The Best Cross Trainer Workout Plan For Beginners

When it comes to cardio, running and cycling are well known and loved across the world. But what if you don’t like them, or can’t do them, or simply want to shake things up? The cross trainer is a great piece of gym equipment that delivers a full body, low impact, cardio workout.


The cross trainer, also known as an elliptical trainer, is a stationary piece of gym equipment that allows users to replicate a walking or running motion, without the impact to joints caused by the feet hitting a hard surface. It’s a low impact way to train the cardiovascular system and engage muscles throughout the body.


The cross trainer is a very simple and easy to use piece of equipment:

  • Hold on to the safety bars and step both feet onto the foot pedals
  • Place your hands on the handle bars
  • Begin to move by pushing down through one foot, and then continue to pedal both feet while keeping them on the foot rests
  • You can use your arms to push and pull the handles to engage the upper body
  • Keep your core engaged, torso upright, and gaze forward

You can adjust the resistance using the buttons on the screen, and the speed is controlled manually by how fast you move.


There are multiple benefits to using the cross trainer:

  1. Improves cardiovascular fitness

Using the cross trainer provides an excellent cardio workout, strengthening the cardiovascular system including the heart and lungs. Regular cardio exercise improves your endurance for day to day movement, makes all forms of exercise easier, and reduces risk of many chronic diseases.

  1. Engages muscles throughout the full body

The cross trainer is a cardio exercise rather than a strengthening exercise, but that’s not to say it doesn’t work different muscles groups throughout the body. The quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes have to work to pedal the feet, while the arms, chest, and back have to work to push and pull the handles. Even the core has to work to keep the body stable.

  1. Burns calories

Using the cross trainer can burn plenty of calories, which is great if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight. While the exact amount of calories burnt depends on a few factors including age, weight, intensity, and duration, the average person can burn around 175-225 calories doing 30 minutes at moderate intensity 1.

  1. Low impact

Cross trainer workouts are low impact and are great for anyone who finds running or jumping exercises too intense on their joints. It’s also good for those who are new to exercising as they can build up stamina and endurance without injuring themselves.

  1. Suitable for all levels

You control the resistance and speed, which means cross trainers can provide a challenging workout no matter how fit you are. You can do low intensity cross trainer workouts, HIIT cross trainer workouts, use the cross trainer as a warm up, to cool down, and more. It’s suitable for people with injuries, as part of cross training for other sports. Everyone can benefit from using cross trainer machines!


Cross trainer workouts work almost every muscle group in the body. As a form of aerobic exercise, the primary muscle benefited is the heart, with the entire cardiovascular system strengthened. Cross trainer workouts won’t build significant muscle mass but they do help to build strength and endurance in the muscles worked, especially if you use a high resistance.

Muscles worked include:

  • The quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes and hip flexors to drive the foot pedals
  • The triceps, biceps, pecs and lats to push and pull the handles
  • The core to keep the torso stabilized


The cross trainer and treadmill are both great cardio machines that are widely available in most gyms. While they both allow a similar movement, there are some key differences between the two.

Cross trainer workouts are low impact, so can be safer and gentler for those with joint issues, beginners, or if you are overweight. They are also generally safer, as you are in control of the movement: if you stop, the machine stops. Using a cross trainer works more muscle groups than running and can be better for building strength.

On the other hand, treadmills are typically better for burning calories and improving cardio fitness as it’s easier to perform at a higher intensity. Running is also great for building lower body bone density due to the high impact nature.

Combining the two can be a great way to boost your cardio fitness and overall strength and endurance while minimizing the risk of injury.


There are many ways to add cross trainer workouts to your training routine. If you’re new to working out or cardio exercise, a good way to start is by beginning each workout with 5-10 minutes on the cross trainer to warm up the body.

Once you’re ready to move on to more focused cross trainer workouts, here are some to try.


This cross trainer workout is gentle enough for beginners but challenging enough to improve your fitness. You can increase or decrease the intensity or duration if you find it too easy or too challenging.

  • Warm up (0:00 – 3:00): low intensity pedaling
  • Moderate intensity (3:00 – 6:00): keep the resistance low (2-4) and pick up the speed slightly, to around a 5/10 effort level
  • Increased resistance (6:00 – 11:00): increase the resistance by two levels and aim to maintain the same speed
  • Increased arm engagement (11:00 – 15:00): increase the resistance by one to two levels and add more involvement from the arms, so they are actively driving the handles back and forth to increase the overall speed
  • Cool down (15:00 – 18:00): drop the resistance and speed to cool down, gradually decreasing the intensity


If you’re looking for cross trainer workouts for weight loss, a HIIT workout is a great way to blast calories in a short space of time while strengthening the muscles in the body. When combined with a calorie deficit, this is a great way to boost weight loss.

If you’re completely new to HIIT workouts, make sure to listen to your body by taking longer rest periods or shortening the workout time if needed.

  • Warm up (0:00 – 3:00): low to moderate intensity pedaling
  • High speed, low resistance (3:00 – 8:00): 30 seconds of high intensity pedaling at a low to medium resistance (3-5); 30 seconds of low intensity recovery pedaling at low to medium resistance (3-5); Alternate for 5 minutes
  • High resistance (8:00 – 12:00): 30 seconds of high intensity pedaling at a high resistance (8-12), 30 seconds of low intensity pedaling at a high resistance (8-12)
  • Cool down (12:00 – 15:00): low to moderate intensity pedaling

Adding a few cross trainer workouts to your weekly routine is a great way to boost your fitness and burn some extra calories. For overall health and fitness, make sure to also do some strength training workouts too.

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