We’re going to put it out there. The cross trainer is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the gym. Also called the elliptical machine, a cross trainer is a cardio machine that can help you develop your aerobic fitness.

You can also add resistance to it to make it a source of muscle conditioning for the arms and legs. Diverse, easy to use, and low impact for those with troublesome joints, the elliptical is a great way to get a full body workout in.

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How do you use the cross trainer?

Using the cross trainer takes a tiny bit of coordination at first, but once you get the hang of it is a straightforward machine to navigate.

Step 1: Place a foot on each of the stands and take hold of the poles with each hand.

Step 2: Drive your right foot forward. You’ll notice your right arm will need to extend with it as the pole moves. Then drive your left foot and left arm forward. Keep stepping forward in this way. Make sure to engage your arms rather than just letting your legs do all the work.

Step 3: Make a note of the level. Most machines will have a resistance level, which can be increased or decreased to make the action harder or easier.


What does the cross trainer work?

Using the cross trainer, or elliptical trainer, is traditionally seen as a cardiovascular exercise and develops your aerobic fitness. Especially at a lower level, using it will increase your heart and get your body to deliver more oxygen to the cells in your muscles. It can be helpful if you’re looking to burn some calories.

But a huge benefit of the cross trainer is that it also doubles as a form of resistance training. The machine engages the muscles in your legs as well as your arms to drive the movement. Increasing the resistance level on the machine means that the force your muscles are exerting to do the exercise is also increased. In short, this results in a workout that will, over time, help to build muscle and tone up the body.


What’s a good beginner’s workout?

Try 10 minutes on a low resistance first, and gradually building up to longer sessions like 30 minutes.

As your fitness builds, you can also increase the resistance up to 7 or more to burn more calories and increase muscular endurance. You’re looking at about a 200 calorie burn for 30 minutes of training at a moderate speed.

A good beginners workout would look something like this:

Warm up: 5 minutes at level 3

Main workout: 20 minutes alternating between levels 5 and 7 every two minutes

Cool down: 5 minutes at level 3


To see some real improvement to your fitness levels or muscular endurance, try using the cross trainer as part of your gym routine. In particular, interval training on the cross trainer is a great way to test your fitness and get a full body workout done in a short amount of time.