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, highlights the features that matter the most, and reveals the cross trainer brands with the happiest customers, according to our survey.
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.
In October 2020, we asked cross trainer owners about the equipment they'd bought within the past five years, to help us uncover which brands impressed customers and which brands disappointed.
Our survey results give every brand a customer score as well as star ratings for ease of use, build quality, and value for money.
|Brand||Customer score||Ease of use||Build quality||Value for money|
Buying a home cross trainer could complement, or even replace, a monthly gym membership. Other benefits include:
The price you pay for a cross trainer will vary depending on size, features and build quality.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Popular retailers that stock cross trainers include:
Here's an overview of the key cross trainer features to look out for:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 different muscle groups.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We don't currently test cross trainers but Argos, Roger Black, Sportstech, Reebok and Nordic Track are some of the most popular brands for cross trainers at the time of writing. Below is a selection of different types and styles from those picks.
Which? members can check the results of our brand survey, above, to find out if owners are happy with their purchase.
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.
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.
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.
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 degree 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.
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.
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.
Once you've bought the best cross trainer for your home gym, improve your workout results with our top cross trainer tips.
You can target different muscle groups on the cross trainer by mixing up your approach. If you want to focus on your legs, use the central safety handle, lean forward and pedal fast.
To work your arms, stand upright and use the motion handles.
Boost your cardiovascular fitness by repeating short bursts of intense speed. You might appreciate this change in approach if you're bored of working at a steady pace on your cross trainer.
If you want to target different muscles in your thighs, try pedaling in reverse on the cross trainer at a comfortable pace.
If your resistance level is set too low, you may find yourself pedalling very fast but not getting much of a workout. Conversely, setting it too high before you're ready could strain your muscles.
Retailers and gym equipment chosen based on popular UK search terms and availability; we've only selected models from brands that achieved decent scores in our survey. Prices correct as of December 2021 and obtained from manufacturer's own website where possible. Otherwise, obtained from third-party retailers listed on Google Shopping.