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Published Dec. 30, 2020

Working out at home is convenient and easy with the right equipment. A cross trainer is a smart choice because it allows you to work out multiple muscle groups on your body on one machine. This minimizes the amount of time you need to spend working out by challenging both your upper and lower body at the same time. It also limits the space requirements of your home gym. 

Buying the right cross trainer is a big decision. Choose the wrong one, and you won’t enjoy the user experience. You’ll end up leaving it to collect dust in the corner. This guide will help you make sure that doesn’t happen by giving you a list of high-quality machines and explaining the essential features to consider.  

The Best Cross Trainers

Trust the famous bicycle brand Schwinn with your elliptical machine. This trainer comes with an impressive 20 resistance levels and 22 pre-programmed workout programs. The stride is a nice and long 20 inches, making it comfortable for taller riders. The high speed and inertia drive system makes it easy and quiet to get moving. What makes this trainer stand out is the in-console speakers and the MP3 input port. There are also two dual-track LCDs to track your program and fitness progress.

One drawback of this machine is that it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, so you’re limited to plugging your device into the MP3 input port. You may also find this machine to be noisy, and the warranty program can be hard to use.

Key Features
  • In-console speakers with MP3 input 
  • Two dual-track LCDs
  • 20-inch stride
  • 22 workout programs
Specification
  • Brand Schwinn Fitness
  • Model B07YLLYM3M
PROS

Goal performance tracking

Media rack and speakers

20 resistance levels

CONS

No Bluetooth connectivity

Noisy

Hard to navigate warranty

This simple cross trainer machine is ideal for someone on a budget. It has a digital monitor that you can use to monitor your time, speed, distance, calories, and pulse. There are eight levels of magnetic resistance to choose from. The stride length is 11 inches. The handlebars and footpads have anti-slip padding to make using this machine safer. There are also on-board stabilizers, so you feel more secure and balanced while working out.

Unfortunately, the stride length is relatively short on this machine. This can make it uncomfortable for taller users. It also requires full assembly upon delivery, making you wait to start your new workout routine. You may find the components to lack the durability that other trainers on this list have.

Key Features
  • Digital monitor that displays your time, speed, distance, calories, and pulse
  • 11-inch Stride Length
  • Eight levels of magnetic resistance.
  • 28 x 17 x 57 inches
Specification
  • Brand Sunny Health & Fitness
  • Model SF-E905
  • Weight 61 pounds
PROS

Anti-slip handlebars and foot pads

220-pound maximum user weight

Onboard stabilizers

CONS

Short stride length

Requires assembly

Lacks durability

Give yourself a serious workout with 20 resistance levels to choose from and four programmable user profiles. The user experience is pleasant with the interactive, full-color, backlit display. A magnetic media rack holds your devices in place, while the Bluetooth heart rate makes tracking your physical performance easier. With a membership to Bowflex JRNY, you can have personalized coaching through your trainer. This machine has a significantly smaller footprint, making it fit into tighter places in your home.

The downside of this trainer is that it’s more of a stepper than an elliptical. This gives the pedal motion a sharper angle that can be too sharp for some users. It also requires a paid subscription to the Bowflex app if you want to enjoy all of the integrated features.

Key Features
  • 20 resistance levels
  • Four user profiles
  • Transport wheels
  • Interactive full color backlit display
Specification
  • Brand Bowflex
  • Model M8
PROS

Bluetooth heart rate compatible

Magnetic media rack

A fraction of the size of most ellipticals

CONS

App requires subscription

Sharp pedal motion angle

Squeaks

The tubular steel construction of this cross trainer gives it extra strength and durability. It also gives it an impressive maximum weight capacity of 330 pounds. The 35-pound precision-balanced flywheel and V-belt drive give you smooth and quiet operation. The oversized foot pedal has ridges for traction. There are 10 levels of magnetic resistance to choose from for a custom workout experience. A digital monitor, pulse sensor, and compatible app will help you monitor your fitness status. 

Unfortunately, this trainer has a short stride length. This makes it best for shorter users. It also requires extensive assembly that can be complicated for less handy owners. Be careful where you place your trainer, as it can feel less stable than others on this list.

Key Features
  • 20 resistance levels
  • Four user profiles
  • Transport wheels
  • Interactive full color backlit display
Specification
  • Brand Bowflex
  • Model M8
PROS

Bluetooth heart rate compatible

Magnetic media rack

A fraction of the size of most ellipticals

CONS

App requires subscription 

Sharp pedal motion angle

Squeaks

Use this cross trainer as an elliptical, upright stationary bike, or a recumbent bicycle. This gives you three options in how you use your trainer. There are three sets of handlebars to accompany the three positions. It can safely accommodate users who weigh up to 250 pounds. A magnetic flywheel gives it a smooth and quiet operation. What makes it stand out is the smooth and hassle-free transition from one user position to another. There are 21 training programs to choose from.

One drawback of this trainer is that while it has several training programs, it has limited resistance levels. It’s also hard to see the display when sitting in the chair because of the distance and angle. You may find that it wobbles when using it as an elliptical.

Key Features
  • Three-in-one design
  • 60 x 28 x 64 inches
  • Maximum weight 250 pounds
  • Magnetic-encased flywheel
Specification
  • Brand Body Champ
  • Model BRT7989
  • Weight 110 pounds
PROS

Three sets of handlebars

Hassle-free transitions

21 training programs

CONS

Wobbles 

Hard to see the display 

Limited resistance levels

Commercial grade engineering is used to construct this recumbent cross trainer. It features a variable friction-free magnetic resistance system, a digital console for holding your smart devices, and a water bottle holder. The seat and handles are adjustable to accommodate users of different heights and allow you to target different muscle groups. This trainer stands out for being whisper-quiet, making it more enjoyable to use. The footprint is 54 x 38 inches, and there are transport wheels for easily rolling it out of the way when not in use. 

The downside of this machine is that you can only use it while sitting in the recumbent position. This limits the machine’s usability. There are also no pre-programmed workout programs. This can be limiting when combined with the limited resistance adjustment. 

Key Features
  • Commercial-grade engineering
  • Variable magnetic resistance
  • Digital console 
  • 54 x 38 inches footprint
Specification
  • Brand Teeter
  • Model B07QQVGQ8Y
PROS

Adjustable seat settings

Whisper quiet

Water bottle holder

CONS

No workout programs 

Limited resistance 

One workout position

This combination fitness machine features a bicycle seat and pedals that you can use as an elliptical. A computer monitor display lets you monitor your workout status. The bicycle seat adjusts vertically and horizontally to accommodate a wide range of users. This trainer is user friendly with an easily adjustable tension knob and high momentum fan blades. The footprint of this machine is 48 x 28.5 x 59.5 inches. You can also easily move this trainer out of the way when not in use, thanks to the built-in transport wheels. 

Unfortunately, the seat is smaller and can be uncomfortable for some users. You may also find that that construction isn’t as durable as other trainers. The tension adjustment is also limited with knob control. 

Key Features
  • Two-in-one fitness machine
  • Computer monitor
  • Built-in transport wheel
  • 48 x 28.5 x 59.5 inches
Specification
  • Brand Body Rider
  • Model BRD2000
  • Weight 66 Pounds
PROS

Seat adjusts vertically and horizontally

High momentum fan blades

Tension easily adjusts

CONS

Small seat 

Not durable 

Limited tension adjustment 

If you have a serious lack of space, this trainer is ideal as it folds flat and can be stored under a bed or sofa. This exercise glider provides smooth operation with no sudden stops and a longer range of motion than standard ellipticals. It has a weight capacity of 250 pounds, making it usable for the majority of adults. There’s a five function workout computer to help you adjust and monitor your workout. Working out on this glider is comfortable thanks to the padded handlebars and extra-wide, non-skid foot platforms. 

Unfortunately, this glider is best used for cardio and not strength training. It lacks the level of resistance that other trainers have. It also doesn’t have the same advanced technology integration that makes for a more enjoyable workout. 

Key Features
  • Exercise glider
  • Five-function workout computer
  • Unsurpassed range of motion
  • Padded handlebars
Specification
  • Brand Gazelle
  • Model 1285
  • Weight 10.41 ounces
PROS

Extra-wide, non-skid foot platforms

No sudden stops

Weight capacity of 250 pounds

CONS

Lacks resistance levels 

Lacks technology integration 

Heavy for its size 

The internal flywheel and belt drive mechanism gives this trainer a smooth operation. The stride measures 15.5 inches, and it has a 330-pound weight capacity. It has steel construction and floor stabilizers for a balanced and secure machine. There are 24 unique workouts to choose from and programmable magnetic resistance. Choose from manual, body fat, heart rate, and watt modes. Monitor your workout progress with the onboard backlit display. It tracks your time, speed, RPMs, distance, calories burned, watts generated, and magnetic resistance level. 

Unfortunately, this trainer can squeak. However, you can address this by greasing the moving parts. You’ll also need to assemble this trainer before you can begin using it. The stride length can be too short for some taller users. 

Key Features
  • Internal flywheel and belt-drive mechanism
  • Programmable magnetic resistance
  • Steel construction
  • 330-pound weight capacity
Specification
  • Brand Sunny Health & Fitness
  • Model SF-E3912
  • Weight 104.8 Pounds
PROS

Floor stabilizers

24 unique workout modes

15.5-inch stride length

CONS

Squeaks 

Assembly required 

Shorter stride length 

If you don’t have a lot of floor space, this cross trainer can be the machine you’re looking for. It packs a ton of nice features into an upright machine. It has an integrative backlit display to monitor your workout program and fitness progress. What makes this machine stand out is the target zone and burn rate monitoring. There are eight resistance levels to choose from, and you can program two user profiles. Moving your trainer is easy thanks to the built-in transport wheels.

Unfortunately, this machine has more of a stepper motion than an elliptical gliding motion. This can be the wrong type of motion for some users. It also lacks the smart connectivity that other Bowflex trainers have. The eight resistance levels may not be enough for others.

Key Features
  • Interactive backlit display
  • Burn rate display
  • Transport wheels
  • Included chest strap
Specification
  • Brand Bowflex
  • Model M3 Max Trainer
PROS

Target zone and burn rate indicators

Two programmable users

Eight resistance levels

CONS

Stepper not elliptical

Limited connectivity

Few resistance levels

Best Cross Trainers Buying Guide & FAQ

A home gym makes it easy to stay in shape. However, you may not have space for a complete gym. You need to choose equipment that maximizes your space. A cross trainer is smart because it works several muscle groups. This multi-tasking eliminates the need for several other single-function machines. 

You shouldn’t buy the cheapest cross trainer you can find. This will leave you disappointed and won’t give you the level of workout that you’re seeking. However, the most expensive one on the market may be more than you need. This guide will show you that you need to look at more than just price when determining the best cross trainer for your home gym.  

Benefits of a Cross Trainer

The most obvious benefit is that you have a piece of gym equipment conveniently located in your home. Hop on and use it anytime you want. There’s no gym membership required, and you don’t have to compete with other people to use it. 

Once working out on your cross trainer, your legs and arms are all moving in different directions simultaneously. Then you can make the workout even more intense by increasing the incline or resistance. Now you’re getting a cardio and muscular workout at the same time. Doing this will burn the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. 

Woman Training On Elliptical Trainer At Home
Working out at home is convenient and easy with the right cross trainer

The final benefit is a stronger core. You’ll have a stronger back, better balance, and better posture. These are real-world benefits you’ll enjoy off the trainer. 

  • You burn a lot of calories.
  • You can exercise whenever you want. 
  • Easily improve your core strength and balance.

Types of Cross Trainers

The type of trainer that you buy will depend on the amount of space you have and the type of workout you’re looking to achieve. One type isn’t better than another, and the type you buy needs to be the best for your needs. Choose from a front, rear, or center drive cross trainer. 

Front Drive

This type of cross trainer has the flywheel in the front. The advantage of this is the increased amount of vertical range it can achieve. Some are so vertical that they resemble a stair climber. They can also have the name shuffle trainer. The glider tracks in this style are closer to the ground than other types. This makes it easier to use by less mobile users. They’re also safer for users who lack balance and stability. 

There are typically two sets of handles, one immobile and one movable set. This gives you more versatility in how you use your trainer.  

Rear Drive

This is the original type of cross trainer. The large flywheel is at the back of the machine. Fitness enthusiasts first began to see it hit the market in the 90s. With the flywheel behind you, these machines accomplish the longest stride, making them ideal for taller users. It also makes them capable of having steeper inclines. 

The challenge of this type of trainer is that it’s longer than the others. The large footprint makes it difficult to fit into most homes. However, the long length is a small price to pay for increased workout program abilities and comfortable stride length. 

Center Drive

This is the newest style of cross trainer on the market. It’s ideal for confined spaces because it has the smallest footprint of the three types. The length is shorter than other machines. You’ll still be able to achieve a full-body workout with movable arms. One drawback is that these machines tend to lack incline ability. This can limit your workout options. 

The advantage is that some machines in this type are more of a stair climber and elliptical crossover. This gives you a different type of workout that challenges your entire lower body more than a plain elliptical setup would. 

What to Consider When Buying a Cross Trainer

When comparing cross trainers, you need to look for a machine that will deliver the type of workout you’re hoping to achieve. It needs to have a stride that matches yours so that you can achieve faster speeds. It should also have multiple resistance levels and a high enough maximum resistance to match your fitness level. 

Your new machine also needs to fit in the space you have available in your home. Some machines have a small footprint, others are quite long, and some will fold up when not in use. Plan for enough space to be able to move around the machine freely. 

The Most Important Features of Cross Trainer

Knowing the features to look for makes buying your trainer easier. Consider trainers that have a footprint that fits in your home. Compare the stride length. It needs to be long enough to be comfortable. Finally, the trainer needs to have resistance and incline abilities, so you can grow and improve your fitness ability. 

Footprint

The footprint is the amount of space that your cross trainer takes up. You need to look at both the physical size of the elliptical and the additional space requirements when using it. Cross trainers tend to take up more space than it seems. Measure the space you have available and find a machine that will fit in it. Consider the type of trainer as it can change the size of the footprint, with center drive trainers taking up the least amount of room. Rear-wheel drive trainers are the longest but may be worth it for the additional stride length. 

Stride Length

The taller you are, the longer your legs are, and the longer your stride will be. If you try to use a cross trainer with a too-short stride, you’ll hobble yourself. As you increase speed, your stride will increase in length. Look for an elliptical that has a long enough stride to make working out comfortable. 

Equipment manufacturers measure stride length as the distance from the tow of your rear foot to the heel of your front foot. Generally, higher quality cross trainers have longer stride lengths for more intense and effective workouts. At a minimum, you need a stride length of at least 18 inches for it to be comfortable.

Resistance Levels 

Look at the number of resistance levels and the maximum resistance level built into each trainer. The more resistance levels the machine has, the better you can customize your workout. However, be careful when looking for the most resistance levels. Sometimes a machine with fewer levels will have a higher maximum resistance than another with many levels. 

A low maximum resistance limits the type and intensity of the workouts you can achieve. If you’re only looking for cardio and not strength training, then a high resistance isn’t as important. Several resistance levels let you start low and improve your stamina and strength. 

Care and Maintenance for Cross Trainers

Keep your cross trainer clean. Dirt and dust can cause the tracks to clog and not glide smoothly. If you start to hear squeaking, you need to grease it. Follow your owner’s manual to know what type of grease to use and where to use it. 

Occasionally, you’ll want to wipe down and disinfect the entire machine. You’ll sweat while working out, and that can make the machine gross. Don’t work out in your sweat. Use a disinfectant to clean and sanitize your trainer. 

  • Clean off the dust and dirt. 
  • Grease the moving parts to keep it gliding smoothly. 
  • Disinfect your machine to keep it clean.  
young man using an elliptical trainer
Buying the right cross trainer is a big decision

Best Cross Trainers FAQ

Now that you have your chosen cross trainer, you need to set up a workout plan. Start by deciding how often and for how long you’ll workout on it. This can vary from person to person, so set your own pace. We’ve answered some common questions to help you get started. 

Q: How Many Calories Can You Burn During a Cross Trainer Workout?

The number of calories you can burn will depend on your age, BMI, and fitness level.  The average person burns several hundred per half hour. 

Q: How long should you stay on a cross trainer?

Use either time or distance to determine how long you’ll workout. Stay on long enough to get a good workout without over-tiring or hurting yourself. 

Q: Is a cross trainer better than walking?

Walking is better because you get outside and breathe fresh air. A cross trainer is better because it burns more calories and strengthens your lungs and heart. 

Our Top Pick

Our top pick for the best cross trainer is the Schwinn Compact Elliptical Machine. This impressive machine has in-console speakers, a media rack, and goal tracking performance metrics. There are 20 resistance levels and 22 workout programs to choose from. Plus, the 20-inch stride is nice and long for even taller users. 

Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong with the Schwinn Compact Elliptical Machine with its customizable workout options, long stride, and built-in media support. For a more affordable option, the Sunny Health & Fitness Elliptical Machine with its multiple resistance levels, anti-slip padding, and comprehensive digital monitor. 

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