Before going into the best budget cross trainer, many people ask the difference between a cross trainer and elliptical trainer. They are essentially the same, the word elliptical refers to the action made by the feet while cross is the action of the arms. Technically speaking if you were to hold your hands on the static handles you’re using an elliptical trainer but using your arms with the moving handles is a cross trainer.
Buying a cross trainer can be confusing if you don’t know what to look out for. Check out our article here on how to choose a cross trainer. You can pay from as little as £80 to well over £3000, with this in mind there is a big difference in features across hundreds of different models available.
It’s important to consider your particular goals before looking into specific features a cross trainer has to offer.
If your goal is for overall fitness improvements and weight loss then a cross trainer is the first step towards attaining your goals. It’s a fairly reasonable price with less space required than other fitness equipment such as a treadmill or rowing machine. Arguably the static exercise bike takes up the least amount of space but an elliptical cross trainer provides a full body workout. Now we will dive into why there is such a price difference between the different types of cross trainers and what you will get for your money at a lower budget.
Budget cross trainers can be great value if are cautious about what each model has to offer. Realistically they won’t compare to the more expensive models which are smoother and equipped with high tech features. But if your budget is tight you can still get great value out of a more modest cross trainer and it will still help in achieving your fitness goals.
Below are some important things to consider in a budget cross trainer
All ellipticals come with dimensions and weight of that particular model. Some are designed to fold up and store away while others stay as they are after assembly. It’s important to consider whether you will be storing the machine away or leaving it where it is after use. If you are going to be storing the equipment away after use, you need to consider portability. If the equipment is heavy and difficult to maneuver, it’s going to collect dust in the corner. So check the weight of the machine and if it has wheels to make it easier for you to move this yourself.
Maximum User Weight or Height
Not only do you need to consider the weight of the machine but also of yourself! Most manufacturers specify a safe weight limit for any user of the machine so follow these guidelines to make sure you don’t exceed them. If this is ignored it may cause injury to yourself or damage to the machine. If you end up damaging the machine it may invalidate the warranty.
Another safety issue is user height, not necessarily guidelines for the machine but more for yourself in your home. If you’re above average height remember to add an extra foot for when you step onto the foot pads. Another thing to consider if you’re taller is the stride length may not deliver the full stride. So consider that the pedals can be adjusted to maximise the potential use you get out of it.
One of the biggest yet most overlooked features is whether the machine produces a smooth elliptical motion for both arms and legs. The cross trainer should produce a natural, fluid and non-jarring movement, especially when you start to increase the speed and resistance of the settings.
As the name implies the elliptical motion should travel in an elongated oval motion. A rule of thumb is that the longer the stride the better. A short stride tends to move up and down without achieving a smooth elliptical pattern. The specification is typically detailed by the manufacturer – you will see this range from around 14” to 20”.
Adjustable Resistance and Incline
Unlike a treadmill where the belt moves at a specified speed, the cross trainer speed is determined by the user. Your work rate increases as you increase the resistance of the handles and pedals. Cheaper cross trainers typically use air resistance in comparison to variable magnetic resistance in more expensive models. On most elliptical cross trainers this can be altered using the display console or buttons on the handles. Higher spec models usually have preset programmes which manually change as you progress through the programme.
Increasing the incline of the elliptical replicates walking up a hill. By altering the incline you use different muscle groups during your workout. For example a lower incline puts more emphasis on the upper body while a higher incline focuses on the legs. It is useful to be able to adjust the incline while you workout, some models it is a manual job where you have to make the adjustments prior to working out, otherwise you have to get off the machine intra-workout and make the appropriate adjustment.
Traditionally there are two types of handles on cross trainers. The fixed handles also known as ‘safety’ handles which are fixed to the frame and you can hold onto them to keep you balanced. The motion handles move backwards and forwards while you pedal, if you hold onto these while working out it puts more emphasis on your upper body as you can control the tempo with your arms. Some models are built with pulse sensors on the safety handles which monitors your heart rate while you workout.
Front or Rear Drive
Most commonly there are two types of elliptical cross trainer, the front drive or rear drive. The difference is simply where the flywheel is located. Some people report that front drive provides a better lower motion experience while rear driven is more intense. The difference is insignificant and this is subjective, but it’s good to know the difference between the two types.
The display console is located at the front of the cross trainer and holds all of the controls for the machine. Here you can alter the resistance or select the pre-set programme if it’s built with this feature. The display console also provides information regarding your workout such as calories burned, heart rate, distance etc. The features can vary greatly depending on how much you are spending but even entry level cross trainers provide sufficient information and are built with enough features to get you a solid workout.
Cheap cross trainers don’t usually come with any sort of luxuries such as MP3 functionality or built in speakers. But if you are looking to get on, do a 45-60 minute workout without any bells or whistles then a cheap cross trainer does the job.
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Best Home Elliptcal Cross Trainer
Here is our top 5 choices for budget cross trainers. The best elliptical machines are all below £500 and link to the best price you can find them.
ProForm 225 CSE Elliptical Cross Trainer
ProForm is one of the most well known and trusted manufacturers of quality home fitness equipment. They have a track record of delivering results and producing solid fitness equipment. Their range is comprehensive, from gym style machines to space saving options and there’s a price point for every level fitness.
The 225 CSE from ProForm falls into the space saving category, with a small footprint of only 102cm x 54 cm. As with most cross trainers the 225 CSE requires assembly and comes flat packed. The process to assembling is hassle free, with just 18 straightforward steps that can be completed on your own in no longer than 40 minutes.
Appearance wise this elliptical is very basic, it doesn’t have that show stopping look but that is to be expected at a low price point. But for this modest price it isn’t bad looking to say the least, it looks sturdy and functional which can also be said as soon you step on to the machine.
This compact, solid elliptical has a 7kg flywheel that is combined with a newly tweaked gear ratio which produces a steady and smooth pedal rotation. The kind of motion that’s comparable to an expensive model, which is a huge plus for such an affordable price. The action has no unwanted creaks or squeeks to deliver a pleasant experience, the action produces pretty much no noise whatsoever. It’s a very impressive machine from ProForm given the size and cost, considering it produces a modest 14” stride length which still feels good under intense movement.
Workout options are minimal but there are still variety. There’s 8 preset modes and a manual mode. The manual mode has 12 levels of electronically controlled magnetic resistance of which the top setting is sufficient for those at advanced levels. But if you are a consistent gym goer at an advanced level you may want to consider a higher spec model because the offering on the 225 CSE isn’t going to cut it over a long period. Using the manual mode is straightforward, you simply step onto the machine, start pedalling and adjust the + or – for your desired resistance. The built in 8 preset workouts differ in duration and intensity built for specific goals in mind, whether its weight loss or cardio improvement. Once you’ve selected your programme the target speed is displayed on the console, if you match this target throughout you really feel the benefits and maximise the workout. Another handy display is the speed which indicates how fast you would be travelling in real terrain. This is useful if this kind of number motivates you. If you are struggling to keep up with the pre set workout you can manually override the resistance so you can maintain speed while completing the time.
The display console is easy to read and provides essential data for the user. Such as RPM, power output, resistance level, calories burned, heart rate and pedal speed. Or if you are in one of the preset programmes it displays the time remaining which is always nice when you’re struggling towards the end knowing there’s only a few minutes of work left! You can also pause your workout, whether in manual mode or a pre-set programme and it maintains all of your workout data, if you need to get off the machine and return for any reason. To resume the workout you just need to resume pedalling and start where you left off.
In addition to the pre-set programmes the 225 CSE is compatible with iFit. You can connect your tablet to the cross trainer with bluetooth and access a new daily workout every day with customised training programmes, automated workout stats tracking and google maps route. iFit is a subscription model so you need to pay for a 12 month membership, for full info check out www.ifit.com which is well worth the investment if you are looking for a long term fully integrated workout programme. Alternatively the pre set workouts within the 225 CSE offer plenty of variety and options to get you started.
The battery powered console makes the elliptical flexible with where you want to put it. You can place the machine anywhere without the need for extra cables or sockets. It features a built-in bluetooth wireless heart rate receiver, a tablet holder and water bottle holder. Overall, the ProForm 225 CSE has a lot going for it despite its dull appearance. I wouldn’t recommend this for a seasoned gym goer but for entry level it’s brilliant. It’s quiet, smooth, easy to use with a variety of workout options to get you started. It’s affordable and very comfortable to use with a 2 year parts and labour warranty. The option to add the additional features with iFit is also a huge feature if you wanted to invest a little more but all in all for this price point you can’t go wrong.
Reasons to Buy
Compact and quiet
Very easy to use
What We Didn’t Like
Viavito Sina Elliptical Cross Trainer
Viavito are relatively new to the UK market in comparison to their presence in other parts of the world. They state they offer something to the conventional sporting product.
The “Sina” cross trainer is simple to assemble and should take longer to set up than 45 minutes. Once fully assembled in front of you is a sleek and contemporary design, a colour scheme of black with a red trim. The Sina elliptical is powered by the mains and offers a computer controlled resistance mechanism with 32 different levels. With its compact footprint of 15” stride length, this in combination of a heavy 9kg flywheel gives it a pleasant rear drive motion. Compared to other machines at this price point the Sina stride feels more natural at a higher momentum. The cross trainer itself weighs a modest 47kg sharing characteristics of a more expensive elliptical. A drawback of this is that it doesn’t have transport wheels making this difficult to move. But if it’s plugged into the mains you’re unlikely to move this around regularly. Additionally the heavy weight gives it extra support during an intense workout providing a stable striding experience. The stability and weight of the Sina have a noticeable impact on how it feels, it becomes clear quickly that this is not a cheaply made, entry level cross trainer. The cycle is smooth all the way through, this is down to the combination of a hefty flywheel and internal components such as the bearings. For the price this elliptical is surprisingly quiet and smooth with no creaks or squeaks, highlighting the fact that it is a very well manufactured piece by Viavito give its price point.
In line with its sleek design the display console which sits at the heart of the frame adds to its aesthetics. One immediate and noticeable feature of the console is there is a switch on the back allowing the user to switch from metric to imperial. Of all the ellipticals under £500 this is the only machine that offers this – which is a nice feature to have! In addition to this, the dial on the console is superior to it’s competitors which mostly have buttons. The frustrating thing about buttons is having to push them repetitively to increase/decrease the resistance, this isn’t ideal during a workout at high intensity. The seamless dial offered by Sina makes a far quicker and easier change between the resistance levels. It may sound like a small thing but it makes a significant difference during your workout being able to reach out and spin the dial changing the resistance from min to max instantaneously.
The backlit, colour LDC display is a decent enough size. It allows you to create your own user profile including gender, age, height and weight of the user which produces personalised feedback. This provides more accurate workout data for calories consumption. The Sina console is also built with a polar heart rate receiver to provide accurate heart rate information. There are 12 pre set workout programmes on the console with profiles usefully printed to assist selection. Unlike other ellipticals, each programme can be set at different difficulty levels and durations, which is the closest feature to a personalised preset programme. Whether you are a beginner level or only have time for a 20 minute workout it’s a neat feature to cater for these eventualities. One of the preset programmes is WATT controlled, which is typically used for injury recovery but this feature indicates the expertise behind the manufacture. The Viavito Sina is in a class of its own with this price point, its features raise the bar for performance and quality. The attention and build quality speak volumes and any issues are covered by a 2 year warranty.
Reasons To Buy
Sturdy and smooth stride
Intuitive and easy to use console
What We Didn’t Like
Lacking interactive features
Reebok Z-Power Elliptical Cross Trainers
The world famous Reebok has been a leading producer of high quality sporting goods and equipment since 1958. This domination has expanded in producing home gym machines such as cross trainers, bikes and treadmills.
Assembly of the Z-Power cross trainer can take about an hour, with instructions saying that it’s a 2 person job but in reality you can do it on your own with basic instructions to build. The Z-Power is is a substantial machine with a 135cm x 72cm footplate. Although it’s not huge (but substantial) it has a rather compact design and look. The jet black colour with red highlights gives it a modern feel.
On the contrary to the modern design, the large console is fairly basic. Despite its look, under the hood of the console is some impressive features that are far from basic. The 2 colour 5.5 LCD back lit screen is bright and easy to read, with navigation through the menus simple and easy to use. There’s certainly no shortage of training options with 20 different workouts modes. 12 of which are preset workouts with different resistance levels up to 32! This might sound high, but even the highest resistance level isn’t overly challenging if you are at an advanced level of fitness. In addition to this the Z-Power includes 3 target based workouts – time, calories burned and distance covered. Or a manual option for those who want full control, this can be controlled by watts or heart rate. One stand out feature within the settings is that you can create your own workout and save it for later use. This creates a truly outstanding user experience from Reebok. The machine features a recovery mode which assesses how fast the users heart rate can return to resting rate after each training session, this provides an indication of current fitness levels.
The quality and build of the Z-Power is exactly what you’d come to expect from a powerhouse brand like Reebok. Considering the price point the Z-Power is no exception to the rule. Due to the leg levelers it allows a stable ride for the user. It feels solid to stand on, and while there is some movement from certain components in comparison to a commercial level machine, it remains quiet and smooth. However the machine is disappointing with the lack of curves in the arms which makes the motion seem slightly unnatural. The result of which makes the machine feel not as good as it seems on the surface, after all the movement is paramount. However, if you are a beginner and are to be using the machine for short periods the Z-Power is ideal, I’d say any longer than 30 minutes and you may start to pull muscles in places due to repetitive unconventional resistance. If you’re above average fitness levels I wouldn’t recommend this entry level machine. It makes a decent enough choice for a beginner under the height of 6’ 2 as the 15” stride provides good stability.
In terms of bonuses on the Z-Power it doesn’t come with much else, it includes a water bottle holder but that’s it. It is a shame that there isn’t a wireless heart rate receiver which you would come to expect at this price point. Which is surprising considering how comprehensive the workouts are. Overall for a beginner this a perfectly suited cross trainer. The lack of heart rate monitor and relatively easy resistance is a lot to be desired but for entry level you can go wrong. It’s a quiet, well built and smooth machine with a variety of workouts to keep one motivated. For peace of mind Reebok offer a 3 year warranty on parts and labour.
Reasons To Buy
High variety of workouts
Smooth and quiet ride
Easy to use
What We Didn’t Like
Lacks wireless receiver
Handlebar ergonomics feel unnatural
Viavito Setry 2 in 1 Elliptical Trainer & Exercise Bike
Making the list in budget cross trainers is a 2 for 1 elliptical bike by Viavito. Although strictly not a cross trainer you get the same benefits out of it so it can be a useful machine on paper!
The specifications are a little on the small side which is unlike Viavito given the success of their other highly rated models. Assembly of the Setry 2 in 1 is simple. It comes with a few fiddly parts like adjusting the footplates but overall shouldn’t take longer than 40 minutes until it’s fully assembled.
The machine is a definitely a space saver, taking up far less space than a traditional elliptical. It’s equipped with a 5kg flywheel and 31cm stride giving the action a smooth and steady motion. Which is unexpected with such a light flywheel but given its unconventional design being a bike and cross trainer its well thought through by Viavito.
Changing between the 32 resistance levels on the Setry is quick enough to feel responsive. The top end of the resistance is a genuine challenge, even for advanced fitness level users. One of the most impressive things about this machine is sturdiness when you take into consideration its small and lightweight size. It does offer a very stable and robust ride when you get onto it.
The console is impressive due to the sheer number of functions it offers, particularly at this price point. It offers the user both Kilometer and MPH readings, which can be easily changed on the back of the machine using a switch. The Setry provides 4 user profiles which you can enter your personal data on, this increases the accuracy of the data provided during your workout such as calories burned. Recovery mode is another good feature of the console which provides BMI and body fat percentages. On the user profile you can input this information and it provides meaningful and accurate data in return which is a surprise given its modest price. In addition to all of this there are 12 preset workout programmes which are fully customisable by the user. You can alter difficulty level or you can even create your own workout which can be saved for later use. The wireless heart rate receiver provides a heart rate chest belt with a fully customisable heart rate target programme.
The big question is how does the multi exercise machine work between the cross trainer and bicycle motions. You can switch between cycling and cross training repeatedly throughout a workout. Due to the stability of the machine it is an easy transition. It feels natural while you change as you are forced to change the position of your arms and handles while you are trying to stay balanced. As long as you use the machine correctly during switching exercise types it provides an added benefit that traditional cross trainers don’t. This combination of the features and accuracy of the console make it a cut above rest.
Arguably, the Setry does feel more like an exercise bike than a cross trainer, so if you are looking for a traditional cross trainer I would advise against this. But it does offer something different, it’s compact and very well built. Like the full range Viavito offer the machine comes with a 12 month warranty.
Reasons To Buy
2 types of exercise in one machine with easy transition between the two
Wide range of programmes and functions
Small footprint and stable
What We Didn’t Like
Stride is a short for a cross trainer
Reebok ZJET 460 Elliptical Cross Trainers
Typically Reebok cross trainers remain inexpensive with a good looking design and functionality. The ZJet 460 is just that. Assembly is straightforward with a clear instruction manual and shouldnt take any longer than an hour to complete. Once complete the ZJET 460 is a good looking machine with a black and white finish. The body has a nice 3D lattice pattern on the body of the machine which matches the console. The console buttons on a raised plinth that double up as a tablet holder, which is a handy feature if it’s hooked up to the Reebok fitness App.
Built with a stride length of 15”, the ZJET 460 is suitable for most under 6ft, any taller than this may not be comfortable due to the relatively limited range. The smooth and quiet cycle is produced by the 9kg flywheel. When in use, there’s a small amount of lateral movement in the frame, which is typical for most cross trainers. It has a compact footprint of 134cm x 66.5m meaning it doesn’t sacrifice a great deal of space in a room.
The display console is a 5.5’ backlit LCD display which monitors time, speed, distance, calories, heart rate and more. Also equipped is 24 resistance levels which the highest level being challenging for most. There are 12 preset workouts on the ZJET, all of which you can control the difficulty settings within the programme to suit your goal or fitness level. This cross trainer also allows the user to perform target based workouts if you prefer your own routine for a specific time, distance or amount of calories burned. This is a great feature because the work doesn’t stop until the target has been reached, keeping you engaged and motivated throughout. Arguably, the distance goal is questionable because you can’t accurately measure the distance you have travelled using an elliptical motion. But it’s a good feature if you prefer to workout by a distance figure rather than another data point. Another pre set programme is the heart rate control workout. This is one of the only features that’s disappointing with the ZJet because it only really works when performing with the compatible chest belt. This issue here is this model isn’t built with a wireless receiver nor compatible with a chest belt. While you can use the heart rate control workouts it’s not going to be accurate because the sensors on the hand grip too are just an estimate, which is a big risk especially when you are working out intensely. Given the price of the cross trainer it is a glaring omission by Reebok and it impacts the functionality.
The fitness recovery test is another feature, this monitors how quickly your heart rate returns to resting after exercise. The quicker this returns, the better your fitness level and this is displayed on the monitor providing a rating between poor and excellent, this visual feedback can be motivating after each workout and it’s a good way to monitor progression.
All in all the machine is sound, the quality of the build is the expected good standard from Reebok. Offering a quiet, smooth ride with minimal movement of the frame while working out. There’s plenty of preset workouts to add variety to your workouts. One big drawback is that it doesn’t offer the heart rate receiver which is totally counterintuitive with the heart rate target workouts that are pre programmed.
Other bonuses are the built in handgrip sensors which are good for estimating heart rate but not totally accurate, as well as transport wheels for easy mobility. For peace of mind Reebok offer a 2 year warranty which covers parts and labour.
Reasons To Buy
Lightweight but stable.
Smooth and quiet action
What We Didn’t Like
No heart rate wireless receiver
Expensive for what it offers
So there you have the 5 best budget ellipticals if you have a maximum budget of £500. Each have a unique offering with good elliptical trainer reviews. Whichever you choose you can take advantage of the elliptical workout benefits.