Cross trainer workouts can mean the difference between burning calories and building muscle, and not reaching your goals. You need to know how to use an elliptical properly, what routines can help you burn more calories and lose weight and the key benefits of an elliptical.
Weight loss and muscle building can both be achieved if you know what routine and features to use to reach your goals.
We’ll be covering seven key workouts designed specifically for weight loss that can help you melt fat away. If you stay consistent and perform these workouts three to four times a week or more, you will see results.
7 Cross Trainer Workouts to Follow
1. 10-Minute Cardio
When you can only squeeze in a ten-minute session on any cardio equipment, the key is to get your heart pumping as hard and fast as possible. HIIT is a great way to do this, and on a cross trainer, you’ll need to follow a rigorous workout to get your heart rate high.
If you follow this plan properly, you’ll burn far more calories than a person engaging in 15- or 20-minute cardio sessions at a leisurely pace.
A warm up will last 45 seconds, and this is at a slow pace with little or no resistance at all.
Your main workout is going to consist of sets at moderate speeds and sets of sprints. Moderate speeds should be lower than sprints, yet they should still allow you to talk. For example, reduce your sprint speed by three and try to maintain this speed the entire time.
The session will be something like this:
- 0:45 – 2:15 – moderate
- 2:15 – 3:00 – sprint
- 3:00 – 4:30 – moderate
- 4:30 – 5:15 – sprint
- 5:15 – 6:00 – moderate
- 6:00 – 6:45 – sprint
- 6:45 – 7:30 – moderate
- 7:30 – 8:15 – sprint
- 8:15 – 9:00 – moderate
Your cooldown will last the final minute and will be done at a pace that is slower than moderate.
Note: With all cross trainer workouts, these are just guidelines. You want to push your limits, and you may want to experiment with increasing resistance levels. The resistance levels will add to the intensity of the workout, help you build strength and add to the overall calories burned.
2. 15 Intense Minutes
Sometimes, you only have 15 minutes to do a workout, or you’re trying to get in a quick workout during lunch. If this sounds like you, this is a one of the best, fast-paced cross trainer workouts you can do.
You don’t have much time to spare, so you’ll be using your warm up to start at a level one resistance. You have complete freedom here on how you want to adjust your time for your warm up if you feel like you need extra time.
I suggest not deviating from the warm up schedule listed below too much unless you’re reducing your warm up time.
You’ll be changing your resistance frequently here. The main workout will look something like this, but feel free to adjust the resistance for your fitness level.
Your goal is to push your limits and try maintaining as high of a speed as possible.
- 0:00 – 1:00: Resistance 1
- 1:00 – 2:00: Resistance 3
- 2:00 – 3:00: Resistance 5
- 3:00 – 4:00: Resistance 8
- 4:00 – 5:00: Resistance 9
- 5:00 – 6:00: Resistance 10
- 6:00 – 7:00: Resistance 9
- 7:00 – 8:00: Resistance 11
- 8:00 – 9:00: Resistance 10
- 9:00 – 10:00: Resistance 12
- 10:00 – 11:00: Resistance 8
- 11:00 – 12:00: Resistance 13
- 12:00 – 13:00: Resistance 9
Your cooldown will last the final two minutes of your workout and will reduce the resistance level to 5 or lower. Don’t skimp out on your cool down, especially with this intense program. The intensity, if you’re maximizing your speed, will leave your heart pounding and will require a cool down.
3. 20-Minute Tabata
If you have twenty minutes to spare, you can engage in a Tabata routine right on your elliptical. Tabata is, normally, HIIT workouts that revolve around 4-minute exercise intervals. Great for burning calories and fat faster and more effectively, this routine will push you to your limits.
Since you’re going to be doing only 20 minutes on the elliptical, you’ll want to keep your warm up relatively short.
- Warm up for 2 – 3 minutes
Once you feel sufficiently warmed up, be prepared for a heart pumping session.
The main workout will be 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 10 seconds of rest. You’ll be continuing this until you’re ready to cool down. Since a Tabata revolves around four-minute exercises, you can choose to do:
- 4 minutes at 5 resistance
- 4 minutes at 8 resistance
- 4 minutes at 12 resistance
- 4 minutes at 5 resistance
You can reduce these intervals to two minutes and keep including the resistance after every four sprints. Feel free to adjust the resistance as you see fit. If you do have a ramp or an incline, you can try to keep the level at the midpoint for the entire session.
Just remember, sprint as hard as you can for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest.
Cooling down is very important during a Tabata because you’ll be causing your heart rate to soar with each sprint. A lot of people recommend just a one-minute cool down, but for this intense session, I recommend two minutes.
You can reduce the resistance at this time.
4. 25-Minute Climber
A short but intensive workout that will burn a lot of calories in a quick workout session. During this climber workout, you will increase resistance levels to challenge your body and keep your heart rate elevated.
Start by warming up your muscles and getting your blood moving.
- Move at an easy, steady pace for 5 minutes
Feel free to make your warm up as long as you like, but go for at least five minutes.
Once you finish your warm up, you will begin increasing the resistance levels consistently throughout the workout. The goal is to make your workout difficult and really challenge your body. You will be alternating between periods of higher intensity and lower intensity, but even during the easier intervals, resistance will still be higher.
- 5:00-7:00 – Resistance level 7
- 7:00-10:00 – Resistance level 9
- 10:00-12:00 – Resistance level 7
- 12:00-15:00 – Resistance level 11
- 15:00-17:00 – Resistance level 7
- 17:00-20:00 – Resistance level 9
- 20:00-25:00 – Resistance level 4
Your cross trainer may have different levels of resistance, so you may need to adjust accordingly. For example, if your machine only has 8 resistance levels, you will need to reduce these levels accordingly.
Choose resistance levels that suit your fitness level. If resistance level 11 is too difficult, reduce it to a level you can handle and adjust the rest of the workout accordingly.
Complete your workout with a cool down. Spend at least five minutes bringing your heart rate down and moving at an easy pace.
5. 30-Minute Interval Challenge
A 30-minute interval workout that will ramp up your metabolism and torch fat. During this workout, you will change resistance levels and speed to challenge your body.
First, make sure that your machine is set to manual mode.
To warm up your muscles, start moving at a moderate pace. Keep the resistance at a low level or zero.
- Warm up for five minutes
- Keep a steady, easy pace
During this interval workout, you will alternate between periods of high intensity and recovery.
- 3 minutes of high intensity (push until breathless)
- 2 minutes of recovery or pedaling backwards
- Repeat until you reach the 30-minute mark
During the high intensity periods, set the resistance to a high level to challenge your body. Don’t set the resistance so high that you can’t complete your round, but make sure that your body is working hard and that your heart rate is elevated.
As your fitness level progresses, you can increase your resistance level and pace.
Spend at least 10 minutes cooling down. After your final recovery period, continue at a steady, slower pace. Reduce the resistance gradually (if it isn’t already) to zero. Move at a steady pace until your heart rate lowers and you feel comfortable.
Due to the high intensity nature of this workout, you may want to have an active rest day after this workout session. Go for a long, brisk walk or at a slow, steady pace on your cross trainer the next day.
6. 45-Minute Workout
A 45-minute intensive workout that will help you burn more fat and calories. This workout is designed to mimic the climbing of a hill. Difficulty levels vary throughout the workout to keep your body challenged the entire time.
To complete this workout, you will need to set your cross trainer to manual mode.
Start your workout with a quick but effective warm up.
- Move at an easy pace for five minutes.
- Leave the resistance level at zero and move at a brisk pace.
If you feel like you need a longer warm-up, feel free to extend this period to ten minutes. Just keep in mind that you will need to extend your workout by five minutes to make up for the extra warm-up.
The main workout is comprised of alternating intervals:
- 5 minutes higher intensity
- 3 minutes at an easy pace or backward pedaling
The higher intensity periods should be as follows:
- Medium resistance, high RPM and low ramp
- High resistance, low RPM and medium ramp
- Medium resistance, high RPM and high ramp
- High resistance, medium RPM and low ramp
Follow each high intensity period with three minutes of easy or backward pedaling.
Complete the final three minutes at medium resistance, high RMP and medium ramp.
Use the remaining time in your workout, or however long you want, to cool down. Lower the resistance to a low level or zero and at a slower pace. Make time to stretch after your workout.
7. 60-Minute Workout
A one-hour workout that will make you sweat and get your blood pumping. During this workout, you will alternate between periods of high intensity and low intensity. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an effective way to burn calories and fat.
For this workout, you will need to use the manual mode on your cross trainer.
Start by getting your body warmed up and ready for the difficult workout ahead.
- Move at a steady, moderate pace on your cross trainer.
- Your pace should be steady, but you should still be able to talk and breathe normally.
- Continue at this pace for 10-15 minutes.
Now that you’re sufficiently warmed up, it’s time to pick up the pace. Alternate between periods of high intensity and low intensity. Periods of high intensity should be performed at high resistance and high RPM.
- 5 minutes of high intensity followed by 2.5 minutes of low intensity.
- 4 minutes of high intensity followed by 2 minutes of low intensity.
- 3 minutes of high intensity followed by 1.5 minutes of low intensity.
- 2 minutes of high intensity followed by 1 minute of low intensity.
- 1 minute of high intensity followed by 30 seconds of low intensity.
- 3 minutes of low intensity.
Repeat this entire sequence before moving on to your cooldown.
It’s important to choose an intensity level and pace that’s right for your fitness level. It should be challenging, but not so challenging that you cannot complete your workout.
As your fitness level progresses, you can increase your resistance and speed to make sure that your workouts are effective.
Use the remainder of the time to cool down at a slow pace and no resistance. Be sure to stretch when you are done with your workout.
How to Cool Down from a Cross Trainer Workout
Cross trainers can provide an excellent workout and really get your heart pumping. An elevated heart rate means that you’re burning calories. It’s important to cool down before you get on with your day.
Skipping your cooldown can cause damage to the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system. It can also make you feel stiff the next day and cause dizziness after a workout.
Cooling down from a cross trainer workout is simple and straightforward.
- Don’t stop abruptly.
- First, lower the resistance level gradually.
- Reduce your pace and allow your breathing to return to normal.
- Continue for 10 minutes or until you feel comfortable.
After you have successfully lowered your heart rate, hop off the cross trainer and stretch out your lower body. Stretching will help with recovery and help prevent soreness or tight muscles after your workout.
Here is an effective leg stretch:
- Place one leg in front of you.
- Slowly bend forward with a flat back to stretch your hamstrings and lower body.
- Only bend forward as far as is comfortable for you.
- Hold the position for 15 seconds.
- Repeat on the other leg.
To stretch your upper body:
- Hold your right arm at the elbow and bring it across your chest.
- You should feel a stretch in your shoulder and arm.
- Hold for 15 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Other stretches to try:
- Stretching your arms straight up above your head.
- Perform some neck circles in both directions.
Taking 10-15 minutes to cool down and stretch will help make your workouts more effective while reducing stiffness and soreness during recovery.
Why Are Ellipticals Good for Weight Loss?
Ellipticals are one of my favourite cardio machines because it’s easy on the joints and allows me to confidently reach my fitness goals. Weight loss and maintenance are two key reasons people invest in their own elliptical and engage in cross trainer workouts.
There are a few reasons that ellipticals are good for weight loss:
- Intensity: You can sprint on an elliptical much faster and safer than you can on other cardio equipment. It’s easier to increase your intensity with an elliptical to burn more calories.
- Muscle building: A lot of people don’t realize the benefit of muscle. Your muscles require more calories than fat, so as you build more muscle, you’ll naturally burn more calories. Since an elliptical provides an upper and lower body workout, it helps you build more muscle compared to other cardio machines.
- Calories: A 30-minute session can burn 400 calories. The exact calories burned fluctuates based on body weight and your overall intensity. If you sprint on the elliptical or follow one of the workouts we list below, you’ll amp up your calories burned and see results faster.
- Resistance: Ellipticals have resistance levels, and the higher you position the resistance, the more overall calories you’ll burn. Resistance allows you to challenge yourself in new, exciting ways.
A lot of people also prefer an elliptical over other cardio machines because they’re fun and they like using them. If you like using an elliptical, it will have more use than a cardio machine sitting in the corner collecting dust.
But there are a lot of benefits of using an elliptical that go far beyond weight loss.
What Are the Benefits of the Cross Trainer over Other Exercise Machines?
If you step into any fitness center, you’ll notice a lot of people prefer a cross trainer over a treadmill or exercise bike. The reason is that there are a lot of benefits of using a cross trainer.
The key benefits for every age are:
- Low Impact: Cross trainers are low impact, so they’re the optimal choice for anyone that has knee or joint pain. Since your feet remain on the elliptical, you’re not experiencing the same stress on the joints as you would if you were on a treadmill. If you’re older or overweight, this can mean the difference between pain or comfort.
- All fitness levels: Due to the handles, most anyone can use an elliptical. When a person is rehabbing an injury or learning to walk again, a cross trainer workout provides more stability and comfort than a treadmill.
- Safety: There’s a high level of safety on one of these machines. You can hold onto the handles for added balance, and when you stop, the unit stops with you. Other equipment will keep going and pose serious risks to your safety.
- Versatile: The versatility of an elliptical is also high. You can adjust resistance, incline and also opt to pedal forward or backward. If you’re using the handles, you’ll benefit from a full body workout, whereas most cardio equipment will focus only on the legs.
A cross trainer workout can help you burn calories, benefit from cardiovascular exercise and also help you build strength.
If you put the effort into your workout, you will see results.
How to Use a Cross Trainer Properly
Using an elliptical the right way is a lot more than just moving your arms and legs. If you use your cross trainer properly, you’ll burn more fat, build muscle faster and reduce your risk of injury.
The key tips that I wanted to share with you, because they’re vital to your exercise routine, are:
- Incline: If your elliptical has an incline, a lot don’t, you’ll want to vary the incline to work more of your lower body muscles. The higher the incline, the more you’ll engage your quads, hamstrings and calves. You’ll also be increasing the usage of your back, core and glutes.
- Resistance: A key feature in every elliptical, resistance allows you to build muscle faster and burn more calories, too. If you find a session to be too easy, increase resistance. Even if it doesn’t feel massively more difficult, it will help increase your results.
- Direction: The pedals go forward and backward, and the change of direction will change the targeted muscles. A reverse pedal focuses more on the hamstrings, and a forward pedal uses the quadriceps more.
- Handles: Some users opt to use the handles, while others will hold on to the static handles for additional balance. Using the handles will engage the arms and not only help you tone your upper body, but also burn excess calories at the same time.
Most people don’t like cardio. It’s difficult. It’s hard to push yourself. But with these tips and the right cross trainer workouts, you’ll get more out of your workout at the same time or less.
If you’re looking for a cross trainer, I review some of the leading ones in my buyer’s guide.