Buyers Guide To Cross Trainers
If you are looking to purchase a cardio machine for personal use but the idea of investing in a life-long treadmill fills you with a sense of certain dread then you may be better off with a cross trainer. Cross trainers are a great alternative to the treadmill because although they can burn the same or more calories and can do wonders for your fitness and health, they are not nearly as high impact and are so less likely to result in injury, pain or exhaustion.
This does not mean cross trainers are (or should be) easy to use and you will still work up a sweat and feel that you are working out, but as cross trainers are lower impact and won’t tire you out as quickly you will find that you can use a cross trainer for longer periods of time without getting worn out and thus burn more calories and achieve your results quicker.
Before we begin our buyers guide here are a few terms that you will need to know when buying a cross trainer.
- When someone refers to a cross trainers display they are talking about the digital display on your cross trainers console which will show you various options and information such as your speed, time and calories burned.
- Elliptical Trainer. Elliptical is just another word for cross trainers. The word elliptical comes from the mathematical term ellipse, and it just means a curved line which forms a closed loop in which the sum of the distance from two points is constant.
- Fly Wheel. The fly wheel in a cross trainer refers to the heaviest and most essential part of the machine as it is what makes the peddles and hand grips move. The wheel is either located in the back or the front of the cross trainer, and it keeps the machine steady and running smoothly. Cross trainers that have larger fly wheels (weighing 10kg or above) tend to be better because they improve the machines performance and can determine how long the cross trainer lasts.
Now that you have an understanding of some of the more confusing terms, we can begin our buyers guide to cross trainers!
Calorie Burning and Weight Loss Benefits
The amount of calories you will burn on a cross trainer will vary depending on the speed and resistance level, but on average you will burn between 80-110 calories. When you consider that using a cross trainer feels far easier and can be kept up for longer without over straining yourself in comparison to using a treadmill, you may well be able to burn twice as many calories on a cross trainer simply because you are able to use it at full speed for a longer period of time.
Low Impact vs High Impact
When it comes to weight training and weight loss a lot of people are under the wrong impression that no pain means no gain and in order to see results you have to exhaust yourself to the max and workout until you literally drop. Not only is this untrue but it can actually be a pretty dangerous approach which could easily result in you injuring yourself and damaging your bones. Treadmills in particular put a lot of strain on you legs (particularly your knees and shins) and can lead to injury and strains if you are not using the right equipment and are over working yourself.
Cross trainers, in contrast, are low impact machines that will not put the same strain on your legs. Whilst many cross trainers mimic a running motion the elliptical pedals will take the strain off your bones and the slower motion of the movement will make it far harder for you to damage your muscles. Cross trainers are still a very effective form of exercise that can strengthen both your legs and your arms at the same time, but it simply won’t put as much strain on your body.
The other obvious thing to mention is that whilst some people may think pain is the only way to results, a lot of people are not willing to put themselves through pain 4-5 times a week in order to work out. If you enjoy the exercise you are doing you are far more likely to keep at it and improve over time, and thus it is important to buy something you feel comfortable using regularly and you won’t give up on because it feels too hard.
The resistance levels in a cross trainer will determine how much your body has to resist the weight of the motion in order to move, so the higher the resistance level is the harder the exercise should be. Most higher-end cross training machines should have 10+ resistance levels, and you should be dubious about cross trainers which don’t have many options in the form of resistance. When you first start a new exercise regime it is recommended that you start off slow and build up over time, but once you have improved to a point where the exercise level you are currently on feels easy it is very important that you can increase it if you want to keep seeing results.
If you don’t keep pushing your body to work harder as it becomes comfortable with more intense exercises, then your body won’t have to work as hard during your workout and as a result whilst it should help you retain your weight you are unlikely to achieve greater results.
However, it is worth mentioning that resistance levels on different machines may not be comparable. You may get one machine with 20 resistance levels and another machine with 10, but in reality they may be at the same level because there may be a larger increase between the second machines levels and therefore their 10 may be on the same level as the other machines 20. Whilst it is important to make sure you have a range of resistance levels, that alone cannot determine how much scope you will have to improve with. Whenever you are in doubt it is a good idea to check customer reviews and see if anyone has mentioned it.
Controlling The Speed
One of the best things about cross trainers is that you can control the resistance levels and most cross training machines will let you control how hard the exercise is with a push of a button. The actual motion will remain the same so when you first start out you can get comfortable with your cross trainer by using the lowest settings, and then as you feel more confident you can increase the resistance levels and push yourself further.
When you use a comparative cardio machine like a treadmill you can control the speed and you can choose whether you walk, jog or run, but once you do start jogging or running you can’t exactly press a button to make it easier and the only way to stop the intensity is to stop the motion.
Place and Space
It may sound really obvious, but before you buy a cross trainer you need to make sure you have enough space for it. Cross trainers tend to be quite large, bulky machines and not only will you need to check the specific dimensions and make sure you have room for it but you also have to make sure you will leave yourself enough room around the machine so you can access it easily and you have enough space to move.
Something else to consider is where you put the cross trainer. It may sound like a good idea to put it in your garage because it is likely to fit in there, but most websites recommend that you don’t keep electronic fitness machines in cold rooms. This is because during winter the cold temperature could cause condensation inside your machine which could lead to damages.
Experts also recommend that you don’t keep your fitness equipment in a room that’s likely to get hot, and the reason for that is pretty obvious. When you do cardio exercise you will break a sweat and increase your body temperature as it is, so you will need to do your exercises in a ventilated, cool room which can help cool you down rather than make you even hotter.
The best place for your cross trainer may actually be your living room, provided you have the space. It’s always a good idea to be able to watch TV or listen to music as you exercise as it can help keep you motivated and increase your overall enjoyment.
The size and location of your treadmills fly wheel can determine how easy it is to move and store the cross trainer. Fly wheels are typically located in the front, back, or sides of the machine and these all have an impact on manoeuvrability.
Cross trainers that have their fly wheel on the back tend to be harder to transport, but cross trainers which have their fly wheel at the front of the machine are normally smaller, easier to store and easier to move. Some newer designs now have their fly wheels on both sides of the cross trainer and can actually be folded when not in use.
It’s important to note that although rear drive cross trainers are harder to transport, many users say they give you a better workout than front drive trainers because rear cross trainers provide a better elliptical movement and can put less strain on your legs. When in doubt make sure to check customer reviews.
Your cross trainers stride length refers to the maximum distance between your front and rear foot as you use the machine, i.e. how far apart your legs will be able to move in their peddles. It’s important that you consider this when buying a cross trainer because if the distance is too small it can limit your workout and make the exercise feel awkward or stilted, especially if you are taller or you want to push yourself.
A small stride length is fine if you are only going to do walking motions on your cross trainer, but realistically you will want to move past that as you become more confident. Most good-quality cross trainers will have a stride length that is 18 inches or over, so keep that in mind before you buy.
Some more expensive cross trainers will come with a heart monitor. The heart can be monitored either by hand sensors that are taken through the hand grips on the machine or wearable monitors, and they will monitor your heart throughout the exercise. Some more advanced cross trainers will be able to use your age and weight to determine your maximum heart rate and thus show you when you may be over working yourself.
Some cross trainers will also come with pre-installed fitness programs that you can follow depending on your goals. These programs will vary from machine to machine, but they will commonly focus on weight loss, muscle gain, heart rate, distance and running or hill climbing simulations.
These programs can be really helpful for solo users because they keep you motivated, give you ideas for new workouts and help you focus on your own goals.
Maximum User Weight
Most exercise machines have a maximum weight and it is not advisable for anyone over that weight to attempt to use the machine. Cross trainers tend to cater for people who are 130kg or lower, but these weights will vary depending on the individual machine. It’s important to check the specifications before you buy to avoid disappointment, but most cross trainers will cater for quite a large range of weights, heights and abilities.
Whenever you are investing in a large purchase like a piece of gym equipment it’s important to check for guarantees and warranties. Many reputable companies will offer a 28 day money back guarantee, so if you are not satisfied with the product you can get a refund within the stated time period although you will normally have to pay for postage.
These companies should also offer a warranty which covers at least one year. Warranties typically cover 1-10 year time periods, and they are important for two reasons.
- If you have invested quite a lot of money in a large piece of gym equipment, the last thing you want is for that machine to break within a few months. You could also be sent a faulty or damaged cross trainer which without a warranty may be difficult to return. Your warranty will protect you from manufacturing and accidental damages and so if your cross trainer breaks and it’s not your fault you can get it repaired or replaced as long as it breaks within the specified time period.
- Longer warranties are a good sign because they tend to reflect the quality of your purchase. If the manufacturer knows they have made a flimsy and easily damaged cross trainer they won’t stick a massive warranty on it because they’d have to keep paying out, so if a product has a long warranty it can suggest that the manufacturer thinks that product is going to last at least as long as the specified warranty.
The amount you are willing to spend on a cross trainer will depend on your personal goals. If you are just starting out and you want a functioning machine without any unnecessary frills then you will want to look at budget buys, whereas if you are an experienced cross trainer and want to take your workout to the next level you may prefer a high-end machine full of extra features.
It is always worth spending a bit more on a quality product rather than wasting your money on something that isn’t going to last very long, but it is also important not to buy something that’s overly expensive when you could have bought the same features for a cheaper price. Before making your final decision you should compare a few different cross trainers to get a good idea of the types of features and styles you can expect for your budget and what machine will work best for you.
Hopefully this buyers guide has answered a lot of the questions you may have had about cross trainers and you now feel able to get out there and make an informed purchase.