Cross Trainer vs Elliptical Machines: What’s the Difference?

Cross Trainers and Elliptical Machines are two different workout equipment with various similarities and differences. People are often confused and interchange both products, not knowing their full benefit or difficulty to operate before use.

If you can’t decide whether to pick a Cross Trainer or an Elliptical Machine, we’ve got you covered. Follow us as we unveil the difference between the two and keep reading to see the list of the best Cross Trainers and Elliptical Machines in the market.

Cross Trainer vs Elliptical: Which is Which?

The elliptical trainer, like a stationary bike, is one of the most famous cardio machines at fitness centers and a popular choice for home gyms. An elliptical machine is a type of exercise machine that simulates some cardio exercises like climbing stairs, walking, or running with low impact. Elliptical machines generally target your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and anterior tibialis. They are considered the best option for people looking for low-impact workouts or those who have joint problems.

Cross Trainer Definition:

On the other hand, a Cross Trainer is a variant of the typical elliptical trainer. It gives you additional workout options that target your upper body like your triceps, biceps, and shoulders. That’s because the handles of a cross-trainer are moveable, unlike the elliptical, which has stationary handles. This makes a Cross Trainer the perfect machine for a whole body workout.

Why use Elliptical Machines and Cross Trainers?

Since using these machines target several main muscle groups, you lose weight and increase your cardiovascular endurance. Many experts believe that elliptical machines have numerous benefits over a treadmill. According to the Mayo Clinic, an elliptical machine can be less stressful on your knees, hips, and back than running on a treadmill. This statement does not mean that treadmills are more effective, though; running on a treadmill exerts about the same force as using an elliptical machine.

Here are the additional benefits of using elliptical machines and cross trainers


Did you know that you can perform both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio workouts with both an elliptical machine and cross-trainers. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of workout that involves short periods of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods. HIIT is for people who do not have time for long activities but want fast results. Hence, elliptical machines generally work for people who either want easy and slow workout sessions or are up for vigorous exercises.

Quick and easy way to burn calories

Elliptical machines can burn about 270 to 400 calories in 30 minutes! This result depends on your weight, but elliptical machines are a great way to lose weight for anyone.

Easy on the joints

If you have problems using other workout methods just because of your achy joints, ellipticals are perfect for you. Since your feet never lift off the pedals when you use an elliptical, this machine offers a low-impact type of cardio workout, which results in other cardio workout machines. You can also keep working out after an injury on an elliptical because it will not be hard on your joints.

Easy to use

You do not need to be a pro to use an elliptical machine or cross-trainer. It is relatively easy to use for beginners, and you can immediately start your workout journey with the elliptical if you are new to cardio workouts.

Cross Trainer vs Elliptical: Which One Should You Get?

While both machines are an excellent way to perform cardio exercises, ellipticals and cross trainers are different in some ways. If you wonder which device you should pick, have a look at this key difference between the two, including their benefits and features.

Stationary & Moveable Bars

Ellipticals have stationary bars, which means that you can choose to buy an elliptical if you want to work on your lower body specifically. You will have to hold the handlebars in both machines when you work out, but if you have a cross-trainer, your arms will constantly move with the removable handles giving you an upper-body workout.

One more difference between the two types of machines is that they have different levels of difficulty. The main difference is that cross trainers are more challenging to get used to compared to elliptical trainers because of the bars. Since the bars you grip in cross-trainers also move, you will have to find your balance and coordination, which can get a little tricky, especially if you are a beginner. This difficulty occurs because all parts of your body that are in contact with the cross trainer are moving, occupying every element you use to maintain your balance.

Furthermore, the coordination is more complicated in cross-trainers because as your right arm goes forward, your right foot goes backward, and the left side of your body is making the opposite motion. This movement might confuse you at first and take time to get the hang of it.

If you do not like these cross-trainers and want to go for a more accessible type of cardio exercise, pick the simple elliptical because the bars will be stationary, and you can hold onto them for support. But remember that this occupies your upper body; you are only left with a lower-body workout if you choose this option.

Ellipticals are excellent for aged people since moving the handles in a cross-trainer can be too tedious for them.

Best Cross Trainer for Full Body Workout

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer  

Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer with 8 Level Resistance and Digital Monitor

If you are looking for a cross-trainer that will help you work out your entire body, go for the Sunny Health & Fitness SF-E905 Elliptical Machine Cross Trainer with 8 Level Resistance and Digital Monitor.

This cross trainer provides you with low-impact cardiovascular training from the comfort of your own home. The Sunny Elliptical Cross Trainer gives you both a smooth upper and lower body workout without any jarring impact on the knee joints.

Additionally, the Sunny Elliptical Cross Trainer features sizeable anti-slip foot platforms for stability during your workout and simultaneously moves your arms to engage your upper body in the exercise of the same intensity.

Some exceptional features include Pulse Sensors, which maintain your heart rate, according to your goal. Remember that measuring your heart rate is very important because the more steady and prolonged the elevated heart rate is during the workout, the more fat you burn. Secondly, the cross trainer comes with a digital monitor that quickly displays your heart rate so you can maintain it. It also shows the distance covered and time elapsed to keep you focused on your goals.

This trainer also offers an 8-level adjustable resistance with a convenient tension knob. With just an easy adjustment, you can increase or decrease the resistance according to your workout plan. Different resistance levels stimulate the muscles differently and hence helps you create a variety of new workouts with just one machine.

An additional benefit is that this machine comes with wheels to move it around, which is especially good if you buy it for your home gym. The only downside is that it might be a little complicated to assemble if you plan to do it yourself.

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Best Cross Trainer with a Seat

Body Rider Elliptical Trainer

Body Rider Elliptical Trainer and Exercise Bike with Seat and Easy Computer / Dual Trainer 2 in 1 Cardio Home Office Fitness Workout Machine BRD2000If you are looking for a great cross trainer with the feature of a seat, go for the Body Rider Elliptical Trainer

This cross trainer allows you to quickly shift between the seated and standing options without much hassle. The foam seat itself is adjustable, with seven height settings, and the moveable handlebars also give you three height options. The flywheel fan, which produces a gentle breeze as you exercise, is also covered to ensure that you do not get injured when you workout.

The digital monitor conveniently displays the workout duration, distance covered, calories burned, and speed. Since the trainer gives you both options to sit and stand, you can plan your high-intensity workouts and low-impact exercises.

The company promises a weight capacity of 250 pounds and also gives you a one-year warranty. The value is also remarkable given that the machine allows you to use it in two ways. The only downside is that using the product can become noisy because it makes a sound when it is on.

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Best Elliptical for Greater Comfort & Ease

Sunny Health & Fitness Under Desk Elliptical Peddler

Sunny Health & Fitness Fully Assembled Magnetic Under Desk Elliptical Peddler – SF-E3872, GreyOne great elliptical trainer that offers maximum comfort is the Sunny Health & Fitness Fully Assembled Magnetic Under Desk Elliptical Peddler.

This compact elliptical peddler is excellent for older people (and anyone else who wants an easy lower body exercise) since its design enables it to fit in front of any comfortable seat that you choose. It does not force you to hold on to any handles or use a built-in seat, which can get annoying if you want to pedal while sitting on your favorite armchair and watching television.

The textured foot pedals prevent slippage while in use. Peddling is excellent for increasing blood circulation, joint range of motion, and improved lower body muscular endurance. What is even better is that this machine arrives fully assembled! This feature helps you save time, money, and energy instead of putting together your elliptical trainer. More great features include eight levels of belt drive magnetic resistance, a digital monitor that tracks speed, time, calories, distance, and scan, and a 7-inch stride length that moves smoothly with integrated wheels.

Its compact design is best for storage; you can push it under your desk or table and pull it out when you need to use it. There is no heavy lifting or tedious assembling required. The only limitation of this machine, apart from the apparent low intensity (if you are into rigorous workouts), is that you can not peddle backward.

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Best Cross Trainer for Low Impact Workout

SCHWINN 470 Elliptical Machine

SCHWINN 470 Elliptical MachineIf low impact workout does not seem like a good idea and you want to stick with cross trainers that will give your whole body a workout, check the SCHWINN 470 Elliptical Machine out.

This cross trainer, which comes with moveable handlebars, gives you excellent features. For starters, it has BlueTooth connectivity, which syncs with the Schwinn Trainer App and other apps for fitness tracking. The company recommends its Run Social App, which is free to download for their user. The application allows its user to simulate 19 locations with 27 routes alongside people worldwide in real-time, all within the comfort of their home.

The machine itself comes with 29 workout programs: 12 profile, nine heart rate control, four custom, two fitness tests, one quick start program. It is excellent if you are a beginner! It also offers a whopping 25 levels of resistance for a wide range of workout intensity options.

Additionally, you will enjoy dual-track LCDs, a media shelf, console speakers with an MP3 input port, USB media charging, and an adjustable fan.

The machine is also silent in operation, easy to assemble, and durable!

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FAQs about Cross Trainers and Elliptical Machines

What is the correct way of using elliptical machines?

If you are a beginner, here are some step by step directions to begin using an elliptical machine:

First, step onto the machine, facing the console. Do not worry; it will not start unless you begin pedaling.

Next, start pedaling by pushing the pedals forward. The monitor (if included) will turn on. Now, push and pull on the handles evenly (skip this last part if you do not have a cross-trainer).

If you have pre-set programs on your system, choose them from the menu on the monitor; if you want to set a manual program, pick that.
According to how machine’s design, increase or decrease the pedaling resistance by hitting the up and down arrows or rotating the knobs. If your trainer machine has a heart monitor function, you will find the buttons in your handles.
After this, do not step off the elliptical unless it has entirely stopped. If you feel faint at any time during your first workout, stop immediately.

Are there any dangers associated with using ellipticals or cross-trainer machines?

While these machines are the easiest ways to do cardio exercises, they can be risky if you do not know how to use them correctly.

One potential risk is that your foot can slip or lift off the peddle while you are working out, risking injury. To prevent slipping of the pedals, you can wear gym shoes that have good tread so your feet can grip the pedals. Also, set the elliptical at a speed with which you are comfortable because if it is too fast, your feet can slip off.

Some ellipticals also come with foot straps, which secures your feet to the pedals. However, if you do not fasten them properly, they can be dangerous. If your feet can move more than a centimeter in any direction while the strap is tied, the strap could slide off. Yet if it is too tight, it could block blood circulation from your feet, and your feet might get numb.

Finally, do not overwork. Do not aim for maximum heart rate because that could lead to excess fatigue, slowing you down. Also, keep track of your posture since the wrong posture can increase the risks of injury.