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The move towards home fitness seems to be growing continually. Since many of us live in small spaces, there is huge demand for exercise machines which can provide a whole lot of workout in very little space. Cross trainers fit this description perfectly.
What does a cross trainer do?
A cross trainer is a specific type of elliptical trainer. Elliptical trainers are exercise machines which provide cardio and muscle training for the lower body. They support the same types of lower-body movements as exercise bikes, stair climbers and treadmills. Cross trainers are essentially elliptical trainers with moveable handles which can work out the upper body as well as the lower one.
Cross trainer benefits
For many people, the main benefit of a cross trainer is that it works out pretty much every major muscle group.
A standard elliptical trainer will work out:
- Lower shins
A cross trainer will also work out:
For some people, however, the main benefit of a cross trainer is that it is high-intensity, low-impact cardio. The name “elliptical trainer” refers to the way the lower body moves. Essentially you put your feet on pedals and keep them there, much as you would on a bicycle. This means that your injury risk is practically non-existent.
Are cross trainers good?
As Einstein might have said, “It’s all relative”. Now that you know a bit more about cross trainers, let’s take a closer look at their benefits and see how they stack up against other options.
Delivering low-impact, intense cardio
For the most part, low-impact, intense cardio is a contradiction in terms. Most low-impact cardio is too gentle to be intense and most intense cardio is high impact. We can think of only five exceptions to this rule. These are elliptical trainers, swimming, cycling (indoor and outdoor), rowing machines and some forms of yoga.
Getting a full-body workout
There are plenty of options for getting a full-body workout. What we will say, however, is that cross trainers are a particularly user-friendly option. You don’t have to know your muscle groups or practice undertaking a movement with perfect form. Most people will be able to use a cross trainer effectively after reading the manual and maybe watching a YouTube video.
Customising your workouts
Most forms of exercise can be customized to some extent. In fact, if you know your way around fitness, you could probably create infinite numbers of customized workouts. Again, however, cross trainers make it really easy. As a minimum, you should be able to adjust the resistance and speed. Some cross trainers will come with pre-set workouts and a few will allow you to program your own workouts.
This is a win for cross trainers. They are nearly silent. For many people, this is a huge plus because it means you can exercise whenever you want without disturbing anyone else whether that’s a sleeping baby, a work-at-home flatmate or an upstairs neighbour on shifts.
Ease of maintenance
This is another win for cross trainers. Assuming you buy a high-quality cross trainer, there is minimal maintenance and it’s very unlikely to need to be repaired.
Cross trainers versus other types of exercise
If like many people, you really only have room for one piece of exercise equipment in your home gym, then there is a strong argument for making it a cross trainer. There is no other piece of exercise equipment we have found which can deliver low-intensity cardio while toning all the major muscle groups in both the upper and lower body.
In fact, the only exercise we’ve found which could compare to a cross trainer in terms of all-around effectiveness is yoga. You would, however, need to put a lot of effort into getting to a very high standard of yoga before achieving the same results. With cross trainers, by contrast, you’re pretty much good to go as soon as they arrive. We also suspect that the nature of yoga makes it more of an injury risk, although it’s hard to see how you would be able to prove that.
Cross trainers and other types of exercise
You can use a cross trainer on its own and you can get great results from it. You can also, however, mix it up with other exercises. In particular, you could incorporate some strength training and also some work on flexibility.
The good news is that this can be both easy and affordable, even if you live in a small space. For example, even if you live in a tiny flat, you can pop some resistance bands in a drawer and then you can add some basic strength training. Flexibility is really about stretching and can make a great activity for your rest days, just make sure to keep it at a low intensity.
So, for example, you could do three days of 30 minutes a day on your cross trainer and then have a rest day in which you did some stretches. Alternatively, you could do a day of cross training, a day of strength training and another day of cross training, followed by a rest day in which you did stretches.
Cross trainers and rest days
You should be prepared to give yourself frequent rest days when using cross trainers because they are so intense and they do work out so many different muscles. To be clear, these rest days are a vital part of your overall exercise program as they are a time for your body to recover from all the work it’s doing on the other days.
For most people, three days of training followed by a rest day will probably be a good pattern. Some people might be able to train for four days, especially if they are very fit. This, however, is probably the maximum.
Probably the single, biggest reason why cross trainers have become so popular is that they pack a whole lot of exercise into a very compact package and are quiet enough to use pretty much whenever you want, with the added benefit of being low impact
Do you use the cross trainer regularly or will you be looking to add in this wonderful machine into your routine?
Let us know in the comments below if you’re a big fan of the cross trainer or simple cross over to the other side of the gym to use something else