Cross Trainer Vs Elliptical

A cross trainer and Elliptical Trainer are one of the most commonly used cardio equipment in gyms and at home. There is a common misconception that the cross trainer vs elliptical differ.

Some believe that one has static handlebars while the other has moving handlebars, but this is not the case. In fact the cross trainer and the elliptical are exactly the same.

They are just called differently depending on the country you are in! Typically the UK call this the cross trainer while other parts of the world call it the elliptical trainer.

Here’s a great explanation of the difference between the two

If you are shopping around for the best cross trainers, check our detailed comparison article.

A Brief History

Ellipticals and cross trainers were introduced by Precor in 1990. They developed the Elliptical Fitness Cross Trainer (EFX) which would allow the foot to roll from heel to toe which simulated the running movement.

This patented mechanism would create a smooth, elliptical movement which would limit the stress on tendons and joints. This approach would be classified as low impact by the developers. 

cross trainer vs elliptical

Why are Cross Trainers called Ellipticals?

The term elliptical refers to the movement that a cross trainer makes. The first published work on an elliptical path was in 1988 where researchers found that the path of a point on a floating link follows an elliptical shape. This elliptical shape is what is generated when you pedal backwards and forwards on a cross trainer.

Cross Trainer vs Elliptical difference

As mentioned there isn’t a difference between cross trainer and elliptical trainer. But there are certainly different types of elliptical machines.

Different types of Elliptical Cross Trainers

There are several different types of cross trainer (or elliptical trainer!) on the market. Most commonly the rear drive and front drive. The two different types refer to where the flywheel is situated on the machine, both have the same feel it’s down to personal preference which you prefer.

elliptical trainer vs cross trainer

Making the most of your elliptical and cross trainer

When using your cross trainer it’s best to hold the handrails lights and equally distribute your weight between the foot pedals and handrails. Doing so gives the user balance and provides an even, full body workout.

If you want to focus on the lower body you can put more weight on the foot pedal and use the resistance to stimulate the muscles in the legs. Alternatively if you were to use the resistance in the handlebars it focuses on the arms and shoulders.

cross trainer vs elliptical difference

How the Cross Trainer/Elliptical benefits the user:

It provides a dual action movement which targets different leg muscles. The movement is similar to walking or running and a forward motion provides more stimulation in the hamstrings while backwards activates the quadriceps

In addition to this they’re equipped with both static and moving handlebars. The stationary handlebars can be held for stability or those whose coordination is lacking. 

For more advanced users or those looking to maximise their workout they can use the moving handlebars. When pushing these backwards and forwards simultaneously with the foot pedals you work muscles in the upper body such as the arms, chest and shoulders.

The cross trainer and elliptical trainer (whichever you’d prefer to call it!) ultimately offer a great total body workout which is much easier on the joints than other gym equipment. Their shape also allows them to be easy to move around your home. But there are also disadvantages of elliptical trainers which we discuss in detail.

is elliptical and cross trainer same

Best Cross Trainer

The best cross trainers and elliptical trainers serve a purpose of providing a low impact, full body workout you can perform at home. They are ideal for both beginners and advanced users for a cardiovascular workout. Ultimately there is no difference between them, it’s how you prefer to call it.

Is Elliptical and Cross Trainer the Same?

So now you now that there isn’t any difference between the elliptical and cross trainer. They are just called differently depending on the country you are in. The UK call this the cross trainer while other parts of the world call it the elliptical trainer.

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An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!