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21 October 2020

Cross trainer buying guide

If you want a great, all-body workout that doesn't put pressure on joints, a cross trainer could be a great addition to your home gym
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TM
Tom Morgan

With access to a top-rated cross trainer at home, you can target almost every major muscle group in your body, including your arms, core and legs.

Cross trainers, also known as elliptical trainers, provide a low impact, full-body workout that puts less strain on your knees than treadmill workouts. 

Make sure you know what you're looking for when buying a cross trainer for your home gym. Our expert guide runs through the benefits of using a cross trainer and the features that matter the most.

How to buy the best cross trainer for home use

If you're a regular gym-goer, you'll probably know broadly what to expect from a cross trainer. But cross trainers for use at home may be a bit different to the solid, high-spec models you'd find in the gym, so newbies and experienced users alike should do their research before buying.

First, settle on a budget and check what's on offer from established retailers of fitness equipment to find the best deal.

Before you buy, note the dimensions of the machine and make sure you have enough floor space. You don't need to spend a huge amount of money on a cross trainer if you're just starting out on your fitness journey.

Cross trainer benefits

Buying a home cross trainer could complement, or even replace, a monthly gym membership. Other benefits include:

  • Tone up and reduce fat – a cross trainer can help you lose weight, especially if paired with a healthy diet.
  • Work arms and legs at the same time – most cross trainers have arm handles that move in tandem with the pedals.
  • Low impact training – if you don't want to put too much strain on your knees when exercising, a cross trainer is a good option.
  • Loosen up – used correctly, time on a cross trainer can help to release tension in your lower back.
  • Good for those with poor balance – your feet never leave the pedals, so you'll feel more stable than you would on a treadmill.

How much does a cross trainer cost?

The price you pay for a cross trainer will vary depending on size, features and build quality.

Cheap cross trainers

Most affordable cross trainers will skip the non-essential features, which means many don't have an information console, smartphone connectivity or incline support.

Expect to pay between £100 and £300 for an affordable cross trainer. Note that cheap machines may not feel as stable at high speeds compared with pricier alternatives.

If you buy a cross trainer without a screen, you can still track your workout using a fitness tracker. Discover the best around with our Which? Best Buy fitness trackers

Mid-range cross trainers

For around £300 to £800, you'll get an decent information display that gives feedback on things like speed, time, distance and calories burned. 

Cross trainers in this price range may feel more solidly built, and will typically use electronic rather than manual resistance. 

High-end cross trainers

If you're willing to spend big on a cross trainer for your home gym, you'll be treated to a premium machine.

Expensive cross trainers will often feature a large information console, lots of pre-set programs and allow you to work out at an incline. You'll likely notice the difference in build quality.

Prices for the most technical cross trainers can soar as high a £10,000.

How much space do you need for a cross trainer?

The average cross trainer will take up the same amount of space in your home gym that a treadmill would.

In other words, expect a length of around 1.2 metres to just over 2 metres. Some cross trainers fold up when they're not in use, and could be a good option for a busy room.

To keep yourself safe when using the equipment, clear some space either side of you and behind the cross trainer. We recommend leaving double the width of your cross trainer, and leaving at least 1 metre behind you.

Finally, if you have low ceilings in places, position your cross trainer with care. As the pedals on your cross trainer turn, you'll rise higher. Make sure you're leaving enough room above your equipment.

Where to buy a cross trainer

Before choosing which cross trainer to buy and where to buy from, read customer reviews for the cross trainer you're considering and check retailers' returns policies in case of a problem. 

For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty equipment, see our online shopping advice.

Popular retailers that stock cross trainers include:

  • Argos – stocks cross trainers from brands including own-brand Opti, as well as ProForm and Reebok. Prices start at around £90 and rise to around £600.
  • Decathlon – sells a range of manual and motorised machines, with the majority from its own brand Domyos. Prices start at around £150 and go as high as around £800.
  • Fitness Superstore – the retailer has cross trainers that wouldn't look out of place at a swanky gym. Prices range from around £450 to £4,000. Featured cross trainer brands include Body-Solid, Matrix Fitness, NordicTrack and ProForm.
  • Powerhouse Fitness – stocks cross trainers from a host of brands including BodyMax, ProForm and Reebok. Prices start at around £300. Its priciest cross trainers can reach £10,000.
  • Sportstech – this home gym equipment retailer stocks a small selection of own-brand cross trainers. Prices start at around £350 and go to around £800.

Discover the best websites to buy from based on thousands of shoppers' experiences. See our guide to the best online shops.

Cross trainer key features

Here's an overview of the key cross trainer features to look out for:

Resistance levels

Just like an exercise bike, a cross trainer is available with varying levels of resistance. The higher you set the resistance level, the harder you'll have to work to keep the machine moving.

Expensive cross trainers will usually have more levels of resistance than cheap models.

Motion handles and safety handles

Cross trainers feature two sets of handles. The first, known as safety handles, don't move. These handles can offer more stability at higher speeds.

Most safety handles will have sensors built into them to let you monitor your pulse rate.

The other set of handles on cross trainers move, and are known as motion handles. They move in tandem with the pedals and can give your arms a work out at the same time as your legs. 

Stride length

Cross trainer brands will often mention stride length on their website or in the product manual. This refers to the range of motion you'll get from the cross trainer.

A longer stride length means a tougher workout. Some machines let you adjust this manually.

Information console

An information console on a cross trainer displays the same information you'd find on a treadmill screen. That typically means feedback on time, speed, distance and calories burned. They also let you adjust speed and resistance, and toggle between pre-set programmes.

Expensive cross trainers have larger, touchscreen displays.

Foldable design

If you plan on using your cross trainer in a small or busy space at home, invest in a machine with a foldable design. When you're finished working out, you can lower the seat and lift up the pedals so the cross trainer takes up less floor space.

Incline settings

Incline support is generally reserved for pricier cross trainers. As you swap from a flat setting to an incline on a cross trainer, the difficulty of the workout will increase. 'Uphill' inclines also work slightly different muscle groups. 

Popular types of cross trainer

Manual cross trainer vs electric cross trainer

A manual cross trainer is powered by your movement. As a result, there are no buttons on a display to let you change resistance levels quickly and easily. Instead, there's typically a manual resistance dial that you'll need to turn until you find a level you're happy with. Because they're fairly basic and light on features, manual cross trainers tend to be cheaper than electric machines.

Electric cross trainers let you conveniently change resistance levels at the tap of a button on the display, so you're less likely to break the flow of your workout.

Front-drive cross trainer

A cross trainer with a front drive setup will have the flywheel positioned at the front of the machine, ahead of the pedals. They're fairly compact and likely to be a good pick for a small home gym.

The bulk of the machine's weight – and thus its centre of gravity – is in line with the console, so you might find it easier to balance compared with a rear-drive machine. 

The stride on a front-drive cross trainer feels like you are climbing stairs.

Rear-drive cross trainer

These machines have the flywheel positioned behind the pedals. They're usually pricier and bulkier than front drive cross trainers.

Most rear-drive cross trainers will let you adjust the stride length to suit your height and preference.

The stride on a rear-drive cross trainer feels more like you are jogging or walking.

2-in-1 cross trainer/exercise bike

If you own a 2-in-1 cross trainer, you can lower the height of the seat to transform the machine into an exercise bike. 

As well as offering variety in the exercise you can do, it's also likely to be cheaper than buying two separate pieces of equipment.

For more details on the benefits of using an exercise bike, see our exercise bike buying guide.

Five popular models of cross trainer

We don't currently test cross trainers but Argos, Roger Black, Sportstech, Reebok and Nordic Track are some of the most searched-for brands for cross trainers at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks

1. Opti 2 in 1 Air Cross Trainer and Exercise Bike

  • Price: £99.99
  • Available from: Argos
  • Manual or electric? Manual
  • Foldable? No
  • Unfolded size: Height 151cm, Length 92cm, Width 63cm,

 

Consider adding this Opti cross trainer to your shortlist if you're a fitness newbie looking to keep costs low. This Opti machine is a hybrid, combining the benefits of a cross trainer and an exercise bike. 

To make sure you're working out with a suitable posture, you can adjust the seat height and the handle height. A manual dial lets you adjust the levels of tension, while the basic information console has details on speed, distance and calories.

This cross trainer is suitable has a 11-inch stride length. It uses a 1.9kg flywheel.

2. Roger Black 2 in 1 Exercise Bike and Cross Trainer

  • Price: £219.99
  • Available from: Argos
  • Manual or electric? Manual
  • Foldable? No
  • Unfolded size: Height 110cm, Length 165cm, Width 72cm

 

This Roger Black machine can be used as a regular cross trainer or as an exercise bike. It runs off a manual resistance system and features a 6kg flywheel.

The information console is fairly small, but it lists all of the essential stats – speed, distance, time, calories burned, RPM and pulse. There are eight separate levels of tension, which you can cycle between by twisting the dial on the neck of the machine. There's also a holder for your water bottle.

3. Reebok GX40s One Electronic Cross Trainer

  • Price: £379.99
  • Available from: Argos
  • Manual or electric? Electric
  • Foldable? No
  • Unfolded size: Height 169cm, Length 135cm, Width 72cm

 

This Reebok cross trainer is one of the most popular models available from Argos. It uses an electronic resistance system and has a 9kg rear-drive flywheel and 15-inch stride length.

You can check your stats on a 5-inch LCD display while you're working your legs and arms, with the screen reporting back on speed, time, distance, calories burned, watts and RPM. A hand grip pulse sensor is also included on the Reebok GX40s One Electronic Cross Trainer.

There are 12 user programs in total, including a 'recovery' mode that's designed to go easier on your muscles. A set of wheels on the bottom of this Reebok cross trainer make it easier to move around your home if needed.

4. Sportstech Crosstrainer CX625

  • Price: £549
  • Available from: Sportstech
  • Manual or electric? Electric
  • Foldable? No
  • Unfolded size: Height 141cm, Length 165cm, Width 65cm

 

The Sportstech Crosstrainer CX625 is bulky and powered by a 24kg flywheel. It offers 16 levels of electronically controlled resistance.

There's an LCD screen with a blue backlight, which makes it easier to read in low light. It reports back on speed, distance, calories burned, current program, duration and pulse. To help you stay motivated, you can slot your smartphone into the holder at the centre console and play your music wirelessly via Bluetooth. Large, anti-slip pedals are designed to keep you stable even if you're working at high speeds.

Once your workout is finished, you can use the transportation wheels to move the Sportstech Crosstrainer CX625 to the corner of the room.

5. NordicTrack E8.2 Elliptical

  • Price: £699
  • Available from: Fitness Superstore
  • Manual or electric? Electric
  • Foldable? No
  • Unfolded size: Height 169cm, Length 169cm, Width 63cm

 

NordicTrack is a big name in the world of cross trainers, selling a wide selection of models at different price points. The NordicTrack E8.2 Elliptical uses a front-drive system and has an adjustable stride length up to around 19 inches.

As this cross trainer offers incline support, you can add some extra difficulty to your workout. The NordicTrack E8.2 Elliptical can be used at up to a 20° incline.

There are 20 resistance levels to put you through your paces, which you can cycle through using the digital controls. A 5-inch colour display acts as your information hub, providing heart-rate readings taken from the pulse sensors on the handlebars.

Where should I put my cross trainer?

You can put your cross trainer pretty much wherever you want, provided there's enough space. Positioning it in front of the TV may help make the time pass more quickly. 

If you live in a top-floor flat, be considerate about the times of day at which you use your cross trainer. They're not as noisy as treadmills, for example, but your downstairs neighbours may still be able to hear you exercising. Putting your cross trainer on a mat may help. 

Can I put my cross trainer in the garage?

An empty garage might seem like an obvious spot for a cross trainer, offering ample space and privacy. But many manufacturers advise against this, as the dampness of a garage can have a negative impact on the inner workings of the cross trainer.

Dirt that's kicked up from the floor of the garage can also get caught in the motor and cause damage. Check the manufacturer's instructions before putting a cross trainer in an unheated garage, as it could invalidate any warranty. 

Tips for using your cross trainer

Once you've bought the best cross trainer for your home gym, improve your workout results with our top cross trainer tips.

How we selected products, retailers and prices

Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability. Prices correct as of 22 April 2020 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible. Otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.

When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission. This supports our not-for-profit mission to empower consumers and in no way affects our recommendations. Find out more .