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Cross Trainer Buying Guide

Cross Trainers emerged in the 90’s when research into treadmills shed light on them causing knee issues due to the naturally high impact running has. The cross trainer (or elliptical trainer as it is also known) was then born, it was designed with the intention to simulate the motion of walking or running by using articulating foot plates that follow a natural movement. Because your feet remain planted to the foot plates there is little to no impact from these machines making them highly appealing to sufferers with knee problems.

For this very reason ellipticals have progressively increased in popularity over the years and are mandatory in most commercial gyms worldwide to this day, they ensure a full body workout thanks to the addition of two upright handles that are synchronised with the foot plates to distribute the effort between upper and lower muscle groups. Cross trainers provide a superb alternative to treadmills; research indicates that they burn calories at almost the same rate as running, proof that they ensure highly effective workouts.

Different Types

Home use cross trainers generally come in two forms, rear driven or front driven options. Different manufacturers flit between the two options but no real beneficial or substantial differences have been made between the two styles to differentiate them in a great way. It can simply be down to personal preference and what feels best for you when you jump on that machine, in general front driven machines have a longer stride length which is something to strive for however it does make them more costly, on the other hand rear driven options can be more compact and less expensive. We recommend comparing between the two to find the most suitable elliptical for your needs, below you can find out how best to gauge this.

Key Features

Flywheel

Certainly one of the fundamental components for a cross trainer is the flywheel. They are measured in either kg or pounds and can be a clear way to judge the overall quality of the machine. The general rule is the heavier the weight of the flywheel the smoother and quieter the machine will be, as you exercise the flywheel begins to rotate creating that elliptical motion, we’d recommend no less than a 6kg flywheel for a satisfying workout.

Stride Length

Stride length can greatly affect the quality of your workouts and how comfortable the cross trainer feels to exercise on. The problem with having a short stride length comes from the rotations whilst you’re exercising. The movements will feel short, sharp and uncomfortable and the path of the pedals will be more circular than elliptical so you’ll travel up and down more, as a result this will apply more pressure to your joints. A longer stride length will feel exactly the opposite ensuring a far superior exercise experience. Try to find a machine with at least 16 inches in stride for comfortable use.

Console

Cross trainers are diverse; this diversity comes from the console and the features that are pre-programmed into it. All consoles provide a standard workout feedback displaying the progress of your workout with time, distance, calories etc.. This is pretty mandatory and you should expect to have this available, what does come extra are the training programmes.

A multitude of programmes can breathe new life into your training regime providing much needed variation with simulations for specific goals like fat burn or endurance. They’re not essential but try to pick out a machine with at least a couple, they’ll help keep you motivated and help encourage quicker weight loss too, you won’t regret it!

Resistance Levels

Our entire catalogue of cross trainers uses magnetic resistance to change the difficulty levels. This simple system operates through a magnet parallel to the flywheel, the closer the magnet is to the flywheel the harder the resistance is and vice versa when it’s moved away. Magnetic resistance provides seamless interchanging of difficulty levels and longer lasting use as no parts actually make contact.

A good range of resistance levels is vital, with continued use you will get fitter and you will need these harder levels to keep progressing, keep losing weight and keep getting fitter. At least 8 difficulty levels should give you enough scope to challenge yourself on a regular basis.

Framework

Who wants to train on a rattling, wobbling, rickety machine? Nobody wants to train on one but it’s tricky when you’re looking online to check for stability. There are a couple of tell-tale signs to help give clarity on this, firstly check the maximum user weight capacity, a good stable cross trainer should be able to hold at least a 100kg, if not more. Secondly it may seem obvious but pay close attention to the thickness of the frame, it needs to be chunky and it must be steel.

Folding or Non-Folding

The folding option can be appealing for a lot of people, and understandably so, some of these machines can take up a good chunk of space at home. We would however recommend trying to stay clear of the folding option, the problem is that the stability of the cross trainer can be compromised to accommodate the folding design so the machine becomes less durable than a non-folding equivalent. Instead try to find a compact rear driven option which will probably cover the same surface area as a large folded machine anyway.

Benefits

  • The beneficial low impact design imposes barely no strain on your joints as your feet never lift off the ground but you still get all the benefits of running
  • Unlike treadmills cross trainers engage your upper body aswell as lower muscle groups for better overall weight loss and to tone up your whole body
  • Pre-installed workout programmes and vast ranges of resistance levels ensure extensive training diversity and ensure every workout pushes you to your threshold
  • Proven research studies indicate that cross trainers burn calories at a similar rate to running
  • Year round training is easy as you’re sheltered from the renowned adverse British climate
  • The convenience of training at home is a great incentive for anyone as you don’t even need to leave the house to get a smashing workout
  • Cross trainers are extremely easy to use, you can simply jump on press start and go if you like so they appeal to many people
  • Bone density can be improved as ellipticals are a weight bearing form of exercise, this helps to prevent the thinning of bones and keep you strong
  • Silence is bliss, these machines make barely any sound with the right size flywheel so you can watch tv or listen to music whilst your train without trying to drown out the sound of a whining motor

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What cross trainers are suitable for large families?

Answer: If at least 3-4 people are going to be using the machine then it needs to be very durable to withstand the additional wear and tear on a regular basis. Adjustable pedals would also help to make the cross trainer more customisable for different size users, you should be looking to spend above £500 - £600 ideally.

Question: What is the benefit of a longer stride length?

Answer: A longer stride length contributes to the feel and comfort that gives the cross trainer it’s elliptical orbit, they produce a smooth fluid motion instead of short up and down rotations from short strides. It’s also better for taller people to have a longer stride length to accommodate for their increased strides.

Question: How would it be delivered?

Answer: Cross trainers vary massively in shape and size, the smaller models will come with a 1-man courier because they are manageable however larger models can be delivered with 2-man at your request where they can bring it into a room of your choice. Selected models will have this option available.

Question: I’m just looking to tone up and lose a bit of weight, what do you think would be suitable for me?

Answer: For toning and general fitness for 1 -2 people we’d recommend looking between the £200 - £400 bracket, Kettler and Marcy both offer fantastic machines between this range where you can’t go far wrong.

Question: Are they expensive?

Answer: This depends on your needs and requirements like the above question, cross trainer prices range from as little as £100 all the way up to £1000’s, you should evaluate what you’re looking to achieve, how many users the machine will have and then start to thin out your options from there and certain price ranges will start to become apparent for the type of machine you’re looking for.

Question: Do they take up a lot of space?

Answer: Some models can be quite cumbersome but the rear driven machines are generally the most compact so if you’re pushed for space then try to go for one of these.

Question: Are they easy to move around?

Answer: Almost every model now comes with transport wheels either at the front or rear for quick and easy mobility around the house.

Question: How long will it take to assemble and is it hard?

Answer: Cross trainers aren’t difficult to assemble but most do take a couple of hours to build up. All major manufacturers provide a clear, concise manual with diagrams and all parts will be labelled and numbered to make the process as easy as possible. All you have to do is work through step by step and you can’t go far wrong.

We hope that you have found this guide insightful and informative; feel free to view our range of cross trainers.