Fitness gurus - the crosstrainer

AKA an elliptical trainer. This thing.

I’ve read a few things on them, wanted to see how true they were and if there were any additional tips on using them.

Mainly, I’ve read that they provide as good a workout as a treadmill - this sounds insane to me, as a treadmill really takes it out of me but I can keep going on a crosstrainer essentially until I get bored, and this is on a high setting. Is this due to the lack of impact? If so, is there any point in using a treadmill alongside a crosstrainer?

I’ve also read that, when using one, avoiding using the handles and instead balancing is better for you because it works core muscles. Is the trade off against arm-usage worth it? Wikipedia mentions the core muscles being used if you don’t use your arms, but with a [citation needed].

Last and probably least - is it worth going forwards on one, then reversing your motion? Does it exercise different muscle groups or is the difference negligible?

Thanks for any replies.

My heart rate running on treadmill: 160

My heart rate pushing hard on elliptical/cross-trainer = 140 (but this is okay!!)

Core development on cross-trainer = very good, when not holding on. No citation needed – this is common sense and you can literally feel/touch your core muscles (abs, etc) and feel them engaged. Like a Bosu ball workout… your core is engaged. If not… you crash and fall!

Various inclines and switching to reverse works different muscles. One might hit gluts more; one might hit hamstrings more and one combo might make shins/calves more engaged.


The 1% people I know (the elite, 1% fitness-is-everything types) go hard on an elliptical as part of their aerobic and core routines.

Using arms won’t develop much, but you will be able to push harder and jack up your heart rate and calorie burn rate as a result. You can do isometric arm curls while sitting on an exercise bike and experience the same thing. You can shadow box while running and experience the same thing. There is no mystery here.

Elliptical/cross-trainers: Do it.

a crosstrainer is not as effective at burning calories in comparison to a treadmill. I agree with philster that core strength will be improved but in all honesty nothing beats running. and if you really want to improve core muscle i suggest core building exercises such as squatting or the plank.

Running, elliptical, spinning, swimming, resistance training, cross training, circuit training, TRX, biking, walking, core-specifics (planks, etc).

When you ask ‘fitness gurus’ what to do, the fitness guru says, “Those listed above are a start.”

I’m no expert, but one advantage of the elliptical machines is that they are no-impact, so they are easier on the knees. This probably doesn’t make a difference to a lot of folks, but I use them exclusively because the orthopedic surgeon told me to.