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Cross trainer

By PriceRunner Updated 09/03/2018

Cross trainers have become very popular training tools in recent years. This isn’t surprising, as a cross trainer allows for a type of exercise that suits a very wide audience. Cross trainer benefits include the fact that your whole body gets a work out during training and that it provides both exercise and strength training. This type of exercise machine also provides gentle exercise that’s easy on the joints, back and knees, but can simultaneously provide extremely tough training if that’s what you prefer. Unlike treadmill training, for example, a cross trainer workout is easy on the joints and knees, thanks to the elliptical leg movement which evens out the load over the entire movement.

Training with a cross trainer is often compared to cross-country skiing, as it exercises the legs, arms, stomach, chest and shoulders. This comprehensive training not only builds up these muscle groups, it also allows the body to burn extra calories, making the cross trainer extremely suitable for those who want to lose weight. Because you have good opportunities to control both resistance and pace, you can easily vary your workout intensity. A cross trainer is often subjected to heavy loads, especially if the user weighs a lot and/or during tougher sessions. So it’s important that you buy a high quality cross trainer, to prevent it quickly wearing out or breaking.

Choosing the correct cross trainer

Anyone looking to buy a cross trainer should ask themselves a few basic questions:

  • How often will I use the cross trainer?
  • What expectations do I have in terms of the cross trainer's quality and function?
  • How big is my budget?

How the test was made

We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. Our test team consists of both elite and recreational athletes, and together they have evaluated over 100 exercise machines. We retain the models that perform well for longer-term testing, in many cases several years, and continuously add updates to the reviews.

In our assessment we have focused on the following areas:

  • Ease of use: How easy-to-use is the exercise computer? Does it suit both short and tall users? Is the cross-trainer easy to move? How clear is the user manual?

  • Quality and design: How well designed is the cross-trainer? How much stress and wear should the construction tolerate? What type of resistance does it have? How exact is the measurement of heart rate, calories burned etc.? What guarantee does it have?

  • Functionality: Does the cross-trainer have front or rear drive? Is there a holder for your tablet? Does it support a wireless heart rate belt?

  • Performance: How strong is the maximum resistance? How high is the maximum user weight? How long is the stride length? How powerful is the crank wheel?

We have scored each cross-trainer according to its value for money; in other words how good it is in each area in relation to its price tag. An expensive product thus has higher expectations than a cheaper one, and vice versa.

Good to know about cross trainers

In our cross trainer test, we have considered 19 important characteristics. These are listed below, with an explanation of how and why they are important.

Price

As always. the price is perhaps the most important factor. Manufacturers of cross trainers aim at completely different audiences for their products and, therefore, the price varies enormously, where the cheapest cost just under 2000 SEK and the most expensive can easily cost more than 50000 SEK. The extreme difference in the price clearly reflects the enormous difference in the quality of the different models sold on the market. In general, you can say that the more expensive types of cross trainers, in addition to having superior build quality and function, also have a longer service life than the cheaper models. On the other hand, a more expensive cross trainer is not always better than a somewhat cheaper model in the same "league". If you choose a "budget" model, you must be prepared that it feels a little unstable compared to the cross trainers you're used to at the gym.

Display

Most cross trainers today have a display on which you can not only read the numbers and text, but also get a visualization of resistance, distance traveled, etc. It is important that a display is designed to be user-friendly so that it is easy to "find" the settings and commands you are looking for. You do not want to be standing up and trying to figure out the different menus in the middle of a workout when you are all worked up!

Training computer

A good cross trainer should have a good training computer. It is this that enables the pre-programmed exercise programs, e.g. interval training, fat burning, marathon etc. Even cheaper cross trainers have several programs to choose from, so content is more important than the number of programs, i.e. how good is the training they provide. Often the user's weight and age is also added, to adjust the programs with a suitable load for the best training results.

Pulse control

Pulse control is a part of most training computers, but when the function is not always available from the training computer on many of the cross trainers sold, we have reported this functionality separately. The pulse controller measures the user's pulse, typically via the handles, and sends this information to the training computer which then shows the data on the display. Pulse control is very handy, because it helps the user to maintain the kind of effort that they are looking for. Perhaps they want a steady pulse for fat burning or perhaps intervals with different pulses. A very practical use of pulse control that mid-range and more expensive models often allows, is to keep track of the user's pulse and constantly regulate the resistance so that the user's heart rate is as high as desired. This is the opposite to how resistance traditionally is used, where the resistance is leading and the heart rate goes up and down even though you usually want to have it as even as possible. Varying the resistance by pulse instead generally gives a much more effective workout, as this is the best indicator for measuring how hard the body must work, and therefore people more serious about exercise often see this as a must for the most effective training possible. If you buy a better model of cross trainer, many people consider that pulse control with automatic resistance adjustment is a bit of a must-have.

Front or back driven

A cross trainer is either front or back driven. A front driven cross trainer is normally preferable as it gives a more even motion than a back driven one. This coveted flat movement, reminiscent of cross-country skiing, involves a gentle load on knees and is one of the strengths that has made the cross trainer so popular, especially among overweight and older exercisers.

Braking type

A cross trainer has either electromagnetic brakes/resistance or permanent magnetic. Generally, we can say that today's electromagnetic brakes are preferable to permanent magnetic ones, as electromagnetic brakes have no moving parts that can wear out. Permanent magnetic brakes are generally less expensive to manufacture and are therefore common on cheaper models, while the electromagnetic brakes are more common in the higher price classes.

Pedals

To get a good load on your feet, it is important that the pedals follow the feet throughout the elliptical motion, so that the pressure on the feet is as smooth and stable as possible. In addition, you should be able to adjust the pedal height to suit the individual user's length.

Size

If you have a small apartment with a very limited area for your cross trainer, you naturally want it to take up a minimal amount of space. The price of this is in general a less stable cross trainer which cannot handle as much of a burden as a bulkier model. This makes it wobblier and reduces life expectancy. Cheaper cross trainers usually take up less space than the more expensive models, which suits many as they partly have less money to spend on their cross trainer and they also live in a small residence. For those with a larger budget but short on space, the frame size is however often a problem, as the more expensive, more solidly built cross trainers take up more space. If space is not a limitation, we can generally say that the larger the frame size is, the more stable the cross trainer will be. Please note that beyond the frame size, the cross trainer also needs to have clearance of up to half a meter in each direction as many parts move significantly during use.

Machine weight

As with frame size, machine weight is generally a contradiction, where more weight provides a more stable and solid machine that can withstand heavy loads and heavy people, while a lighter cross trainer is more unstable, less sturdy, might squeal etc. As for size, cheaper models weigh less than the more expensive ones, which is good if you have limited space and want to move the cross trainer frequently. But if you can afford it, a higher weight is usually something positive as you get a cross trainer of higher quality if it weighs more.

User weight

This feature is especially important for cross trainers that are likely to be used by the heavier users. A person can be heavy due to being overweight, muscular (muscles weighs a lot!), tall etc., but regardless of why, it is important to buy a model that is designed to handle the user weight that it actually should be used for. If more than one person is planning to use the cross trainer, you should of course buy a model that is designed to be able to bear the heaviest user. In general, we can say that the more expensive type of cross trainer, the higher user weight it can handle. We notify heavier users that it can be dangerous to use a cross trainer that is not design to cope with the weight placed on it. If a heavily overloaded cross trainer is used, there is a risk of breakdown in the middle of a workout, where the user could fall and be seriously injured.

Flywheel

An important part of the cross trainer's mechanics is the flywheel when the trampling enables the flywheel to spin. To make it harder to keep wheel in motion and thereby provide the body with sufficient training, the flywheel is surrounded by magnets that brake it. To obtain a stable and uniform resistance, the flywheel must be as heavy as possible. So generally, the higher the weight of the flywheel the better.

Step length

To get a good and comfortable workout with proper elliptical leg movements, it is important that the step length is large enough. Otherwise it will be easy to use too small movements which provide a poorer and less enjoyable workout. Cheaper models generally have shorter step lengths of about 30-40 cm and more expensive models have a step length from about 40 up to 50 cm or more. In general, the taller you are, the greater the step length you should have. If you are very short, it may indeed be preferable to have a shorter step of perhaps 30 cm. On the other hand, if you are taller than 160 cm, you should not have a step length below 40 cm.

Design

Even if the design does not normally affect the functionality, it still plays a major role for many. A cheap cross trainer can often be moved easily and therefore tucked away in any nook when it is not being used, but more solid cross trainers are neither built for, or intended to be moved around. As the cross trainer might be placed in the living room or a home gym, you should not have to be embarrassed if it might look ugly. A cross trainer is perhaps not a beauty but it should at least have such an acceptable design that it does not hurt to look at it.

Durability

A very important feature for a cross trainer is durability and there are several reasons for this. Perhaps the most important reason is that a robust cross trainer will probably have a longer lifetime than a less robust one, as the well designed and robust frame, mechanical engineering and electronics will manage the long and heavy load that a cross trainer is often exposed to. This is especially true if it is used often, if it is used by heavy people and if the user/users run intensive training programs. A higher durability normally also means that the cross trainer can manage a higher user weight. The price of a robust cross trainer is however that it is generally takes up more space than a less robust one, that it weighs more and perhaps above else, that it is more expensive.

Warranty

A cross trainer often means a larger investment for most and that is why it is important that you can rely on the fact that it is durable and can provide loyal service for many years. If for any reason the cross trainer should break or be defective in any way, it is important that the manufacturer or dealer quickly and cheaply (preferably for free) can replace or repair the cross trainer. Even cheaper models can have quite generous warranty times which of course is good, but it should be borne in mind that as a customer with a complaint, you are often responsible for all costs for transporting the cross trainer to a repair shop or return it by mail. This entails a not insignificant cost in both time and money. We therefore recommend that you consider this when buying a cross trainer.

Installation

If you buy a cross trainer online via the internet / mail order (which is very common even for more expensive models, as you normally get a better price in internet stores) and home delivery and installation are not included (which they sometimes are for the more expensive models), it is important that the installation of the cross trainer is not too complicated.

Manual

A good manual with detailed instructions is a good way to ensure that you get the most out of your cross trainer. It should contain easily understood instructions on how to assemble the cross trainer, and it should contain user-friendly instructions and guides on how to use the training computer with all its programs and settings. Unfortunately, many cross trainer manufacturers fail at this point, even those who sell a bit more expensive models. Nowadays, we think that in addition to a paper manual, a digital manual must also be included, preferably as PDF documents or in another known format that makes it easy to open and read. Saving a small PDF file of under 1 MB on your computer also takes up considerably less space than to store a paper manual, which also tends to disappear.

Sound Level

The sound level is perhaps not the first thing you think of when buying a cross trainer. A cross trainer should be quiet and not make any annoying whining sounds or similar. Partly because this often interferes with the exercise, as you might be reluctant to use your full strength for fear that the cross trainer might break, and partly because it may interfere with the focus you want for your training, whether this focus is achieved by listening to music or watching TV. But there is also another reason that a cross trainer should not squeak. As with other mechanical structures, a squeaking means that there is high friction during use and the cross trainer therefore wears out quickly. You want to avoid this, as a good cross trainer should be able to be used daily in several years before it is worn. If on the other hand the cross trainer squeaks, it might wear out so quickly that it is torn apart after only a few months of use.

Mobility

More solid cross trainers are not intended to be moved around, but for cheaper models with low weight it is commonplace to keep the cross trainer in a nook when not in use. In this case, it may be important that the cross trainer is designed to be easily movable so as not to damage it or yourself during the move. Some cheaper models therefore have wheels to increase their mobility.

Read more

BH Fitness Khronos

Auto generating rear driven cross trainer for commercial use

BH Fitness Khronos is a very well built and beautifully designed cross trainer for commercial use. The high build quality ensures that Khronos is well equipped to be used very frequently, such as at a corporate gym. The stride length is unsurprisingly very generous and provides a very soft and fine step movement. A clear sign that this is a top model is the narrow step with minimal distance between the foot plates - something that contributes to the exemplary step movement.

The maximum load is not at record levels but perfectly adequate for most people. Neither the control panel nor training computer are particularly self-explanatory, but with a little patience you can learn them quickly enough. Khronos is auto generating, making it easier to place, as you do not need to consider any cabling. Other strengths include a balanced variety of pre-programmed workouts, a very quiet operation, many resistance levels, and the included pulse belt. On the negative side, we note a rather inaccessible bottle holder, lack of quick buttons on the handles, and that the Khronos is relatively troublesome to move.

Very high build quality, excellent stride length, very fine step movement, auto generating
Inaccessible bottle holder, no quick buttons on the handles, difficult to move