says Claxton. "Personally, I’d keep it to around 10-15 minutes so you stay engaged with the exercise you’re doing and it’s an amount of time where you can really put some effort in.” High-intensity exercise for lower amounts of time like Claxton is suggesting can really help pump your heart rate up while preventing you from getting bored in the process. As usual, though, you're more than welcome to mix things up and see what works best for you.
Do you need a cross trainer with a heart-rate monitor?
A heart-rate monitor is frequently found on electrical gym equipment because being more intimately acquainted with your own body is always sensible. Not only will a heart-rate monitor clue you into how you're responding to increasingly intense routines, it can also be used for optimising your workouts. An increasing number of trainers are advocating for heart rate adjusted routines, which use “zones” — categorised from sustainable to intensive — to plan out a session. Already have access to chest straps and/or a sports watch? You might not need to add heart-rate monitor to your new cross trainer's must-have list.
What kind of cross training programmes can you use?
You should find an LED screen on even the most wallet-friendly of ellipticals: these are where you'll find a suite of pre-installed programmes to follow, which usually imitate climbs, trainer-led classes or HIIT sessions. Increase your budget, though, and you're looking at a world of choice that can even include virtual, trainer-lead classes and dedicated apps. For the easily distracted, we also recommend Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi optimisation so you can use other training apps and platforms.
Is a cross trainer better than a treadmill?
No matter how forensic nutritional information becomes and complex gyms can look, one thing remains true: any kind of cardiovascular workout is better than none. While that certainly means that a daily walk will work wonders, those wanting to blitz more calories will undoubtedly prefer something more substantial. That's usually when electrical equipment comes into play, and for many, the treadmill is not the fix-all.
The main difference between the treadmill and the cross trainer is a matter of impact: the latter, like rowing machines and exercise bikes, put less pressure on your joints, making them preferable for those with injuries. Having said that, the best between the two is always going to be the one that you enjoy (or just tolerate) the most. For many, that's rowing, trail running, or even stand-up paddleboarding. If it's cross training for you, then that's the bests a treadmill every time.
For more fitness, fashion and technology releases delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our GQ Recommends newsletter.