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How Many Types of Cross-Trainer Machines are There?

Cross trainers are one of the versatile indoor exercise machines out there. Go into any gym or fitness center and you will see a bunch of these machines. However, you might have noticed that they come in various shapes and sizes. However, they all work based on similar principles. There is no need to worry too much about the specific types. Rather, you should look at the shape and size and opt for which machine feels the most natural to use. You can also make a choice based on what features are available.

In this article, you will get a complete overview of the features and considerations you should think about before buying a cross-trainer. Here is a list of the various categories of cross-trainers:-

  • Incline Cross-trainers
  • Variable Stride Cross-trainers
  • Electromagnetic Resistance Cross-trainers
  • Ergometer Cross-trainers
  • Friction Resistance Cross-trainers
  • Rear Drive Cross-trainers
  • Front Drive Cross-trainers
  • Center Drive Cross-trainers
  • Fan Elliptical Trainers

Features of cross-trainers

The following are some of the most commonly found features of a cross-trainer machine. These will help you determine what type of machine you should go for.

1. Stationary & moving handles

Most cross-trainers feature two sets of handles. One set is movable while the other is fixed. The motion handles let you work out your arms and upper body in coordination with the motion of the legs on the pedals. The stationary handles, also known as the safety handles, provide a place for you to rest your hands if you want to exercise only the legs. They are also useful for stability at high speeds. Often, the safety handles will have pulse sensors to measure your heart rate.

➥ For a full-body workout session, have a look at the elliptical cross trainer and exercise bike combo.

Dual handlebars
Dual handlebars

2. Stride length

A common specification you will see on most cross-trainers is the stride length. This tells us about the range of motion of the pedals, i.e. how long each stride is. The stride length can vary a lot among different machines. The same applies to people of different heights. You should look for a stride length that feels natural but also challenging at the same time. Generally, a longer stride length will prove to be more of a challenge.

3. Resistance

Just like most exercise machines, a cross-trainer also has the ability to vary the resistance. The higher the resistance level you choose, the more difficult the workout becomes. Usually, magnets are used which are moved towards and away from the flywheel to vary the resistance. Older models made use of friction. Magnetic resistance is smoother, quieter, and requires less maintenance.

4. Incline

On some cross-trainers, you will have the option to vary the incline which offers more of a challenge and introduces variation into your workouts. A steeper incline also works different muscles in your lower body. The machines which have this feature are more expensive but it could be worth it.

5. Console

Consoles on a cross-trainer are quite similar to the ones found on treadmills or stationary bikes. There is a wide range of console types available in an equally wide range of prices. The most basic console will display distance, speed, time, calories, and allow you to select the resistance level. Meanwhile, high-end consoles feature a heart rate monitor, backlit touch screen, Bluetooth, built-in workout programs, cooling fans, and many more.


6. Foldability

There are a lot of cross-trainers that can be folded so that they take up less space and can be easily stored. This also makes it easier to transport from one room to another. If you want to purchase a machine for home use, definitely consider getting one with a foldable design.

Here, you’ll be able to get more insight into the types & features of cross-trainers.

Things to consider, before buying a cross-trainer

Before you go off to shop for a cross-trainer, there are some factors you need to think about. The choice of the specific model will depend on these considerations.

1. Picking a spot

A cross-trainer should be kept in a room in which the temperature is at a comfortable level and does not vary too much. If the room is too hot, you will feel uncomfortable and sweat excessively. Ultimately, you will have to cut your workout short. In a room that is too cold, such as a garage, there is a high possibility of condensation forming on the machine. This could affect the electronics inside. Covering up the cross-trainer will help to reduce condensation. Having the machine in a room with speakers or television will make your sessions more enjoyable.

2. Flywheel weights

The weight of the flywheel determines the smoothness of the machine and also plays a big part in the resistance level. A larger flywheel is typically better since it spins for longer. Try to get a machine with a heavy flywheel but beware that some manufacturers provide misleading flywheel weights. To avoid this, try out the cross-trainer and see if the motion feels smooth enough.

3. Resistance levels

The amount of resistance should be decided by your fitness level. But don’t be fooled by the number of resistance levels. A machine might have a lot of levels but the maximum level could be not too difficult for you. The best option would be to buy a machine in which the resistance at halfway to the maximum is challenging for you. This leaves enough room for future growth in terms of strength and stamina.

4. Ensuring sufficient space

There are plenty of cross-trainers out there that are as large as, or even larger than treadmills. Make sure that you have enough room to store the machine. However, the dimensions of the machine are not enough. You should also keep around 1-2 feet of space around it for safety, easy access, and comfortable use.

Elliptical cross trainer
Elliptical cross trainer

5. Check the maximum user weight

For most machines, the maximum user weight should be high enough for users of all weights. However, it’s a good idea to check the weight capacity of some lower quality or smaller cross-trainers, especially if you are overweight. The value can range anywhere from 200 to more than 400 pounds.

6. Picking out the right stride length

Not everyone will have the same body mechanics and hence, the stride length will also vary. This is the distance between the rear and front foot when they are furthest apart during motion. Cross-trainers have varying stride lengths and you should pick one that is suitable for your body. If it is too short, you will feel restricted and the quality of the workout will below. Too long and you won’t be able to continue exercising for longer periods of time.

Benefits of using cross-trainers

There is a reason why cross-trainers are so popular across the world. The following are the main benefits you get from a cross-trainer and the reason why they have become a staple exercise machine everywhere.

1. Noiseless

This feature of cross-trainers makes them an excellent piece of equipment for working out at home. The mechanism of a cross-trainer does not involve any parts that collide, even your feet stay in contact with the pedals all the time. Therefore, you can push yourself as hard as you can without annoying the neighbors or others at home.

2. Easy on the joints

Cross-trainers are low impact machines. This means that, unlike with a treadmill, your joints will experience much fewer impact forces and a smoother motion which reduces the chances of injury. Those of you who have issues in your knees, back, or joints don’t have to give up cardio workouts. With a cross-trainer, you can remain active and stay healthy throughout your life.

3. Offers full-body workouts

Cross-trainers provide amazing aerobic exercise which improves your cardiovascular health. Thanks to the moving handles, both your upper and lower body muscles get a good workout. Even your core has to work to keep you stable throughout the range of motion. Working out for long periods of time with low resistance will tone your muscles while cranking up the resistance allows you to build strength and endurance.

4. Targeted workouts possible

Cross-trainers are also highly versatile. Place your hands on the stationary handles to target the muscles in your legs including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. Increasing the incline makes these muscles work even harder. To target the chest, back, and arms, try to drive the motion through the moving handles with your arms and just let your legs go with the flow.

Muscles worked
Muscles worked | Credit: https://365moves.com/cross-trainer-muscles

It Burns sufficient calories & aids in weight loss

Working out on a cross-trainer is one of the best ways to help you lose weight. Weight loss requires you to burn more calories than you consume every day. On a cross-trainer, you can burn anywhere from 200 to 400 calories in half an hour, depending on the intensity and your weight. These machines are just as effective as treadmills and stationary bikes. Instead of pedaling at a low speed and low resistance for 1-2 hours, try to push yourself at a higher intensity for 30 minutes. This will burn more calories in less time and help you see results faster.

F. A. Q.s

Q1. What type of cross-trainer should I choose?

Ans.: The primary factor on which you should base your decision should be your personal preference. Try out different types of machines and see which one feels the most comfortable. Since the width and stride length can vary, it might take a bit of trial and error to find one that suits your anatomy. Other considerations include the size, resistance levels, maximum user weight, and your budget.

Q2. Which features should I look for when choosing the trainer?

Ans.: The flywheel weight is very important. A heavier flywheel will provide a smoother and more consistent motion. A flywheel weight of 9 kg is a good value to start with, and the heavier the better. At the very least it should be 5 kg. Also, check how many resistance levels there are and if there is an incline feature. Built-in workout programs are a very useful feature to have. Depending on your budget, you can look for other convenience features such as device/bottle holders, Bluetooth connectivity, speakers, etc.

Q3. How much should I be spending on a cross-trainer?

Ans.: The price of a cross-trainer can vary enormously. Most good quality cross-trainers are available at a range between $500 and $1000. If you are particularly tight on a budget right now, you could either try saving up, or you could buy one at around $200. These machines may work just fine, but you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of quality and some features. On the other end of the spectrum, some machines cost upwards of $2000. Although, these are mostly commercial-grade cross-trainers made for gyms.


Regardless of the type of cross-trainer, you end up choosing, getting one on in the first place is what really matters. With a cross-trainer at home, you can work out at any time that is convenient for you. Additionally, you will save money in the long run by not having to pay gym membership fees. Remember, this is a long-term investment. So, consider everything and purchase a machine that meets your specific requirements.

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Dion Lewis
My name is Dion Lewis.

I’ve been cycling from my childhood. When I was in high school, I started racing in our local competitions.

At my college life, I took a part time job in a bicycle shop and I learned how to repair and maintain bicycles professionally.

Though I love racing, mountain biking is another thing I do frequently. My friends, neighbors, and colleagues treat me as an avid rider and take my suggestions while they plan for a new bike or a bike gear.

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