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Woman using elliptical

The Difference Between an Elliptical and Cross Trainer

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Chances are you have seen a cross trainer or an elliptical and would be forgiven for not knowing the difference between the two. We all know that exercise is beneficial to the human body. It entails any bodily activity that improves physical fitness and health. Whether it is for weight loss, building muscle, or improving athletic skills, people work out for varying reasons.

Image showing feet working an elliptical machine

Regular exercise is known to boost the immune system and ward off life-threatening conditions like obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes. It also helps with mood function, maintains positive self-esteem, and staves off depression. Research additionally shows that exercise improves sleep quality. Sleep is essential as it’s when your body gets to repair the cell.

With more and more people leading stressful lifestyles and obesity being a major concern all over the world, exercise has never been more important. Fortunately, there are many forms of exercise and machines that can help you meet your needs. You will come across numerous machines at the gym designed to help you shed weight and get you in shape.

Related: Is Spinning a Good Way to Lose Weight?

The elliptical is an umbrella term used for an array of standing machines including cross-trainers. People tend to use these terms interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two.

What’s an Elliptical Machine?

An elliptical is a stationary training machine (see our review of the Schwinn 430 Elliptical) that features moveable foot pedals and two long handles. You use it by pushing down the foot pedals to make a circular, elliptical motion and thus its name. Although the machine’s movement is similar to running, it is a low-impact substitute to an otherwise physical activity that has the potential to stress your knees and ankles.

Elliptical training machines come in varying types, including the cross-trainer. However, the original is defined by the fact that the handlebars are stationary and are primarily used to press against during the session. This differs from the moveable handlebars found in the cross-trainer.

Other than providing a safe, low-impact workout, the elliptical training machine has other benefits including small space requirements and ease of use. If you’re a beginner, check out our tips on how to use an elliptical for beginners. The workout done on conventional elliptical training machines extends the hips and knees, which helps work on your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

Woman riding elliptical machineWhat’s a Cross Trainer?

Cross trainers are deemed to the be next-gen of elliptical training machines. They combine the advantages of the original elliptical the standard elliptical with moveable handlebars, thus allowing you to work out the upper body as well.

With the cross trainer, you push and pull the handlebars in an alternating fashion to the legs’ movement, allowing for a fluid, enjoyable, and low-impact session. Newbies can also benefit from the cross trainer as it allows them to easily do their exercise without necessitating help or direction.

In addition to the workout benefits of the original standard elliptical trainer, the cross trainer ideally works out the upper body sections like the arms, shoulders, upper back, and chest, thus providing an effective, whole-body workout.

What’s the Difference between an Elliptical & Cross Trainer?

Even though the cross trainer is a form of elliptical and can be referred to as an elliptical as well, there are key differences in the design and the manner that they affect muscles.

  • A cross trainer features adjustable handle arms that facilitate the motion of your upper body while working the lower body via pedals. On the contrary, an elliptical features stationary handles.
  • This means the cross-trainer facilitates workout for both arms and legs while the elliptical can only work on the lower body muscles.
  • You can tone the shoulders, chest, and back with the cross trainer, while the standard elliptical only work on the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
  • The conventional elliptical is best suited for people with issues in the upper body joints as the handlebars are stationary.
  • The cross trainer is harder to coordinate compared to the original elliptical, but better if you wish to tone up both the upper and lower body parts.

Which is Best for You?

Thanks to their versatile resistance, both machines will provide an effective cardio workout. If you are looking to focus more on the lower body, the conventional elliptical can be more beneficial. However, if you want a more involved, whole-body workout, the cross trainer is a better pick. Research shows that both machines will burn almost the same number of calories. However, the cross trainer will help distribute resistance evenly throughout the body. They may provide a fluid movement, but they can be harder to use as they call for more balance. The conventional elliptical has the advantage of being easier to use, making it a better choice for those in rehabilitation or recovery.