Cross trainer

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Cross trainer

An elliptical cross trainer (or elliptical trainer) is a piece of equipment for endurance training , fitness training in gyms and for home use. Compared to a bicycle trainer, which mainly promotes the leg muscles, the special design of the cross trainer trains significantly more main muscle groups.


Cross trainers have a flywheel that is connected to the vertical arm bars by two approximately 1  m long horizontal pedal arms. The form of movement is similar to that of walking, whereby the occurrence of stress on the joints is eliminated.

The cross trainers have meanwhile become the most popular fitness equipment with a market share of over 70 percent. They are ideal for effective endurance training that is gentle on the joints, they demand various muscle groups and promote fat metabolism . The muscular strain is highest in the calf muscles (M. trizeps surae), followed by the front of the thighs (M. quadriceps femoris), the buttocks (M. gluteus maximus), the shin muscles (M. tibialis anterior), the back of the thighs (ischiocrurale) ) and the knee stabilizer (M. tensor fasciae latae).

There is no fundamental difference between cross trainers and elliptical trainers , rather it is an evolutionary further development of the motion control of the devices, which make the motion sequence more and more ergonomic and simulate the running movement better and better. An elliptical trainer can also be described as a subtype (further development) of the cross trainer. Often both terms are used synonymously. When differences are made, they are only very vague. The word "elliptical trainer" describes the elliptical movement, the elliptical movement path of the feet. The word cross trainer describes the movement of the whole body. Because the arms and legs move in opposite directions, that is, "cross". In English they are also sometimes referred to as elliptical cross trainers .

Cross trainer in a gym.

In addition to this dichotomy, development has already progressed towards a further intermediate joint in the horizontal strut (in the pedal mechanism) in order to further reduce the stress on the knee joint , hip joint and spine . The more general name of this group of devices is cross trainer. The designation of further developed devices as elliptical trainers is only intended to emphasize their particularly favorable elliptical movement of the step surface. However, there is also an elliptical movement with the cross trainers. An elliptical cross trainer is particularly useful for people who sit a lot, as it also trains the upper body and lung capacity. The cardiac stress does not show any significant differences in cross trainers / ellipticals compared to bicycles with the same oxygen intake.

The better the upper body muscles are developed, the easier it is to do arm work on the cross trainer, and the easier it is to reach higher pulse ranges. If the upper body muscles are poorly developed, the training person has to exert themselves significantly more to achieve a certain intensity. As a result, the trainee subjectively has the feeling that they have to exert themselves significantly more before a higher pulse range is reached.

Because of the slightly increased step width on some devices, the sequence of movements may not be entirely physiological. When buying, make sure that the inner distance between the two pedals is as small as possible. Otherwise, the training can lead to hip damage over time.

The prices for cross trainers / elliptical trainers range between 200 and 5,000 €, for studio equipment up to 7,000 €. The price depends on the maximum load limit (maximum weight of the training person) and the training computer, which either only allows manual load setting or enables electronic load control and possibly also saves training profiles. The main differences between the training computers are when it comes to heart rate measurement. Pulse measurement via hand contacts is less accurate and restricts the free hand position. Ear clips are more precise, but can be annoying and are mechanically vulnerable. Wireless heart rate monitors with a chest strap are the most technically complex solution, but are best suited for endurance training with a given target heart rate range.

An objective yardstick for the quality of a cross trainer is the specified maximum weight load (maximum weight of the training person), as this is determined by the TÜV and not by the device manufacturer. The more weight the training device can carry, the more valuable the individual parts, such as the frame, bottom bracket or drive system.

Poorly trained people, for whom training on a cross trainer / elliptical trainer is too strenuous, or who have extreme problems with the knee or hip joints, may have to switch to a bicycle trainer.

Differences between cross and elliptical trainers

Cross trainer (flywheel rear)

In addition to many similarities between both types, such as endurance training, full-body training, posture training and the protection of the joints, there are some differences:

Cross trainer

  • Flywheel rear
  • design type
  • Cross trainers set the body in a strong up and down movement and have a short stride length (possibly negative for the hip joints)

Elliptical trainer

  • Flywheel in front
  • much weaker up-and-down movement
  • the right and left rear support point rolls on a rail in push-pull forwards and backwards
  • Glide feeling
  • Movements to the cross-country skiing ajar
  • Compared to cross trainers, elliptical trainers have a flatter ellipse, which is easier on the joints and is usually perceived as more pleasant
  • the more comfortable movement increases the motivation to train and thus usually also the duration of the training
  • great stride length
  • more expensive than cross trainer, as it is more complex to realize the harmonious sequence of movements
  • More often found in gyms than cross trainers
  • Elliptical trainers only offer the option of “Nordic Walking”, while a cross trainer has cross-country, jogging and stepping functions

Walk backwards

By running backwards on the cross trainer, other muscle groups are used and can thus be trained. Since walking backwards is less practiced, this movement is more difficult and usually only a little slower to perform. This makes it possible to use more arm strength on the cross trainer.

It is also often reported that the soles of the feet are burning and numb when exercising on the cross trainer. This can be alleviated if a training phase with running backwards is carried out at certain time intervals, since other areas of the sole of the foot are then more stressed.

Arm movement

With traditional devices, the arm is moved on a plane that is parallel to the sagittal plane . Some newer devices also have a more sophisticated trajectory for arm movement. With these devices, the trajectory is slightly inclined to the sagittal plane. The path of force and the path of movement are thus from a point in front of the middle of the body. This also corresponds more to the natural arm movement when running, where the hand comes approximately in front of the navel when the arm moves forward. Instead, with traditional devices, the hand moves to a point in front of the respective shoulder. Depending on the design of the arm levers, the shoulder joint can be exposed to unusual stress, which means that overloading cannot be ruled out.

Web links

Wiktionary: Crosstrainer  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ TW Lu, HL Chien, HL Chen (2007): Joint loading in the lower extremities during elliptical exercise. In: Med Sci Sports Exerc 39: 1651-1658.
  2. ^ Journal of Sports Medicine (archive) ( Memento from November 23, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on September 4, 2011.