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Cross Trainer Benefits & Buying Guide

Find The Best Cross Trainer For Your Goals And Budget

Buying a cross trainer can be difficult, but with our help you'll get the best cross trainer for your goals, budget and home. Read our cross trainer buying guide below or get in touch with our dedicated customer service team.

cross trainer benefits

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Types of cross trainer

Magnetic Vs Electro Magnetic Cross trainers

Magnetic Cross Trainers

Users of a magnetic cross trainer will need to manually turn a knob or lever to change the resistance. Increasing the resistance allows you to work harder during your workout. Reducing resistance makes it easier to "pedal" your legs, similar to gears on a bike. These are entry-level cross trainers and are cheaper than electro-magnetic cross trainers. Some retailers don't clearly identify their cross trainers as magnetic, so look out for a twist knob below the console.

Electro-Magnetic Cross Trainers

This type of cross trainer uses a varying magnetic field to control the resistance level. You will be able to easily change how hard you are working with a touch of a button on the computer console. This is ideal for changing quickly between resistance levels during interval training. Interval workouts are the most effective form of cross trainer workout for improving fitness. This is the type of resistance found on most good quality UK cross trainers.

Rear Drive Vs Front Drive Cross Trainers

REAR DRIVEN CROSS TRAINERS

Rear driven cross trainers have the flywheel at the back of the machine and allow your feet to move in an elliptical motion. This movement mimics natural running and walking styles. Rear driven cross trainers also often provide a smoother motion. All JTX Fitness cross trainers are rear driven because we believe this provides the best full-body workout.

FRONT DRIVEN CROSS TRAINERS

A front drive cross trainer has a flywheel at the front of the machine and a more circular movement. The stride on a front-drive cross trainer feels like you are climbing steps. The motion is more circular and feels less natural than rear driven cross trainers. Front driven cross trainers often take up less space than rear driven machines.

Popular Cross Trainer Features

INCLINE CROSS TRAINERS

An incline cross trainer allows the user to target different muscle groups. The level of incline can be changed to simulate walking up hill or training on the flat. Particularly good for targeting core muscles and upper thighs. The JTX Tri-Fit incline cross trainer offers 3 levels of incline.

VARIABLE STRIDE LENGTH CROSS TRAINERS

A variable stride length cross trainer provides a range of stride length settings in one machine. It allows the user to choose between a walking (shorter stride) and a more intensive, running motion (longer stride). These are also a great option where different family members, with different natural stride lengths are likely to use the cross trainer. Most adults need a stride length of at least 16 inches. The JTX Tri-Fit cross trainer offers a stride length of 16 - 20 inches.

Commercial Vs Home Specification

Light or Semi-Commercial Cross Trainers

Brands have different definitions of semi-commercial gym equipment. This should indicate robust build quality and simple interfaces. They are normally larger than home cross trainers and are built for 5 -7 hours of use per day. A semi-commercial cross trainer label can be quite misleading because this definition can be so broad. It is better to take a detailed look at the stride length, flywheel size, machine weight and details of the commercial warranty to indicate the quality of a cross-trainer. See the JTX Zenith for a semi-commercial gym cross trainer and the JTX Strider X7 for a home cross trainer.

Commercial Cross Trainers

Commercial cross trainers are built for use in gyms for up to 17 hours per day. They often have very simple consoles with a range of programmes and heart rate training. They have been built to withstand intensive public gym conditions and will normally cost between £5-£12k. Life Fitness are the market leader in commercial gym cross trainers.

Cross Trainers To Avoid

BELT RESISTANCE CROSS TRAINERS

These cross training machines use a belt and flywheel to manage the resistance levels. These tend to be cheap cross trainers with a low build quality. If you are looking for a cross trainer that is robust and reliable, we would recommend that you avoid this style of cross trainer.

SMALL CROSS TRAINERS

The JTX Strider X7 is our smallest cross trainer. You’ll see from the dimensions (130cm x 70cm) it's not that small. This is because although space is very important to our customers we have prioritised the most important feature…that you can exercise effectively on the machine.

Unfortunately small cross trainers do not allow you to increase the length of your stride. Your stride naturally increases as you pick up the pace (the difference between walking and jogging or running). If you can't take a long step then you will struggle to increase your pace or heart rate. Cross trainers with a small footprint cannot support our minimum recommended stride length of 16 inches. See our most compact cross trainer here.

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CROSS TRAINER BENEFITS

Exercising on a cross trainer will help you lose weight, get fit, tone up your muscles and improve health. These cross trainer benefits can be realised by training regularly for a short period of time. Cross trainers also provide a fantastic low impact workout, so they are kinder to your joints and muscles than other gym equipment.

Get a Full Body Workout

Cross trainers will tone and strengthen your quads, hamstrings, calves, bottom and arms, all at the same time. It will also flex your stomach and sides with gentle twisting movements. You can increase the resistance level to improve muscle tone or keep the resistance levels low to achieve cardio and weight loss goals. Select a cross trainer with an incline feature and you can target your stomach and thighs too.

Weight Loss and Calorie Burning

Cross trainers are fantastic for burning calories because they work multiple muscle groups at the same time –providing a more intense workout. The number of calories you can burn on a cross trainer will vary based on age, gender, physical fitness and the amount of effort you exert. As a rough guide, it takes an average of 30 minutes to burn off 200 calories.

Target Problem Areas and Strengthen Your Core

Change the emphasis of your workout based on the body part you want to target. For example, if you want to strengthen and tone of your arms, relax your leg muscles and let your arms pump backwards and forwards. Incline cross trainers like the JTX Tri-Fit will help you target the most common problem areas; thighs, bottom and stomach. You can also work on improving your core stability by taking your arms off the handles and solely using your legs to exercise. Cross Trainers are completely adaptable and offer something for everyone, whatever your age, sex, fitness goal or ability.

Health Benefits

Cross trainers provide a fantastic cardio workout for the heart. A few sessions a week on a cross trainer will improve your general aerobic fitness, strengthen bones and increase lung capacity.

Better For Your Joints

There is no doubt that cross training machines offer a much lower impact workout than running. Your feet don’t leave the supports on a cross trainer which creates much less impact on your knees, joints and back. This reduces the likelihood of an injury. The longer the cross trainer stride length, the smoother the motion and impact on your joints.

The Perfect Training Alternative

Cross trainers are a fantastic supplementary training option if you are working towards an endurance challenge. They allow you to increase the duration or regularity of your workouts without adding the increased risk of injury that endurance training can result in. This means your body and fitness levels improve at a much faster rate than if you were to stick to one type of exercise.

Cross Trainers Are Quiet

This simple fact makes cross training machines the perfect fitness solution for the home. Cross trainers are quiet for two main reasons. The first is that, unlike running, your feet don't leave the workout surface. The low impact nature of a cross trainer means no sound is emitted as you workout. The second reason is that the movement is created by your muscles rather than a motor (unlike a treadmill). There is a resistance motor but they are generally very quiet. Older cross trainers can become noisy over time and can create an annoying squeaking noise but this can normally be resolved by tightening up the bolts relating to the moving parts. You can find out more about cross trainer maintenance here

Key Questions: Cross Trainer Stride Length, Space & Flywheels

Choosing where to put your cross trainer

We recommend that you don’t keep electronic fitness equipment in cold rooms or garages. In the winter months particularly, the temperature can fluctuate widely. This can cause condensation inside the computer and circuit boards. If you do want to keep your machine in a room like this we certainly recommend keeping it under a heavy sheet or rug to help minimise the risk of damage.

It is also worth avoiding rooms which get extremely warm. This is not so much about maintenance, more because it will make it more difficult and uncomfortable when you come to workout.

If you can, we recommend you put your cross trainer in a room with a TV or stereo. Getting motivating tunes or your favourite TV series on will help you get in the zone and smash through your training.

Make sure you have enough space

Cross trainers can be surprisingly large. Add 10 – 15cm to the width and length of a cross trainer for easy access and enough space to comfortably workout.

Check the maximum user weight

Most cross trainer manufacturers provide a maximum user weight of around 20 stone (130kg). This often increases with the quality of the machine. If you weigh near or over 13 stone, we recommend you look for a machine with a footprint larger than 140cm long and 75cm wide to ensure a stable and enjoyable workout.

Choosing The Right Cross Trainer Stride Length

This is the maximum distance between the rear of your front foot and the front of your rear foot as you workout. It is important to consider stride length when you buy a cross trainer. In general long stride length cross trainers are higher quality than those with strides under 18 inches. The stride length effects the range of movement on a cross trainer. Using a walking motion on a cross trainer only requires a short stride length. Increasing the speed and intensity of the workout extends the length of the stride. If you use a cross trainer with a stride length that is too short your workout will be restricted and the movement can feel awkward.

Comparing Flywheel Weights

The flywheel weight is measured in kilograms. It’s an important factor which effects both the resistance and smoothness of a cross trainer’s movement. In general, the higher the flywheel weight the better. Some unscrupulous manufacturers can list inflated flywheel weights so it’s also good to check the total weight of the machine. If the total machine weight looks too low for the flywheel weight advertised it is worth thinking twice.

Understanding Cross Trainer Resistance Levels

This is a tricky one! In general having a larger number of resistance levels on a machine is better than only a few. The higher number of resistance levels will give you a greater range of resistance – similar to having more gears on a bike. However, cross trainer ‘A’ with 20 resistance levels might not offer more resistance than cross trainer ‘B’ with 10 levels (each level on cross trainer ‘B’ may just be spread further apart). So, in general, it is worth checking how many resistance levels a machine has, but we would not recommend using the number of resistance levels on a machine as an indicator of quality.

Check Customer Reviews

Reviews are a great way to understand if a company is as good as they say they are. We collate our reviews in association with TrustPilot, which means you can be absolutely sure they are independent, authentic reviews from genuine customers. Read JTX cross trainer reviews.

Try Before You Buy

If possible, we would recommend testing a cross trainer before making a purchase. This will allow you to get a feel for the machine to see if it is the right one for you. You can try out our full range of cross trainers at our gym equipment showroom in Shoreham, West Sussex

Read The Small Print

There are a number of important considerations to look for in the terms and conditions:

  • Money-back guarantees: If you are buying fitness equipment over the internet make sure you have the right to change your mind once you have assembled the machine and tried it out. Most reputable companies have a 28 day money back guarantee as long as you return it in the original packaging and pay for delivery costs. Some companies restrict returns periods to 7 days and, worse still, state that the machine must be unopened and unused. We feel if you can’t open and test your machine the returns policy is worthless. All we ask if you aren’t sure that you want to keep your machine is that you keep your packaging and re-box it so we can pick it up. See our ‘no quibbles’ returns policy.
  • Cost for servicing or replacements during your warranty period: Make sure the warranty covers in-home repairs to include parts and labour. Otherwise you might be left with a cross trainer machine that can cost as much as the original machine to service.
  • Retailer or manufacturer warranty: Often warranties are from the original manufacturer rather than the company you bought the machine from. Make sure it is clear who your warranty is with. It is also worth understanding whether your warranty is automatic or needs activating, and, if so how you activate it. If the warranty is with the manufacturer rather than the retailer check they are in the UK and contactable. One of the great things about buying from JTX Fitness is that we are the manufacturer and retailer so you know exactly who to call. You also have the confidence that you are covered as our warranties activate automatically on purchase. Read more on our warranty details.
  • Second-hand warranties: If you are buying a fitness machine second-hand we recommend that you contact the original retailer to ensure the warranty is transferable - most are not!
  • After the warranty period: If the machine has a short warranty period it’s worth enquiring how much it will cost to fix the machine and the cost of parts.
  • Shop Cross Trainers

Cross Trainer Terminology

Elliptical trainer

Another name for a cross trainer, typically used in America. Browse our Elliptical Cross Trainers

Cross Trainer Stride Length

This is the maximum distance between the rear of your front foot and the front of your rear foot as you workout. Cross trainer machines offer a variety of stride lengths and it’s important to select the right one for you.

Extended Motion Technology

This refers to the mechanism in a machine which effectively creates a long stride in a small machine. Also known as Variable Stride Length or Adjustable Stride Length. 

Flywheel

The heaviest part of a cross trainer. It is used to create a smooth and stable workout. The size of the flywheel is one way to identify a good quality cross trainer. We would recommend buying a cross training machine with a flywheel of 10kg or bigger. NB Try to take into consideration the total weight of the machine too. If you are comparing two cross trainers and one is much lighter than another but it seems to have a huge flywheel we suggest you think twice. Compare JTX Cross Trainer flywheel sizes here.

Maximum User Weight

This is provided as a guide by manufacturers. You can expect machines with larger maximum user weights to be more robust. However this is also open to interpretation by retailers so use this alongside other specification details to identify a good quality cross trainer.

Heart monitor

There are two types of heart rate monitor; hand sensor monitors and wearable monitors. Hand sensors come with most fitness machines and take your pulse through the hand grips, they are good as a guide but rarely very accurate. Wearable monitors such as chest straps and watches are generally much more accurate than hand sensors.

Target heart rate training can be used to assist goals ranging from fat burning and weight loss to maximum aerobic capacity development. A target heart rate zone is selected before working out based on the users individual goal. A strap or watch will then monitor your heart rate, giving you real time feedback so you can maintain the right level of effort to stay in your selected target zone. Many fitness machines link to chest straps or watches and auto adjust resistance levels to help keep you in your target zone so it is worth checking product detail pages if you are interested in this type of training.

Programs

Most cross trainers will provide a range of workouts. These are designed to help you stay motivated by varying your workouts. They typically include things such as hill climb simulations and heart rate training options. For more workout inspiration, see our cross trainer workouts.

Tension or resistance control

Changing resistance effects how hard you work when moving the foot-plates and handles backwards and forwards. Increased resistance or tension will make it feel like you are moving up hill or against a strong force which increases how hard your muscles are working. Increasing speed is the only other way to increase your effort on a cross trainer.

Should I Hire or Buy a Cross Trainer?

If you have been toying with the idea of hiring a cross trainer instead of buying one, check out our Cross Trainer Hire vs Cross Trainer Finance page to find out why we think you should always consider buying.

Cross Trainer Hire vs Buy

Cross Trainer Reviews

Reviews are a great way to understand if a company is as good as they say they are. We collate our reviews in association with TrustPilot, which means you can be absolutely sure they are independent, authentic reviews from genuine customers.

Read Cross Trainer Reviews