You know when you stroll into a gym and your eyes land on those intriguing machines that seem like the love child of a treadmill and a stationary bike?
Yep, those are called cross-trainers, sometimes going by the name 'ellipticals'.
If you are new to the gym they might be a tad intimidating at first glance, but once you hop on one, you'll quickly realise why they are so popular.
If you've never given them a try or perhaps never quite understood their uses, let us talk about some of the benefits of cross-trainers and you might want to add them to your routine.
Cross Trainer Benefits
Gentle on Your Joints
You've probably heard tales of people complaining about knee or ankle pain after a good run.
Even treadmills, despite their cushioned design, can sometimes be a little rough on our joints. Enter the cross-trainer.
On this machine, your feet always stay put on the pedals, eliminating the jarring impact common in regular running.
Imagine jogging on clouds – sounds dreamy, right? This feature is a blessing, especially if you're advancing in years or if your joints tend to protest now and then.
It's a Total Body Workout in One Machine
Most exercise equipment at the gym usually zeroes in on specific muscle groups. But with a cross-trainer, you're engaging your entire body.
- Arms and Shoulders: Thanks to the machine's movable handles, your arms and shoulders aren't left out of the workout mix. By pushing and pulling these handles as you pedal, you're giving those muscles a solid workout. And you'll definitely notice the energizing burn!
- Core Strength: Here's a neat trick – let go of those handles. You're now using your core muscles. That means your abs and obliques are getting a stealthy workout, just by keeping you upright and balanced.
- Lower Body Focus: The cross-trainer isn't just about the upper body. By tweaking your movements, you can zero in on the lower body too. Try pedalling in reverse; you'll immediately feel your glutes and thighs stepping up to the challenge. And if you're feeling adventurous? Incorporate some shallow squats into your routine, and watch your leg muscles come alive.
Related: Cross Trainer Home Workouts
Your Heart and Lungs Get Stronger
While it might seem like cross-trainers are all about building and toning muscles, there's another critical aspect of your body that benefits immensely: your cardiovascular system.
Every session on these machines makes your heart and lungs work a tad harder, ensuring they get their fair share of exercise.
As you consistently use the cross-trainer, your heart begins to strengthen, becoming more efficient at circulating blood throughout your body; which can help reduce fatigue and improve endurance.
Your lungs reap the rewards too, gradually, their capacity expands, allowing you to take in more oxygen with every breath. Simple everyday tasks that might have once left you huffing and puffing—like darting up a flight of stairs or sprinting to catch the bus—become noticeably easier.
Mix Up Your Workouts
We've all been there: getting into a monotonous cycle with our workouts, doing the same exercises and routines, and eventually feeling our motivation wane.
With a cross-trainer, you have more workout options. You can focus on your legs by minimising how much you engage your arms.
Or go in reverse to further engage different muscles.
You can even choose to minimise how much you use your legs and focus on using your upper body.
A cross trainer allows you to target different muscle groups, keeping things fresh and engaging.
For those who love a challenge or simply want to inject a little more fun into their gym session, you can experiment with HIIT training on the cross-trainer. Alternating between high-energy, fast-paced and more relaxed, slower-paced periods.
Build Some Muscle
And while dumbbells and barbells are indeed the go-to for bulking up, the cross-trainer offers a unique way to boost strength too.
If you are using a commercial cross trainer or a good model from our best cross trainer guide, you will have the option to adjust the resistance level of your cross trainer. Cranking up the resistance will make the workout more challenging and in time help you build muscle and lose fat, making you look more toned.
For the weightlifters out there, pairing your strength training sessions with light cross-trainer workouts can be a great move.
After a strenuous lifting routine, hopping on the cross-trainer with reduced resistance can be an excellent way to promote muscle recovery. It ensures that your muscles remain active without being strained further.
Unwind the Gentle Way
We all have those days when life seems overwhelming, or our bodies shout out for a bit of respite after an intense workout session.
It's times like these that the cross-trainer comes into its own as a real gem in the gym.
It's like taking a serene walk alongside a river or enjoying a gentle jog in a park, all from the comfort of the indoors.
With an elliptical, you can move at your own pace and get your heart rate up without putting too much stress on yourself.
It's not just about burning calories or building stamina; it's also about giving yourself a break, a moment to breathe and reset.
Less Risk of Hurting Yourself
Let's face it; while running feels exhilarating, it can sometimes be a bit hard on our bodies.
From the pounding of our feet against the pavement to the sudden starts and stops, there's always that lurking possibility of a strain or a pull.
The beauty of the cross-trainer is in its fluidity. Your body flows in harmony with the machine, moving in a rhythmic and continuous motion.
It's this very dance-like fluidity that reduces the chance of jarring injuries often associated with more high-impact exercises.
Instead of abrupt halts or sudden changes in direction, every move on the cross-trainer is predictable, controlled, and smooth.
So, if you're someone who loves the feeling of movement but is cautious about the wear and tear running might bring, the cross-trainer could be your new best friend.
It offers the joy of motion, the benefits of a workout, but with a gentle touch, ensuring that you can dance (or exercise) another day without any unwelcome aches or sprains.
Discovering Your New Fitness Ally
Are cross-trainers the ultimate answer to all your fitness dilemmas? Probably not. However, they will help you work towards your fitness goals.
If you're on the hunt for a joint-friendly exercise, want to engage multiple muscle groups, or simply feel the itch to switch things up, then a cross-trainer might just be what you need.