Best Cross Trainers for the Home Gym

Updated: Sep 19



Here’s a question for you: which single exercise burns the most calories?



No it’s not running, nor cycling . . . and neither is it swimming or rowing.



It would perhaps come as surprise to most keep-fit enthusiasts that the highest calorie consumptive exercise is actually cross-country skiing. I know, who would'a thunk it?



Sounds strange at first but when you think about it for a moment it makes perfect sense. After all, a cross-country skier is effectively running with planks of wood strapped to their feet through a medium many order of magnitude more viscus than air whilst plying a pair of poles.



And if the skier happens to be competing in a shooting event – otherwise known as a Biathlon – they’ve got the added encumbrance of a rifle to lug about.



Now, depending on your demography, access to the necessary terrain and climatic conditions conducive to cross-country skiing could present an insurmountable barrier.



Britain, by and large, is lacking in that one essential substance that makes skiing possible: snow! Yes we have plenty of rain but little to none of the white stuff. Probably a global warming thing.



So does that mean we are forever prohibited from reaping the physical fruits that cross-country skiing has to offer? Like hell does it!



For the fjords of Norway and the joy of cross-country skiing can be brought to your home with a cross-trainer (and, you’ll be pleased to know, without the sub-zero temperatures, chilblains and swollen hand balloons).



Ok, ok, ok – granted, the X-trainer (throughout I shall interchange between cross trainer and X-trainer) isn’t an exact replica of cross-country skiing. But it’s the closest you’re going to get without waxing a week’s wage on a pair of two-by-fours and a skimpy Lycra suit.



Plus, with a X-trainer you don’t have to endure the added embuggerance of trying to master the dreaded ‘snow plough’.



So why’s the X-trainer such a good exercise?



Well, much like the rower and airdyne bike, the X-trainer incorporates simultaneously both the legs and arms thus engaging the two largest muscle groups. This then, of course, stimulates the cardio-respiratory system. Also, the X-trainer enables you to take a relatively resistance free movement – running – and make it much harder by tapping into the resistance functions.



And, finally, the other great benefit of the X-trainer is that it is low/to no impact – which makes them perfect for rehabilitation, the elderly, or anyone who wants to preserve their joints.


Quick FAQ


Can cross trainers burn belly fat?

Of course, no exercise specifically targets belly fat – regardless of the erroneous garbage some fitness gurus keep expounding. The only way to target just belly fat, leaving hip, bum and back fat well alone, would be to pay a plastic surgeon to suck it out. However, nobody needs to go to those drastic measures. Regular cardiovascular exercise, such as cross training, and a healthy diet will eventually reduce overall body fat, which is much better than just targeting the belly. So, to answer the above question, in a roundabout way, Yes, cross trainers can burn belly fat.


What are cross trainers good for?

They offer a great cardiovascular workout. As I said in the introduction, X-trainers are modelled on cross-county skiing which happens to be the most arduous and physically demanding exercise of them all. In addition, the X-trainer, unlike running and cycling, provides a whole-body workout thanks to its dual functionality. To conclude this answer, if you were to buy but one piece of exercise equipment, you wouldn’t go far wrong with a X-trainer.


Will cross trainers build muscle?

In short, No, a X-trainer will not build muscle. Yes they will certainly help you burn fat and improve muscle tonality whilst strengthening your cardio-respiratory system. But as for muscle building, the X-trainer is simply not equipped with the load capacity needed to develop size – no cardiovascular exercise is (perhaps with exception of the grappler). The X-trainer is where we go to get our cardio kick and to the kettlebell where we go to scratch our strength itch.


Before you take a gander at the cross trainers (that’s if you haven’t already done so) there’s a couple of things you should consider before making a purchase. These things are outlined in the Buyer’s Guide below.



Cross Trainer Buyer’s Guide



Fully Skiable

X-trainers come in two types. Type 1) fully skiable. Type 2) Not fully skiable (by the way I made these terms up so don’t bother pestering Google for definitions). The latter type – not fully skiable – is the inferior of the two because it limits the trainer to leg-only skiing. In my eyes this is a huge disadvantage and for the life of my I can’t comprehend why they are built like this. Why design and manufacture a limited function exercise machine? But it can be easily avoided: buy a fully skiable X-trainer – that is, one with moveable arms so you can push and pull as you imagine yourself gliding serenely through the snow-capped mountains of the Sunnmøre Alps.


Size

There’s no point manoeuvring our conversation around the elephant in the room. For the fact cannot be escaped: X-trainers are hefty pieces of exercise equipment and they take-up considerable space – comparative to a stationary bike or mini stepper. Thus you would be wise to check the dimensions of whichever X-trainer you decide on and ensure that your home gym can comfortably accommodate it.


Resistance Options

Before buying a X-trainer make sure that it’s got a good resistance range. If the options are few and the upper maximum offers little resistance then you won’t get a good workout and might as well go for a run. When researching resistance – much of which has been done for you in the review – look for those trainers with ‘magnetic’ resistance. By all accounts magnetic resistance is superior to alternatives (such as pads) because the resistance feels more natural, is less wearing on the components and is silent.


Incline

This function is not as important as resistance but, depending on you exercise aspirations, it can increase the intensity of your training sessions. Not only does incline raise intensity but it can also be used to target different muscles of the leg. For example, a steep incline focuses on the gluteals – as it becomes more of a stepping action – whereas flat focuses on the hamstrings and quadriceps. In saying that though, incline is by no means a necessary function and it won’t detract from your workout. The best X-trainer I’ve used had no incline function – but it did have killer resistance options.


Stride Length

Stride length is precisely that: the distance the foot moves from the front position to the back. This is something that really only super-tall or super-short people need worry about. If you are tall – 6, 3”-plus – then you will want to make sure that the stride length is relatively long. Failure to do so and you could find yourself smacking your knees against the arm supports; which is highly irritating. If you are short – 5, 5”-less – then you’ll need a trainer with a short-ish stride length. Bit of a no-brainer I know but you’d be surprised how many people overlook this kind of stuff.


Maximum User Weight

Maximum weight is something to be considered not because the cross trainer might collapse whilst we’re working out – few people would exceed the weight capacity – but because it is a sign of build quality. A weighty X-trainer has probably been constructed from heavy-duty materials which is an indication that the frame that holds it all together is likely to me more durable. This suggests that it will withstand those sessions when you decide to compete against Bjoerndalen over a 10k biathlon (good luck with that).

Exercise Programmes

Personally I’ve never used an exercise programme in my life – not on a bike, treadmill or cross trainer. For me it takes the fun away from crafting a training session. But in saying that exercise programmes are useful for those people who can’t be bothered to plan a sesh and just want to climb on, press a button, go and get sweaty. If this sounds a bit like you then I would recommend checking the range of programme features before clicking.


Review of 5 of the Best Cross Trainers


1: Sunny Health & Fitness Magnetic Elliptical Cross Trainer

First up we have the cheap and cheerful cross trainer brought to us by the good people at Sunny Health & Fitness. For little over a hundred quid you could be the proud owner of truly box standard, no thrills, seats and a steering wheel piece of exercise equipment.



And though SH&F’s cross trainer is inescapably bland it does provide the indoor skiing experience that we’re looking for – if the reviews are anything to go by; and there are a lot of reviews: over 1500!



So what do you get for the price of a bottle of gin, take-a-way pizza and seven packets of cigarettes? Well, since you asked, you get the skeletal system of a cross trainer which, though lacking in sinew, will more than enable you to get your cardio kick.



In addition, SH&F’s cross trainer comes replete with an LCD display monitor that features the atypical performance metrics: training time, ski speed, distance skied, calories expended and heart rate. You’ve got to be honest, that’s a pretty good package for a measly £120!


£120

4 stars with a whopping 1500 reviews



What customers are saying:

Favourable

  • Aceptable, pero no es lo major (interpreter!)

  • Great compact elliptical, takes time for assembly

  • I love my elliptical trainer

Unfavourable

  • Broke almost immediately

Product Overview

  • Elliptical trainer with large anti-slip foot platforms and moving arms

  • Smooth magnetic resistance with precise micro-tension controller

  • Large anti-slip foot platforms for secure footing

  • Hand pulse monitoring system provides heart rate readouts

  • LCD Monitor: scan, time, speed, distance, calories, distance, and pulse; Max user weight: 100 KG (220 LB)

Click on the image for more information



2: We R Sports 2-IN-1 ELLIPTICAL CROSS TRAINER & EXERCISE BIKE

A slight step-up in cross trainer quality here. Nah, I’m only kidding. We R Sports offer the choice-strapped consumer with a comparable product to the one reviewed above, only it costs a couple of packs of chuddy more.



So for that additional four English pounds you get a cross trainer that is a spit of SH&F’s but without the extensive customer feedback. Thus, if you found yourself umming and arring over which of these two cross trainers to acquire, the deciding factor would hinge on a) are you a feedback rating snob and/or b) how badly do you want those two packs of chuddy?



The features, as you might expect, include: time, speed, distance and calorie expenditure. And that’s your lot.


£124

265 reviews with 4 stars

What customers are saying:

Favourable

  • Good for the home user

  • Worth considering

Unfavourable

  • Be prepared to puzzle over the assembly

  • Cheap!

Product Overview

  • Get in shape now in the comfort of your own home with the latest in fitness technology!

  • Provides a total body, low-impact, cardiovascular workout! (legs, hips, buttocks, arms & shoulders)

  • Tubular steel frame giving you a secure and stable workout

  • 4 function on board computer (Time, Speed, Distance and Calories).


Click on the image for more information


3: XS Sports Luna Pro 2-in1 Elliptical Cross Trainer

XS Sport’s cross trainer (similarly to We R Sports') is like the duckbilled platypus of exercise equipment; it’s not quite a cross trainers, it’s not quite a bike, it’s not quite an airdyne bike – it’s a head-scratching Frankenstinian amalgamation of the three.



Personally I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not, you know, trying to be a Jack of all trades, but customers seem favourable in their feedback. For not only do they lord the quality of the thing but praise highly the comfort one enjoys whilst exercising. Such a novelty: to sit down whilst skiing! Only in the 21st Century.



And when you look over the spec you can see why there are so many happy campers. For a little less than two hundred quid you get a cross trainer that can also double up as an exercise bike. That’s cool.



Also, it comes with a generous multi-function LCD monitor which will display your vitals as you have a bash at that Olympic biathlon time. In addition, you can strap on a heart rate monitor so as to keep a close eye on your cardiac output.


£189.99

868 with 4 stars



What customers are saying:

Favourable

  • The best choice

  • The bestest choice

  • Great item

Unfavourable

  • Build quality could be better

  • A bit rickety

Product Overview

  • XS Sports Pro Fitness Elliptical Cross Trainer with Pulse Sensors - 2 in 1 - can be Used As A Cross Trainer or Exercise Bike

  • Front mounted flywheel for added stability - adjustable resistance for high & low intensity workouts and multi-function LCD display: pulse, time, speed, distance, calorie & scan mode

  • Steel Frame - extra wide platform pedals - large comfortable seat - front wheels makes it easy to move around the house

  • Max user weight: 110kg - max foot size: 12 (UK Size) – machine dimensions: 91cm x 51cm.

Click on the image for more information


4: Reebok Cross Trainer

Reebok’s cross trainer is a step up in quality. For the extra money you get a more durable machine with premium quality parts. This will enable you to trainer at a higher intensity in the knowledge that it won’t fall to bits. I’m not implying that the other cross trainers will, but when you’re paying a mere £120 for an exercise machine you can’t expect too much from it.



With this cross trainer you can expect more. And what’s more, when a company offers a 2 year warranty on parts and labour, you know they have confidence in their product.



So what do you get for nearly £300?



Besides the heavy duty frame, which weighs a whopping 110kgs, Reebok’s cross trainer sports a substantial LCD screen which provides performance feedback whilst displaying the usual metrics: speed, distance, time, calories, pulse and RPM.



Also, the on-board computer comes with four pre-programmed training sessions which includes target time, target distance, target calories and recovery workouts. Making this, by all accounts, a mighty fine cross trainer for the money.


£295

161 reviews with 4stars


What customers are saying:

Favourable

  • Does the job

  • Great trainer

  • Descent sturdy trainer

Unfavourable

  • Your get what you pay for

  • A bit irritating to assemble

Product Overview

  • The GX40’s 7 kg flywheel weight ensures a challenging, smooth and quiet elliptical motion to give you a comfortable, fluid workout experience.

  • You can tailor the intensity of your workout, while you exercise, by adjusting the resistance dial. There are eight levels of manual resistance for you to choose from

  • To help keep you motivated, there are four fitness programs built into the console.

  • The large backlit LCD screen provides the feedback you need to help improve your fitness level by tracking and displaying your progress; including speed, distance, time, calories, pulse and RPM.

  • The cushioned footplates can be easily adjusted to suit your stride length while the dual-action and fixed handlebars have a soft, sweat-resistant surface so you can focus on your fitness

  • Light enough to move around your home using the integrated transport wheels and solid enough to take a maximum user weight of 110 kg (approximately 17 stone) thanks to the GX40’s premium build quality,

  • Comes with 2-year parts and labour warranty as standard.

Click on the image for more information


5: Branx Fitness Magnetic 'X-Fit' Cross Trainer

Branx Fitness’ X-Fit cross trainer is seriously heavy duty piece of kit. It’s built to withstand the relentless pushing and shoving of a 135k behemoth and – with its super-long stride length – it could accommodate one too.



Probably the feature of not here is that 14.5kg flywheel. This is a mechanical device designed to store rotational energy (in case you didn’t know – and I didn’t until I looked it up). Of course, because the flywheel does most of the moving it is often first to wear out. Thus, the heavier and more durable it is, the longer it should last. But not only last, remain smooth and soundless.



If you’ve ever used that archaic piece of exercise equipment gathering dust in the corner of your gym, and promptly got off because of that terrible throaty noise emanating from its internals, that, dear reader, was probably the sound of a buggered flywheel. So, when considering purchasing mechanical exercise equipment, such as a cross trainer, rower or airdyne bike, make sure the flywheel is weighty and robust else it’ll wear quicker than a pair of Primark underpants.



Before we depart, I quickly want to bring your attention to the warranty Branx Fitness is offering on their cross trainer 2 years parts and labour and 5 – yes 5! – years on the frame. That smacks of corporate confidence and if you’ve got the cash to splash the extra coin is a cheap price to pay for peace of mind.

£599

5 stars with 22 customer reviews



What customers are saying:

Favourable

  • Easy to assemble

  • Great product great service

  • As good as a gym standard cross trainer

Unfavourable

  • Nothing as of yet

Product Overview

  • Now with 'Bluetooth' & the most accommodating & impressive stride length of 19.5" (inches).

  • iConsole allows you to control the speed, intensity & more from your mobile. USB charging station.

  • 14.5kg (32lbs) Flywheel. H.R.C with chest strap included. None slip adjustable pedals. 135kg (298lbs) max user weight limit.

  • 16 levels of magnetic resistance. Transport wheels & adjustable floor pads. Body fat readout.

  • 2 Years parts & labour, 5 years warranty on frame.

Click on the image for more information





Final Thoughts

Yeah, I got a final thought for ya. Why’s there something rather than nothing?

(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.