If you’re on the lookout for some low-impact cardio to supplement your triathlon training, it might be worth giving the cross trainer some consideration.
But among the likes of rowing machines, exercise bikes and treadmills, they’re often underrated. However, they can add some variance to your routine and can be particularly useful when attempting some active recovery after a race/hard session or when coming back from certain injuries.
Benefits of using a cross trainer
Cross trainers provide a full-body, low-impact aerobic workout and are able to target a wide range of muscle groups at once. Many are fitted with different resistances and inclines, allowing users to target specific muscle groups in their legs, which can be useful for solving imbalances or weaknesses.
For more information, check out our article on using the cross trainer for triathlon training.
Cross trainer vs treadmill
Treadmills simulate running much more closely, but cross trainers offer a low-impact running motion that can help avoid injury.
The low impact nature of cross training means it’s perfect for at-home training as it won’t cause too much noise. Like treadmills, cross trainers also have built-in programmes and difficulty levels, plus the higher-end models may offer online coaching apps and visualisers.
Types of cross trainer resistance
- Magnetic: Quieter to use and often smoother, but more expensive.
- Belt drive: Cheaper, but may be vulnerable to wear and need replacing.
What to consider when buying a cross trainer
- Size: Cross trainers can be bulky, so it’s a good idea to check measurements or see if the model you’re buying can be folded to save on space. Most cross trainers are around 1.5-2 metres long.
- Cost: Usually, it’s around £100-300 for an affordable cross trainer. Mid-range is £300-800 and higher end will be anything over £800.
- Console: It’s a good idea to check what information you’re getting fed back from the console, or if there are any live classes or settings built in.
- Stride length: Often listed by brands, this explains the range of motion you can expect from each stride. The longer the stride, the tougher the workout. Most commercial cross trainers found in gyms feature a stride length of around 20 inches.
- Flywheel: The flywheel is the mechanism that spins to create resistance. The minimum standard should be around 5kg – the heavier the flywheel, the smoother your experience will be.
The best cross trainers for your home
Below, we pull together a list of the best cross trainers for home training, with picks based on in-depth research and analysis of user reviews.
Reebok ZR8 Cross Trainer
Reebok’s mid-range option is designed to cover all the basics well. It features a 9kg flywheel, which should be enough weight to provide a fluid ride.
Reebok also include 32 levels of electronic resistance to choose from, which is an impressive level of variance for a machine around the £400 mark.
There are 20 different fitness programs built into the console, from gentle exercise to a more challenging mountainous climb.
While exercising, this LCD console provides various feedback such as speed, distance, time, calories, pulse and RPM.
The footplates are said to be fully adjustable, so the stride length can be changed to suit your requirements.
It’s said to be able to support a maximum user weight of 120kg and is roughly one and a half metres in height and length.
NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i
This cross trainer from NordicTrack is said to feature a space saving design, allowing the console to be folded away in an attempt to provide easy storage or transportation.
It’s a large trainer when unfolded, complete with a wide range of technology and features.
The incline can reach as high as 10% and the trainer runs on an 8kg flywheel with 22 magnetic resistance levels.
NordicTrack also includes a workout fan to help you keep cool, a tablet holder and a water bottle holder for those intense sessions.
The SpaceSaver SE7i is also compatible with iFIT, a coaching experience platform that offers over 16,000 on-demand workouts with personal trainers.
Adidas X-21 Cross Trainer
We’ve mentioned Adidas’ X-21 exercise bike before on these pages – well, it has a big brother. This cross trainer runs entirely on self-generating power, meaning there is no need for any wires or sockets.
The kinetic energy generated from pedalling maintains momentum using a 10kg flywheel to keep the movement smooth.
The intensity can be adjusted using quick resistance keys, with 24 levels available, while Adidas says the 15-inch stride length is suitable for all user heights.
The LCD display feeds back metrics about your workout, and Adidas includes hand pulse and chest strap sensors to help you monitor and continually improve your performance. There are also speakers with Bluetooth capability, as well as a tablet holder.
This cross trainer from JLL is built from a durable steel frame and features a wide array of features. It uses a 7kg flywheel and is able to facilitate 12 levels of magnetic resistance for variability.
JLL includes heart-rate sensors in the handles, plus six more readouts so you can view all your metrics while exercising and set targets for yourself. An important note: the lower-than-average 110kg max weight might be a factor to bear in mind for heavier users.
Domyos Cross Trainer Essential 120
This cross trainer from Domyos by Decathlon aims to provide affordable quality. It features a 6kg flywheel, which is said to create a smooth motion when pedalling.
There’s a smart console with five built-in functions and seven guided training programmes, so you can keep your workouts fresh and exciting.
There are 15 different resistance levels to work with, and this affordable trainer also includes heart rate sensors in the arms. Decathlon says it has a speedy set-up time of 30 minutes, so you should be able to get started in no time.
JTX Tri-Fit: Incline Cross Trainer
This cross trainer from JTX aims to provide a quiet, smooth workout. It uses a weighty 17kg flywheel, aiming to provide a smooth, rolling motion. There are 16 resistance levels of magnetic resistance and 18 workout programmes to choose from complete, including everything from intervals to hill climbing.
JTX has managed to fit a lot of premium features into this trainer, including heart rate sensors and an adjustable incline.
It’s also compatible with Kinomap, which connects to the trainer and adjusts the resistance according to the terrain pictured. There are also speakers, if you need some motivational music to help you get through the last few miles.