How to Supercharge Your Cross Trainer Workouts

Cross trainers provide a great way to get in shape. They are low-impact and provide a full-body workout – not to mention being safer than treadmills. But what most people don’t realise is how versatile cross trainers can be. In this article, we’ll show you how to supercharge your cross trainer workouts for faster results.

Working out on a cross trainer has a number of benefits. The “skiing” motion targets almost every muscle in the body, so you burn more calories than exercise bikes or steppers. Your joints are also less likely to suffer from injury, as cross trainers provide a low impact workout.

The biggest mistake people make with a cross trainer is thinking that they can just “switch off” and burn easy calories though. Yes, a cross trainer is safer because you don’t need to keep up with a motorised belt (like on a treadmill). But the workout relies on you to provide effort. If you plod along at a low speed while watching TV, you’re not going to get the most out of your workouts.

With that in mind, here are four ways to improve your cross trainer workouts.

1. Crank Up the Resistance

The first tip is also the most obvious – increase the resistance on the cross trainer! Despite being an easy way to burn more calories, many people forget to increase resistance as their fitness improves. This leads to stagnation. Just like weight training, if you’re not constantly increasing the difficulty of your workout you’re not improving. So if you often finish your cross trainer workouts without feeling too tired, you may be using too low resistance.

2. Practice High-Intensity Interval Training

High intensity interval training has proven to increase the rate at which body fat is lost. You might not burn as many calories doing HIIT, but it actually burns fat faster. As a bonus, it’s often more fun than sticking to one pace for an extended training session – and it’s over quicker!

While there’s a lot written about HIIT, in simple terms it’s a workout that includes both periods of intense exercise and periods of rest. You can do HIIT with any type of exercise equipment, but it works well on a cross trainer.

There are a variety of HIIT programs you can try. Here’s a selection of the most common:

  • Basic Interval – One minute intense exercise, one minute low intensity recovery. This is a basic protocol that can be repeated as many times as you can manage.
  • Tabata – 20 seconds intense exercise, 10 seconds rest, 8 cycles (4 minutes total). This is a short workout, but when you finish you should feel exhausted. Advanced users should repeat several cycles with a longer rest between.
  • Fartlet – Gentle exercise for 8 minutes, faster for 4 minutes, sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 1 minute, sprint for 10 second, walk for 1 minute, gentle exercise for 5 minutes, sprint for one minute, cool down for five minutes. This is a longer workout that combines high intensity exercise with steady state exercise.

As always, make sure you warm-up and do some dynamic exercise before doing interval training! Starting intervals without warming up increases your chance of injury.

3. Vary How You Use the Cross Trainer

One of the great things about a cross trainer is that you can use it to work both the upper and lower body. But that doesn’t mean you always need to use the handles. If you let go and only use your legs, your core needs to provide more stability which can help build your ab muscles and lower back. You can also pedal backwards if you want to work a slightly different set of muscles.

4. Go for a Long Challenge

We mentioned earlier that high-intensity interval training is better for fat loss, but long periods of steady-state exercise can still be beneficial for increasing endurance. For this style of workout, find an intensity and difficulty level that you can maintain for at least 45 minutes. It should be a challenge but doable.

Once you can complete your target time comfortably, increase the resistance for your next workout. The goal of this type of workout is to maintain moderate levels of intensity over an extended period, so don’t feel you need to be going flat-out like you would during HIIT.


The cross trainer is an excellent piece of exercise equipment that can be used in a variety of ways. Whether you want to burn fat, build aerobic fitness or train for outdoor running, by varying your workouts you’ll have greater long-term success.

Have you got any tips for people using a cross trainer? Or have you tried one of the workout tips in this post? Let us know in the comments!

Matt is a 31 year old fitness enthusiast and professional product reviewer from the UK. When he's not working out in his home gym, he enjoys biking, rock climbing and playing with his two dogs.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Jenny Hill May 4, 2017 at 7:51 am

    I tried HIIT in my most recent workout…all I can say is “WOW!” I can usually go on a cross trainer for 30-40 minutes at my normal pace. I was exhausted after 10…

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