Elliptical or Cross Trainer – What’s the Difference?

While almost everyone has seen an elliptical or cross trainer, you’d be forgiven for not knowing the difference between the two. While elliptical machines refer to the whole class of elliptical exercise equipment, cross trainers are a specific type of elliptical machine.

Whether you’re interested in a cross trainer or any other type of elliptical machine, the full-body cardio workout that elliptical trainers provide can help you to reach your fitness goals.

What is an Elliptical Machine?

An elliptical training machine is a stationary piece of exercise equipment which has two long handles and moveable foot pedals. These foot pedals are pushed down to complete a circular, elliptical motion, hence the name of the machine. Though the leg movement of the elliptical machine is similar to running, it provides a low-impact alternative to the otherwise high-impact exercise which can strain knees and joints.

While elliptical machines come in different types, one of which is the cross trainer, the original elliptical trainer is defined by the fact that its vertical handlebars are stationary and are used to press against during the workout. This contrasts from the moveable handlebars of an elliptical cross trainer.

Apart from the safe, low-impact workout that all elliptical machines provide, other benefits include their ease of use and small space requirements. The exercise performed on regular elliptical machines extends your knees and hips, which works out the glutes, quads and hamstrings.

What is a Cross Trainer?

Elliptical cross trainers are the next generation of elliptical exercise machines. They combine the benefits of the original elliptical trainer with moving handlebars, allowing you to work out your upper body while completing the elliptical exercise.

The cross trainer’s handlebars are pushed and pulled in an alternating pattern to your legs movement, making for a fluid and enjoyable workout. Beginners can also benefit from this intuitive design, as it allows them to quickly and easily perform their workout without the need for direction or assistance.

In addition to the exercise benefits of standard elliptical machines, the cross trainer also works out key upper body areas, such as the shoulders, arms, chest and upper back, giving you an effective, full-body workout.

Why Use an Elliptical Machine?

Elliptical machines are great for beginners or advanced users. Their full-body cardiovascular workout also reduces pressure and impact on your joints, making them ideal for light exercise and recovery. Many elliptical machine users prefer the upright standing position of the elliptical machine, which helps them to complete their workout without any strain.

Because of their adjustable resistance, elliptical machines can also help you to train at a higher level. Simply increase the resistance of the elliptical machine for a harder and more intense workout, exercising your full body with low-impact movement that reduces the risk of injury. The flexibility of resistance levels on the elliptical trainer means they can also be a good training option for experienced athletes.

Which is Best?

With their versatile resistance, both standard and cross trainer elliptical machines can provide an effective cardio workout. For those who want to focus more on their lower body, the regular elliptical machine can have an advantage. However if you’re looking for a more involved, full-body workout, the elliptical cross trainer will be more beneficial.

Research indicates that both elliptical machines will burn roughly the same number of calories, but the cross trainer can enable you to evenly distribute the resistance across your whole body.

Though they provide a fluid movement when in motion, cross trainers can be slightly more challenging to use, as they require users to balance between the moveable parts. The standard elliptical trainer does have the benefit of being easier to use, making it the ideal choice for those in recovery or rehabilitation.

Whether you’re interested in a slower and longer workout or more intense, full-body exercise, elliptical machines can provide effective cardio exercise, without straining joints. Which type of elliptical machine will you use? Let us know in the comments below.