What Is a Cross Trainer and What Does a Cross Trainer Do?

Wondering what a cross trainer is, what it does and how to work out on one? You’ve come to the right place. This post explains cross trainer basics so you can decide if they are the right piece of fitness equipment for you.

What is a cross trainer?

A cross trainer is a piece of fitness equipment found in a gym or home. Cross trainers work the upper and lower body at the same time.

Cross trainers replicate a running motion with added arm action. They have foot rests for your feet and handles that you push and pull as you move your legs back and forth. Your feet never leave the foot rests, so there is no impact on your knee joints.

Cross trainers offer a low impact, cardio workout that can help you lose weight and build muscle.

What is an elliptical trainer?

Often the terms elliptical trainer and cross trainer are used interchangeably. But they are slightly different.

A cross trainer is a type of elliptical machine. Elliptical machines are so named because your feet move in an elliptical motion as you stride.

Not all elliptical trainers are elliptical cross trainers. Some elliptical trainers have fixed arms as opposed to moving arms. Unlike a cross trainer, you don’t push and pull with your arms as you move your legs.

Elliptical trainers that have moving handles as well as moving footrests are called elliptical cross trainers. Or simply cross trainers.

The confusion arises as many people refer to elliptical cross trainers simply as ellipticals. So, often when you hear the term elliptical, people do mean a cross trainer. Even though that isn’t strictly accurate.

The term elliptical is mainly used in the United States. Most people in the United Kingdom just use the term cross trainer

What does a cross trainer do?

Now you know what a cross trainer is, here’s what a cross trainer does:

A cross trainer allows you to get a full body workout without putting any strain on your joints. It has handles which you push and pull, as you stride with your feet on footrests. This creates a smooth, elliptical motion.

The motion of a cross trainer is designed to mimic walking or running.

What Does A Cross Trainer Do

But unlike walking or running, your feet don’t leave the ground and land. They remain on the footrests. So working out on a cross trainer is a low-impact activity.

Cross trainers work your upper and lower body simultaneously. The exertion of this motion gets your heart pumping, giving you an effective cardio workout. This boosts your lung capacity and improves your heart health. Over time your stamina and overall fitness levels will improve.

Working out on a cross trainer activates multiple muscle groups, making it an effective way to strengthen and tone. Moving your legs works your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Pushing and pulling with your arms works your triceps, biceps, chest, back and core.

Cross trainer workouts will help you burn calories. Together with a calorie-controlled diet, cross trainers can support your weight loss goals.

Read more about cross trainer benefits

Using a cross trainer

To use a cross trainer, you place each foot on one of the footrests, so you are standing up. Hold onto the handles in front of you with each hand. You stabilise yourself by engaging your core.

Then, move your feet back and forth, keeping them on the footrests. Meanwhile, you push and pull the handles with your arms.

Using A Cross Trainer

How intensely you work out on a cross trainer is up to you. You can move at a pace similar to walking, jogging or running. Or you can try HIIT (high intensity interval training) where you alternate between high exertion and rest.

You can increase the resistance on your cross trainer to push yourself harder. This puts more strain on your muscles, toning them. It will also increase the amount of exertion you need to use to move, giving you a more effective cardio workout. And helping you to burn more calories.


A cross trainer is a type of elliptical trainer that offers a low-impact full body workout. This popular piece of gym equipment will improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone. Cross trainer workouts can also support your weight loss goals.

Cross trainers are easy and intuitive to use. You push and pull the handles while you move your feet back and forth on the footrests. How fast you go is up to you. Increasing the resistance level will give you a tougher workout.

Want to learn more about cross trainers? Find out all you need to know in our cross trainer buying guide.