People often assume a cross trainer got its name as works across the body but it is actually based on cross country skiing. Cross country skiing is a very versatile exercise and having that in the form of a cross trainer allows for a diverse workout engaging almost all the major muscle groups in your body.
Having an exercise that uses all your muscles allows for you to mix up your workouts and keep them interesting. For instance you could start with 5 minutes of using the cross trainer normally going forwards with your hands on the moving handle bars. You could then progress to doing 5 minutes in reverse, after that another 5 minutes going forwards but making your arms do a lot more of the work. Then finally 5 minutes of just using your legs to do the work and before you know it you have completed a 20 minute cardiovascular session without watching every second tick by wishing for it to end.
If you do decide to mix up your workout it is important that you maintain correct form to avoid any injuries. For instance your spine should stay in a neutral upright position, it can be tempting to lean forward and “put your back into it,” especially if you are using your arms to do the majority of the work.
When you are trying to focus the exercise onto your legs and not use your arms you should hold onto the stationary handlebars, keeping your back neutral and your elbows tucked in to your sides. This will help to put the emphasis on your legs. When you become more confident you can try taking hands off of the handlebars completely and this will force you to balance engaging your core muscles and tone that mid-section.
One complaint you sometimes hear from cross trainer users is that their calf muscles become sore during the workout. This can be due to a number of reasons but the most common one is that the user’s foot position isn’t quite right. Your feet want to be the same width as your hips and you want to make sure that when you are stood upright you can comfortably reach the handles as often people find themselves leaning forward slightly to reach them. This causes the heel to lift up during the exercise, however it should be flat on the foot plate as much as possible to help stretch the calf muscle out.