A guide to cross trainers

Cross trainers are a low impact way to tone your upper body and your legs at the same time, while flexing your stomach and sides with gentle twisting movements. The all-over workout burns calories more effectively than exercising arms and legs only, making cross trainers an ideal way to lose weight. The range of movement builds flexibility, and a few sessions a week on a cross trainer will also improve your general aerobic fitness.

Choosing your cross trainer

There are two main types of cross trainer:

  • Belt – ideal for a basic workout and a simple routine, also great value for money.
  • Magnetic – offers more resistance programmes, providing more training levels to increase your fitness.  Often quieter than belt versions

Look out for tension levels on each product, as this indicates the number of levels of resistance the cross trainer has with some going up to 75.

Making space for your cross trainer

Cross trainers are quite compact. In general, allow the same amount of space as for a small sofa, but with around half a metre round the edges to give you room to move.

What else do I need?

Because you’ll be moving your ankles more than with other gym equipment, you’ll need to check your trainers support your ankles properly – lightweight running shoes aren’t designed to handle much sideways movement. You’ll also need to make sure you’ve got a firm, non-slippery surface to put the cross trainer on.

Jargon buster

Cross trainer terms explained


Belt Part of the transmission, the belt ‘pushes back’ as you build up speed
Console The controls on the front panel of the cross trainer
Display The digital readout on the front panel of the cross trainer
Frame The structure, usually metal tubes, that all the moving parts of the cross trainer attach to
Functions Various ways of using the cross trainer, for example levers only, pedals only, or reverse pedalling
Heart monitor A sensor that takes your pulse (usually through the hand grips) and displays it for you, helping you get more from your training
Programmes The various choices of workout on a cross trainer, such as cross-country skiing, point-to-point, or downhill
Self-generating power A setting that lets you charge the machine’s battery as you exercise – so you don’t need to plug your cross trainer into the mains or find new batteries
Transmission The mechanism inside the machine that creates resistance as you’re training
Tension control How you vary the resistance level you’re training at to make it easier or harder. Most cross trainers have a few levels to choose from.


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