Whether you’re an avid gym goer, someone who’s just starting out, or simply looking to improve your lifestyle and fitness, you might be wondering which piece of gym equipment comes out on top: the cross trainer or the treadmill? There are points in favour of each, and each one also has its disadvantages, but is there one clear winner?
What do they do?
Both cross trainers and treadmills are what professionals call ‘cardiovascular’ trainers which means they offer workouts that are often high intensity to get your heart rate up and your blood pumping!
Treadmills are arguably more popular and have been around for much longer and are comprised of a conveyor belt type system which you walk or run on. As the floor of the treadmill moves, you are forced to continue moving to avoid slipping off the back of the machine. Imagine walking down a street which keeps materialising in front of you but disappearing behind you. It’s basically the same principle with the treadmill.
Cross trainers consist of pedals for your feet and handles for your hands which asymmetrically function to give you a sense of natural movement. Essentially what you have with a cross trainer is your left arm moving in conjunction with your right leg and your right arm moving with your left leg, which mimics how you would jog or run normally.
But is there a stand out champion?
There are many who claim that cross trainers are not as effective as treadmills for improving fitness and losing weight, however, the other side of the argument states that it all depends on you. Let’s explore further:
- Cross trainers are joint-friendly– This is probably the biggest plus in favour of the cross trainer. Unlike treadmills where you are hitting the machine hard with your joints, causing strain and shock, cross trainers offer smooth, fluid movement without the jolting and jarring on your joints. If you suffer from joint pain (or lower back pain) but still want to work out, then the cross trainer is the ideal cardio machine for you.
- They are ideal for all capability levels– Cross trainers are arguably easier to adjust to and training is easier to sustain than on treadmills. Particularly if you’re a beginner, cross training is an excellent introduction to cardio work outs that you can tailor to your personal level.
- Work out variety– There is much more opportunity for variety in your training with cross trainers. It’s important to keep your body guessing and with a cross trainer you can mix up your routine by dropping your arms instead of holding the handles which improves balance and posture as well as put emphasis on different muscles, or you can even pedal backwards to target the thighs.
- Well-suited to HIIT– High intensity interval training is when you push extra hard for short bursts of time before returning to a recovery phase, and then repeating. This helps to burn more calories than steady-pace training and is much easier to achieve on a cross trainer because your movement controls the speed of the machine rather than the other way around.
- Easy to become complacent– Because cross trainers are so smooth and low-impact, it is easy to breeze through a workout without truly challenging yourself. This is why they are often viewed as being less effective than treadmills.
- Most do not offer incline settings – Treadmills enable the user to increase the incline of the machine to suit their goals and preferences, altering the work out to be similar to running uphill. This targets different muscles and can help to burn more calories. Most cross trainers do not offer this option.
Treadmills. The tried and true gym session staple. Some love them, some hate them, but one thing is clear, they are amazing for burning calories and increasing fitness. But how do they compare to their cross training counterparts?
- More calories burnt– Because treadmills are ideal for high intensity, high impact cardio, they burn more calories than cross trainers do. Speed and incline are easy to regulate and maintain making for a more even work out. For some more details about calories burnt, click here.
- Easy to tailor and challenge – Because the machine dictates how quickly you move (as opposed to a cross trainer), you can easily tailor your work out to different speeds, inclination, and resistance to target different muscles, increase your fitness, and raise your heart rate.
- Excellent for endurance training – While cross trainers may be better for HIIT work outs, treadmills win out for endurance training. Running at a steady pace for an extended period of time is a great way to improve your fitness and challenge yourself to go further. Training for a marathon? Get on that treadmill!
- Add some squats and jumps– Slowing down the speed of your treadmill opens the way for you to insert some extras into your training. Why not try doing sideways crab-squats on a slow treadmill, or throw in a few star jumps to add that extra oomph!
- Not suitable for sensitive joints – People with joint, hip, or lower back pain should not use treadmills as the work out is high-impact and could cause strain and injury. Cross trainers are much gentler to joints and backs.
- Works fewer muscle groups than the cross trainer – Treadmills are great for cardio, but if you are trying to exercise your thigh or arm muscles while you run, you won’t get much in the way of results with a treadmill. The movement can be too monotonous too challenge different body parts.
On a Balance…
Health professionals and personal trainers will tell you to ultimately do what is best for your body. Listen to what your body wants and needs, and you’ll find a routine that gives you amazing results. Both machines are great for burning calories, and if you’re able, it is recommended that you use both during your gym session.