Are Cross Trainers effective and workouts to test it?

Commercial Fitness

Are Cross Trainers effective and workouts to test it?

Walk into any gym and scan the cardio zone and you will find two main pieces of cardio equipment that clocks up the most mileage. The treadmills and the elliptical fitness cross-trainers. Why is it that in general, those members who step onto the treadmill, say it may be “better” than the cross-trainer alternative?

Elliptical training has been around for over twenty years since Precor introduced the category and changed the landscape of the CV section forever. Giving members access to higher heart rate output training without the impact. That’s the obvious benefit but there are many other benefits of elliptical training that are often over-looked.

As mentioned in 2000 in Fitness Management magazine, courtesy of Precor USA, a research study was conducted by the University of Wisconsin La Cross to shed some light on the effectiveness of the machines that became the saviour of many gym-goers.

The first portion of the study compared intensity of a workout against other cardio-vascular modalities on the gym floor (bike, walking on treadmill, stepping, running on a treadmill and the elliptical). 16 volunteers between 27 and 54 exercised for 20 minutes at a self-selected intensity and researchers measured their oxygen consumption, heart rate and levels of perceived exertion. The second portion of the study on a separate day measured ground reaction forces in the feet whilst exercising on the same modalities. The ground reaction forces were measured at 2.5 times that of the elliptical.

It found that not only were heart rate and oxygen consumption values virtually identical for running on the treadmill as for the elliptical trainer, but the impact on the body for the elliptical was more like walking. Plus, they perceived the exercise as easier. In short this means that when using an elliptical, you get the cardio benefits like running but the injury potential and general feel of walking. 

Fig.1. Average oxygen consumption values during 20 minutes of treadmill walking and running, stepping, stationary cycling and exercising on an elliptical trainer.

Fig.2 Peak ground reaction forces measured during each condition. Values are scaled relative to a subject's body weight (e.g., 100 percent means that the peak forces were equal in magnitude to the subject's own body weight).

How can this translate to the gym floor?  Focus your members with an “Ellipse Month”.

Why not introduce a seasonal training challenge for the members on the cross-trainers where you challenge the member to complete 3 types of workout program?

Ask the members to perform an initial 5 minute warm up of moderate intensity. 6-7 on the modified BORG Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale (range 1-10 for ease) or 65-70% Heart Rate Max (HRM).

  1. Progressive intensity challenge – The Step Ladder
    • The goal will be to add on a level of intensity for every minute of exercise that passes. Working from 7 to 9 RPE
  2. Time challenge – Minute Add On
    • The goal will be to add a minute onto each workout on the cross trainer each session.
  3. Interval challenge – Stacker 1-2-3.
    • The goal will be to work at an intensity of 65% HRM in active recovery, then for one minute intensify the level to hit 75%, then for one minute stack on an additional minute aiming to hit 80% then stack one more minute on top to hit 85% - Max perceived intensity, then drop back down to a one-minute active recovery (more if required to allow the heart rate to drop to 65%) but maintain strides per minute.

The bottom line

Since a larger portion of the population are reaching an older age, more of your members are seeking lower impacting cardio alternatives for various medical or comfort reasons. The obvious drawback for fitter members, however, is that there is an upper limit to intensity when walking on a treadmill, so the Elliptical Fitness Cross-Trainer is the perfect piece of equipment to fill this void and provide your members exercise over a wide range of intensities. Bring on the EFX.

Find out more about the Precor EFX


1. American Council on Exercise. Elliptical trainers go head-to-head. ACE Fitness Matters May/jw1e: 11-15, 1998. 2. Bakken, A. A comparison of energy cost during forward and backward stepping Figure 3. Peak ground reaction forces measured during each condition. Values are scaled relative to a subject's body weight (e.g., 100 percent means that the peak forces were equal in magnitude to the subject's own body weight). exercise on the Precor C544 Transport. Unpublished master's thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 1997. 3. Kravitz, L., B. Wax, J.J. Mayo, R. Daniels and K. Charette. Metabolic response of elliptical exercise training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30: S169, 1998. 4. Porcari, J.P., J.M. Zedaka, L. Naser and M. Miller. Evaluation of an elliptical exerciser in comparison to treadmill walking and running, stationary cyding and stepping. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 30: Sl68, 1998. 5. Zeni, A.I., M.D. Hoffman and P.S. Clifford. Energy expenditure with indoor exercise machines. /011mal of t/1e American Medical Association 275(18): 1424-1427, 1996.


Author Information

Danielle Rainwater
Danielle Rainwater's picture
Danielle was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She is a certified ISSA certified Personal Trainer and feels very lucky to be able to combine her passions of marketing, health, and fitness into her career.
Last seen: 5 days 20 hours ago
Joined: 23/05/2016 - 14:48