How to make sure you’re buying the best cross trainer for your home
So, you’re thinking about adding a cross-trainer to your home gym? That’s great! Cross trainers (also called elliptical machines) are great for a low impact, full-body cardio workout – so very appealing to a range of fitness enthusiasts.
Before parting with any money, you need to decide a few things- because the commercial cross trainers you see at the gym and the ones for home use are very different.
We have put together some things to think about when deciding what cross trainer is right for you.
How big is your budget?
Let’s start with the money. This is probably the main question and one that will help you sort your shortlist into a more manageable one. You can pick up a basic Opti cross trainer for around the £150 mark or pay thousands for commercial quality machines like the NordicTrack ranges.
The more you pay, normally means more features, heavier flywheels, better resistance options and more workout integration (like classes to follow, app integration etc). But not to worry if you’re budget isn’t huge, most quality cross-trainers that are great for home use are around the £500 price point.
How much space have you got?
Next, let’s think about space. Have you got enough of it for a cross-trainer? Everyone’s circumstances are different, some may have room to put a cross-trainer up and keep it there, and others may have shared spaces where they can’t have it up all the time.
If you are tight on space then you may be better thinking about an exercise bike as that is also a low impact workout, but takes up a lot less space, whereas there isn’t as much of a selection in folding cross-trainers. However, if your heart is set on a cross-trainer then dimensions are similar to a treadmill, and you’ll need about 1.5 to 2 metres plus 1 metre behind and double the width.
We always recommend taking the time to read dimensions and manufacturers’ space advice before buying a cross-trainer.
What are your goals if you get a cross trainer?
Now, what do you want to get out of this exercise? What are your goals? Losing weight? Injury recovery? Getting fitter? Whatever your reason, put some thought into this because that will really help when you come to narrow down your search.
Don’t stress, we will help you answer these questions and set you on the path to finding your perfect cross trainer for you and your home!
What are the benefits of a cross trainer?
Just like exercise bikes and treadmills, cross trainers are now a popular addition to home gyms everywhere! There are lots of reasons why, and here are just a few:
- Low impact workout: Cross trainers are low impact on your joints compared to other popular fitness machines like treadmills. So great if you want to be gentle on those joints. You can also manage resistance levels to suit you.
- Toning: You can also increase the intensity to really tone up those legs and thighs. Cross trainers are great for strengthening your hamstrings, quads, calves, arms and bottom (and all at once!)
- Weight Loss; You are getting a full cardio workout which is getting your arms and legs moving together. You’ll be sweating and burning those calories in no time! Make sure to watch your diet too though!
- Improve Fitness: As I said, a cross trainer will give you a good cardio workout, just like a treadmill or an exercise bike. Getting your heart pumping will improve your cardio fitness and as we all know, will also help your heart, lungs and other parts of your body too!
- A more stable workout: A cross trainer has broad pedals, and you don’t need to take your feet off them. So if you aren’t great with balance or very steady on your feet then a cross trainer is a good option.
No excuses! Sounds simple, but having a cross-trainer in your home means there’s never a reason not to do your workout! It doesn’t matter if it’s dark or cold outside, or the gym is too busy!
What are the different types of cross trainers?
There are a few different options from the main brands when we start looking at cross-trainers. Here is a selection of the main types you’ll find on the market:
Manual or Magnetic cross trainers
The good thing about these is that you can set them up anywhere in your home as they This is the next step up from a manual cross trainer that we just talked about. These use a magnetic field to allow you to change the resistance at the touch of a button. This is great as it means you don’t have to interrupt your workout when changing the intensity, and some machines with programs integrated will change this automatically!
As you’d expect, these tend to be a little bit more expensive, but definitely a good choice if you can stretch your budget a bit further.
Front Driven cross trainers
This has the flywheel at the front of the machine. They often have long stride lengths but adopt a more circular motion which looks like you’re climbing steps. Front driven cross trainers tend to take up less room, which could be a good option if you’re tight on space.
Rear Driven cross trainers
These are what you picture when you think about a cross trainer/elliptical machine, with the flywheel at the back of the machine. They have more of a natural running/walking movement compared to the front-driven option and are often smoother to use.
Foldable cross trainers
Exactly what it says, these have the ability to fold up and move out of the way after use. Most cross trainers will come with integrated transport wheels to move around, but there are some rear driven cross trainers that can be folded away.
2-in-1 cross trainers
These are a great way to add variety to your workout. 2 in 1 machines give you the option to use as an exercise bike or a cross trainer. They come with an adjustable saddle which means you can cycle too! Two pieces of equipment for the price and space of one! Winner!
What are your cross trainer’s must-have features?
Lots of cross trainers come with lots of different features. Obviously, the more money you spend, the more features it might have. But it’s always good to decide on a top 3 feature priority list to help you to narrow your search down.
What type of display panel do you need?
Different bikes have different screens, some are no-frills basic and some are bigger and better. Do you need a big screen to read your workout feedback? Or doesn’t it matter, are you going to be using your SMART watch anyway? Worth thinking about this as a bigger screen for your workout data normally means a higher price.
What workout metrics do you want?
Speed, time, distance, RPM, and calories are normally standard on most cross trainers, but do you want pulse sensors for heart rate? Do you want Odometer calculations? Do you want the ability to save different profile metrics if more than one person in your home is using the bike?
The pricier the model normally means the more resistance levels. The bigger range of resistance levels means more options for a higher intensity workout, so the cross trainer can grow with you as your fitness improves.
Always look at the cross trainer description about stride length. This means the range of motion from the workout, so if you want to mimic walking or running, you can do this. A longer stride length often means a harder workout. And it’s great if you can adjust the stride length, especially if different people in your home are planning on sharing this equipment.
Need it to be foldable? Short on space? This may be a top priority for you!
This tends to be a premium (pricier) feature on cross trainers. It means that you can adjust the incline, so if you want to go up a hill then you can change to the level of incline to reflect this. This can also make your workouts a lot more challenging if that’s what you’re after!
Do you need safety handles?
All cross trainers come with motion handles, and most also have safety handles for you to hold on to when you’re just using your legs and to keep you more stable. Not all have this feature though, so have a think if that’s what you need.
Nice extras: Bottle and ipad holders?
You can upgrade your cross trainer selection to include bottle holders and somewhere to watch your tablet/device when you’re working out. Is this something that would be in your top 3 must-have features?
GymTechReview’s top-rated Cross Trainers
I know, there’s a lot of information here and when choosing a cross trainer, you do need to do your research! At GymTechReview, we spend time reviewing gym equipment in the hope we can make your selection process that little bit easier.
Here is a list of our top-rated cross trainers:
Best value for money
JTX STRIDER-X7: Home Cross Trainer
Best feature Packed
Reebok GX40s One Electronic Cross Trainer
Best Budget Cross Trainer
Dripex Elliptical Cross Trainer Machine
Other notable winners
Top tips when using your cross trainer
Now you’ve got your fancy new cross trainer, here are some things to think about before you get started:
Get used to the console: Some displays will be basic, but some will have lots of features. Get used to how to work the console, what workouts are on there and how you select them, and what metrics you can record and track, like calories, heart rate and distance. Do this before your first workout so you’re not interrupted.
Understand the resistance: Know what type of resistance levels your cross trainer has and how you change them. Do you turn a knob? Is it changed by a button on the console? You’ll need to understand this to make sure you get the best workout. If it’s a manual knob change then get used to the levels and what you should be using before you start your first workout. Changing it halfway through your exercise will be a pain, and you don’t want to risk an injury.
Find a place for your distractions: Most of us listen to music or watch something when we are working out to help pass the time, what are you going to do? Whether it’s watching an iPad or having somewhere to put your phone for music, make sure you’ve got somewhere safe to do that if it’s not integrated into your cross trainer already.
Don’t forget your water bottle! Whether you’ve got a holder on your cross trainer or have a table close by, make sure you’ve got your water bottle before you start, otherwise, you’ll have to stop and interrupt your workout.
FAQ’s all about cross trainers
How much does a cross-trainer cost?
As we’ve already discussed, the price range for cross trainers is quite broad! The magnetic and 2 in 1 options are often under £300 and then for a little bit more, £500 will give you lots of brands and features. If you are paying £800+ then you can indulge in a commercial/gym-quality cross trainer with all the features.
How much space do I need for a cross trainer?
Cross trainers tend to be on the bulkier side of home gym equipment. You need to have at least 1m of extra space behind the cross trainer and normally about 50cm on either side. This is something you should always check on the manual before you buy. Make sure your dimensions comfortably fit in the space you’re thinking about!
Should I buy or hire my cross trainer?
If you’re thinking about a pricier cross trainer, a lot of companies offer to hire them AND buy them. Have a think about how long you’re planning to keep the equipment for, and how much you’ll be paying over time vs the RRP. It might be worth having a look at the interest rates they are charging and see if you are better off buying it and using an interest-free credit card instead.
If you do hire, then don’t forget you have to keep the cross trainer in good working order, and will often have to pay a deposit that is returned at the end of the hire term.
Or it might be that you only want the cross trainer for the short term, so hiring is perfect! Whatever you decide, always do your homework before choosing to hire.
What fitness company has the best customer service and warranty?
At GymTechReview we review a lot of companies, and whilst all the big brands are good at putting customers first, we were most impressed with JTX Fitness. With their 28-day money-back guarantee and at least 2 years of in-house repair on almost all products, if you weren’t happy with their stuff or something went wrong, it would get sorted straight away with their UK shop. Also, their TrustPilot rating is Excellent!
Are cross trainers hard to assemble?
Cross trainers can sometimes be tricky, but the good news is that normally the main flywheel and pedal section will come in one piece, so there are not loads of extra things to put together! You can read our product reviews or product customer reviews before you buy to find out what people thought, and often you can view the manual online too and see how tricky it looks before you hand over any money!
What is a flywheel on a cross-trainer?
The flywheel is the main/heaviest part of a cross trainer and is what determines how stable and smooth your workout is. Usually the cheaper the cross trainer, the lighter the flywheel is. You’ll always want to have something around 8kgs and over if your budget allows.
Will a cross trainer help me lose weight?
Any fitness equipment that gets your body moving is going to help you burn those calories and contribute to your weight loss goals. But, always remember that a good diet is also really important if you want to lose weight.
Cross trainers that have high resistance ranges and also fat burn programmes to follow are a great option if your goal is to shed some pounds.