What is a Cross Trainer?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Man lifting weights
Man lifting weights

A cross trainer is a fitness device that provides a low-impact, total body workout. Also sometimes known as an elliptical machine, a cross trainer is designed to simulate running or walking while protecting the user from the potentially harmful joint stress these activities normally cause. While a basic version may consist of little more than foot pedals and handles, many models have additional features, such as adjustable stride length and programmable consoles.

To exercise on a cross trainer, the user places a foot in each of the pedals and grips the handles, standing upright. She then begins a walking or jogging movement, sending the pedals and handles into a smooth, elliptical motion. Most models allow the user to adjust the resistance, which is created by bands or magnets in the machine, so she can control her exertion level.

One of the primary benefits of the cross trainer is its ability to provide a total body workout by challenging many muscle groups simultaneously. The pedals work the leg and buttock muscles, while the handles challenge the arms and back. In addition, the twisting action required to work the machine can help firm the sides and the abdomen. To ensure that all of these muscle groups are engaged, the user should take care to distribute her efforts equally between the machine’s pedals and its handles.

While walking and running outdoors or on a treadmill can blast calories and stimulate cardiovascular health, they can potentially cause serious injury to the joints. Another advantage of the cross trainer is its capacity to provide calorie-burning aerobic exercise that is fluid in motion, resulting in minimal joint stress. This feature makes the cross trainer practical for users of many ages and fitness levels.

Many cross trainer models have additional features that allow the user to fine-tune her workout. In some cases, the stride length can be adjusted, making the machine adaptable to users of different heights. Other models feature digital consoles on which the user can select from a range of workout programs. For instance, the user may select a hill-climbing workout. As she exercises, the machine will automatically vary its incline to simulate hill ascent and descent.

Some machines include features that enable the user to monitor her workout and keep track of her fitness goals. Certain models have heart rate detectors built into their handles, for instance. Others can be linked to a computer so the user can analyze her performance and chart her fitness progress. Budget-friendly cross trainers are widely available, but in most cases the number of special features a machine includes directly correlates to its cost.

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