Looking to get fit at home? Get a leg up with our guide to the best budget, mid-range and high-end cross trainers
Walk into any modern gym, and you’ll find rows of treadmills, rowing machines and cross trainers. It wasn’t always like that, though. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that a US-based exercise equipment company – Precor – invented a machine that could combine the low-impact, joint-friendly benefits of static exercise bikes with the running motion of a conventional treadmill. The cross trainer was born, and it swiftly cemented its place as an essential piece of equipment for the best home gyms.
Step onto a cross trainer – or elliptical trainer as they’re sometimes known – and your feet are positioned on two large platforms, your hands reaching forward to grip two handles. This is the arrangement that a cross-trainer uses to simulate walking, running or stair-climbing movement, allowing your feet to roll from heel to toe just as if you were on a treadmill or jogging around your local park. The big difference? As your feet never leave the pedals, your knees, joints and tendons don’t take a pounding – for those of us who struggle with running or are recovering from injury, a cross trainer is a godsend.
That’s not the only benefit, however. As you also have to push the two handles during the movement, a cross trainer provides a full-body cardio workout – if you’re looking for just one do-it-all exercise machine for the home, an elliptical will cover all the bases. In this guide, you will find cross trainers to suit every budget, from basic machines that cost under £200 to commercial standard units that look like spaceships and, well, cost a lot more than £200.
Best cross trainer: At a glance
|Best gym-standard cross trainer||Life Fitness E1 Elliptical Cross Trainer | £2,645||Check price at Best Gym Equipment|
|Best cross trainer under £350||JLL CT300 Elliptical Cross Trainer | £299||Check price at Amazon|
|Best bike/cross trainer combo||Proform Hybrid Trainer Pro Fitness Machine | £599||Check price at FitKit|
|Best cross trainer under £500||JTX Strider X8 | £449||Check price at JTX Fitness|
How to choose the best cross trainer for you
What kind of cross trainer do I want?
Cross trainers tend to come in two styles: rear drive or front drive, which refers to where the flywheel is placed on the machine. Rear drive can make for a more stable machine and allows for a longer stride length that feels more like running. By comparison, front-drive machines can feel more like a stair-climbing machine as users lean forward.
One key benefit is that front-drive machines can be more compact. This makes them attractive if you have a small home, although bear in mind that there are folding rear-drive machines on the market that can be stowed away after use.
Regardless of whether you go for a rear or front-drive model, the essential ingredients for any cross trainer are that it’s stable and comfortable to use – if you’re tall, don’t be tempted to go for a machine with a short stride length. You will regret it.
What features should I look out for?
The weight of the flywheel can be a good way to judge its overall quality – heavier flywheels should provide a smoother, more consistent resistance level. Look for over 5kg as a bare minimum, but for a mid-range machine and beyond you will definitely want it to be heavier. Also look out for how many levels of resistance are available on the machine, if it has the ability to change the incline and if there are any preset workouts, all of which will help ensure it can keep providing a testing workout as you get fitter.
Other important features to look out for relate to its size and stride length. If you’re tall, you will need a longer stride length and longer handles to be comfortable when using the cross trainer. Heavier users should also keep an eye out for the max user weight of a machine, especially if opting for a cheaper cross trainer, which are often less stable.
Is connectivity important?
The rise of virtual training apps, such as Zwift and TrainerRoad, now allow fitness fanatics to control a digital avatar in a virtual world. Although most prevalent in the cycling and running worlds, other home fitness equipment users can harness connected features.
This includes cross trainers, and those with Bluetooth connectivity can deliver a cadence and power reading output to the app of your choice, making those workouts slightly more interesting while also allowing the user to undertake specific training programmes.
What’s more, many brands now offer their own take on a Peloton-style virtual training app, designed to be used with its array of machinery. This will likely come with a monthly subscription cost, but is a great way of keeping indoor workouts fresh and exciting.
How much do I need to spend?
If you’re working on a tight budget, there are decent cross trainers available for under £200, but you will certainly sacrifice some stability and features at that price. There are some excellent home models available between £500 and £1,000, but if you’re chasing a gym-standard experience then it’s time to break out that credit card – you will need to spend well over £1,000.
READ NEXT: The best treadmills to buy
The best cross trainers you can buy in 2023
1. JTX Tri-Fit: Best-value cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £759 | Check price at JTX Fitness
Unless you’re really hankering for a gym-standard machine, there really isn’t any reason to look beyond the JTX Tri-Fit for your home workouts. It has a hulking 17kg flywheel, an adjustable stride that runs from 40cm to 51cm, meaning that it can satisfy a wide variety of users, and 12 workout programmes that use the 16 levels of resistance.
The range of preset programmes includes a hill climb session that takes advantage of the three levels of adjustable incline on the JTX Tri-Fit. The incline can be changed independently of the stride length, so you don’t have to reduce the latter to jack up the former, which is the case on some machines.
Key specs – Size: 153 x 75 x 173cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive 17kg; Stride length: 40-51cm; Max user weight: 135kg
2. JTX Strider X8: Best cross trainer under £500
Price when reviewed: £449 | Check price at JTX Fitness
JTX manages to cram a lot into this relatively compact cross trainer, including a reasonable 7kg, inertia-enhanced flywheel at the rear. It’s very easy to use and we were surprised at how quiet the flywheel was – it’s a great option for those who find running on a treadmill or using a rowing machine a little too noisy for a home setting. The 16-inch (41cm) stride length will feel very natural for anyone up to around 5’9”, though taller users will probably find this machine too cramped and will be better served by larger machines, which JTX also offers.
Unfortunately, there’s no option to adjust the footplates for incline, which means it isn’t as versatile as other cross trainers – disappointing for those who want to target muscle groups in the lower body. However, the digital console features pre-programmed workout plans which will adjust resistance accordingly, while the ability to connect via Bluetooth means you can beam the speed, RPM, cadence and wattage output to your favourite workout apps – the brand likes to recommend Kinomap, which offers guided workouts for use on the machine, but there are many more out there.
Key specs – Size: 130 x 70 x 169cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive 7kg; Stride length: 401cm; Max user weight: 120kg
3. Life Fitness E1 Elliptical Cross Trainer (Track Console): Best gym-standard cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £2,645 | Check price at Best Gym EquipmentAt this level, you’re now well into the territory of commercial-standard cross trainers – Life Fitness actually makes many of the cardio machines you find in gyms. The E1 is their entry-level home elliptical, but still has a robust design that should see it last you a lifetime of workouts, and there is no shortage of interactive features to ensure those workouts don’t get boring.
There are 20 levels of resistance, which can be easily adjusted from buttons on the handles, 12 preset workouts and two that can be customised by the user. The Track Console on the E1 is £100 more expensive than the Go Console version of the cross trainer, but it’s well worth the extra outlay: it allows you to connect the elliptical to smartphones and fitness trackers, and tackle more interactive workouts.
Key specs – Size: 209 x 77 x 150cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive (weight not given); Stride length: 51cm; Max user weight: 182kg
4. Pro XS Sports 2-in1 Elliptical Cross Trainer: Best budget cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £155 | Check price at AmazonCross trainers under £200 often double up as exercise bikes, but while this sounds like you’re getting two for the price of one, that’s not quite the case – this dual-purpose design generally means that they have a very short stride length so they’re not the most comfortable to use as an elliptical.
That said, this 2-in-1 machine from XS Sports is just about sturdy enough for cross trainer workouts, with a total weight of 28kg, and has heart-rate sensors built into the handles to give your pulse mid-workout. It also has adjustable resistance levels and you can cycle the pedals forward or backwards to target different leg muscles.
If you’re on a shoestring budget but still want to kickstart a new fitness regime, this is a worthy place to start.
Key specs – Size: 122 x 60 x 154cm (LWH); Flywheel: Front drive (weight not given); Stride length: Not given; Max user weight: 110kg
5. JLL CT300 Elliptical Cross Trainer: Best cross trainer under £300
Price when reviewed: £220 | Check price at Amazon
The limitations of sub-£100 machines mean that around £200 is the sweet spot for bargain-priced cross trainers, and this machine from JLL has an impressive set of features. The 5.5kg flywheel is heavy enough for a smooth workout, and there are eight resistance settings to pick between. There’s also a tablet holder on the display if you would prefer watching Netflix to staring at your calorie count during your workouts.
While the short stride length means that people over 6ft might struggle to use the CT300 comfortably for longer periods, the features and build quality of the machine makes it a great pick for everyone else.
Key specs – Size: 120 x 61 x 167cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive 5.5kg; Stride length: 32cm; Max user weight: 100kg
6. NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i Folding Elliptical Cross Trainer: Best folding cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £1,149 | Check price at John LewisOnce you’re done with your workout, you can fold the handles and console down on this machine and then store it upright in a cupboard, making it an attractive option for those struggling for floor space in their home.
You’re not sacrificing anything in the way of features with the NordicTrack SpaceSaver SE7i, either. It has a 46cm stride length, 22 levels of resistance, and the incline can be adjusted up to eight degrees. There are also 24 built-in workouts to follow guided by the 5in display, with 12 of those sessions based around burning calories and 12 designed to improve performance.
If you have an iFit account you can link the app to the SE7i via a tablet or phone and then use the many workouts on iFit and even follow Google Maps routes anywhere in the world during your session.
Key specs – Size: 203 x 81 x 180cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive 8kg; Stride length: 46cm; Max user weight: 135kg
7. NordicTrack Commercial 9.9: Best cross trainer for guided workouts
Price when reviewed: £1,499 | Check price at NordicTrackOn the console of the Commercial 9.9 elliptical is a 7in Smart HD touchscreen which you can link up with the iFit app (a one-year membership is included with the machine) to get interactive guided workouts to help you stay motivated during your training.
The library of workouts is huge, and the incline and resistance settings on your machine adjust automatically in line with the trainer’s instructions, so you can jump on, pick a session and just focus on powering through. The iFit app also has other types of guided training, like strength and yoga sessions, and you can use Google Maps to set your workout anywhere in the world.
Even if you never intend to use the iFit app, the NordicTrack Commercial 9.9 is an excellent cross-trainer, with an 11kg flywheel, an incline range that runs from 0-20%, plus 22 levels of digital resistance. The stride length is also adjustable so different users can set it up to suit their size, and the maximum user weight is an impressive 159kg.
Key specs – Size: 173 x 74 x 174cm (LWH); Flywheel: Front drive 11kg; Stride length: 45cm-48cm; Max user weight: 159kg
8. Proform Hybrid Trainer Pro Fitness Machine: Best bike/cross trainer combo
Price when reviewed: £599 | Check price at FitKitThe risk with opting for a 2-in-1 machine is that you end up with a substandard cross trainer and a substandard bike, but happily that is not the case here. Quite the opposite, in fact. With the Proform Hybrid Trainer Pro you get two terrific machines for the price of one, and save yourself considerable space if you do want both an elliptical and a recumbent bike.
With a long 42cm stride length the Proform Hybrid can accommodate larger users, and there are 20 levels of resistance and 20 built-in workout programmes. You can also link the machine to the iFit app to unlock loads more workouts and also the ability to virtually travel the world during your training via Google Maps Street View (one year’s iFit membership is included with the purchase, after which it costs £129 a year).
To make the most of these features, or indeed if you would like to just watch Netflix from the more comfortable position of the recumbent bike mode, there’s a handy tablet holder on the main console of the machine.
Key specs – Size: 154 x 62 x 179c (LWH)m; Flywheel: Rear drive 7kg; Stride length: 43cm; Max user weight: 135kg
9. Technogym Elliptical: Best money-no-object cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £3,450 | Check price at Technogym Arguably one of the most handsome machines on this list, the exceptionally well-built but pricey Technogym Elliptical is as practical as it is good-looking. This is because it folds into itself for storage, packing down to just 0.5m sq, minimising the overall footprint when it’s not in use.
This makes it great for tucking into the corner of a living room, or even a bedroom; but if you believe this might compromise performance, then you’d be wrong – the design offers beautifully natural movement across the entire body.
Users can also make the most of 25 different resistance levels, while ergonomic handles allow for easy adjustment of body position to put maximum emphasis on the glutes, thighs or even switch it up so that the upper body is doing the brunt of the work.
Despite the price, there’s no fancy built-in screen here, with Technogym encouraging users to use their own tablet in the designated holder for connected workouts. That said, the beautiful 15.6-inch console offers read-outs on time elapsed, stairs climbed, cadence and distance covered.
Technogym also offers its own app for personalised training (with a subscription), while the unit itself plays nicely with pretty much any device that’s Bluetooth enabled, including Apple Watch for heart rate monitoring and automatic synching to Apple Health.
Key specs – Size: 162 x 65 x 160cm (LWH); Flywheel: Rear drive; Stride length: 48cm; Max user weight: 160kg
10. Bowflex Max Total 40: Best connected cross trainer
Price when reviewed: £2,699 | Check price at Fitness SuperstoreDesigned to take up as little space as possible, the Bowflex Max Total 40 is an elliptical machine that’s more climber, such is its upright position and shorter stride length. That’s not to say it doesn’t deliver the same varied workout as larger units; Bowflex offers no less than six different handle and grip positions, alongside 20 resistance levels to target most muscle groups in the body.
Working alongside JRNY, an on-demand fitness app that offers tailored classes for this machine, users can take advantage of a real-time instructor to get the most from a punishing interval training session. It’s free for two months with every purchase, but then costs £135 per year.
The app runs beautifully on the provided 16-inch HD touchscreen, although it also allows access to your favourite entertainment apps, such as Netflix, Disney+ and more.
Don’t fancy a sweaty HIIT session today? Fear not, as the JRNY app also offers 50+ virtual courses and stunning trails that automatically adjust your speed to the terrain on-screen, so it feels like you are hiking or climbing your way across the globe.
It’s an expensive unit, but the Bowflex Max Total 40 feels premium in every way, proves easy to transport and store, comes with a free heart-rate monitoring armband, and packs in a plethora of handy features, such as water bottle holders and USB charging ports for devices.
Key specs – Size: 125 x 78 x 166cm (LWH); Flywheel: Front drive; Stride length: Not given; Max user weight: 136kg