Beginners Cross Trainer Workouts

Cross Trainer Workouts for Beginners

How to Work Out on an Elliptical Cross Trainer in Three Easy Steps

It is the shape of your workout session on an elliptical cross trainer which makes the difference.

These low-impact machines are brilliant for movement, cardio fitness, fat burning and the more advanced HIIT (interval training).

To get the biggest benefits, you should know how to pace yourself, when to go for it – and how to warm up and warm down to ensure your workout is as safe as it is effective.

I have split this cross-trainer workout beginners guide into three.

Firstly, the basics – which cover the shape of an elliptical cross trainer workout for anyone new to this form of home fitness. After that, there are some important notes which cover older people, or anyone carrying additional weight. Finally, some advanced tips – focused on fat burning and using your cross-trainer workout or high intensity interval training.

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Cross Trainer Workout Basics: Always Start with a Warmup

Warming up is vital for all forms of home fitness.

This will prepare your muscles and joints for the workout ahead, reducing the incidence of injury.

I recommend at least five minutes of warmup before you add any significant resistance for each cross-trainer workout. Simply begin at a slow and steady pace, keeping resistance to a minimum. After 2 minutes and 4 minutes, up the resistance a little and increase your pace.

Remember, this is prep time, you’ll burn plenty of calories once your muscles and joints are ready to go.

Cross Trainer Workout: Main Routine for Steady State Cardio

If you are brand new to cross trainer / elliptical workouts, then 10 minutes of steady cardio will be plenty. This will involve increasing the resistance from the warm-up levels, though you don’t need to get to the top of the dial until you are used to training on your cross trainer.

At this point you should be using both your arms and legs at a medium pace, which will not vary.

Increase this main routine weekly by five minutes each time. After a month, you will be at 30 minutes, and will be able to increase the resistance and the pace. At this point, you’ll be ready to add bursts.

HIIT on a cross-trainer

Adding Higher Intensity Bursts to Your Cross Trainer Routine

For an amazing cardio workout, higher intensity bursts can be added. I recommend you reach a level of fitness where the steady state cardio (above) is no longer a big challenge before you add intense bursts.

Put the resistance high and go for a strong pace with both legs and arms for 2 minutes – then return to your resting rate for 5 minutes. This can be repeated, and the resistance increased further as you get used to the intense cardio workout.

Don’t Forget to Cool Down

Cooling down after your cross-trainer workout is just as important as the warmup. This not only helps your muscles, but it also lets your heart rate come down steadily too.

Five to seven minutes is plenty. Gradually lower the pace and the resistance, aiming for the last minute with very little resistance and a slow pace.

Cross Trainer Workouts: What About Older People or Those with Excess Weight?

If you have any health concerns, you should always consult a medical professional before working out.

That aside, there are several practical steps older people, heavier people and those returning to fitness after a break can do to stay injury-free on an elliptical cross trainer.

  • Start Super-Slow: Even with a warmup, there is no need to rush into vigorous workouts on your cross trainer right away. Start with short sessions, keep the pace slow and resistance low and then add time as you start to adjust. Cross training is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Listen to Your Body: You should focus on getting feedback from your own body. Any pain, discomfort or laboured breathing are signs to quit your workout. How you feel afterwards, with muscle soreness or discomfort should also be factored in.
  • Keep the Resistance Low: While cross trainers are already low impact compared to other home fitness machines, older or heavier people should keep the resistance levels down. There is plenty of time to up the levels as your fitness improves.
  • Correct Form is Important: Slouching on an elliptical can cause strains, and proper upright form is essential for a safe workout. If you can’t work with a personal trainer, then there are free videos on YouTube which show the correct posture for cross trainer workouts.
  • Warm Up and Down: This is even more important for anyone with lower starting fitness levels, never skip either the warmup or down – and add some gentle stretching afterwards too.
  • Stay Hydrated: You’ll lose water when working out, both through sweat and through your breathing. Working out with a water bottle is a great habit. If you sweat significantly, adding electrolytes to your water post-workout will help replace those essential minerals and salts.

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Fat Burning Cross Trainer Workouts: Bring on the HIIT

HIIT stands for ‘High Intensity Interval Training’.

This works by pushing you to your limits for short periods of time (1-2 minutes is typical), with rest periods between. This intense cardio burns fat more effectively than steady state workouts which are the most common way to use an elliptical cross trainer.

Once you are up to speed on regular cross trainer workouts, it is time to add 10 to 15 minutes of intervals to burn fat. Remember to warm up properly before you start any HIIT workouts.

Start by increasing the resistance, then peddling at full pelt (using good form) for 1 minute. This should be intense enough that you are right at your limit.

You then spend 1 to 2 minutes in active recovery. You don’t stop, instead reducing the pace to a steady rate, working both your legs and arms while you catch your breath. Reduce the resistance on your cross trainer if needed.

After 2 minutes, it is time to go again with the intense portion and repeat.

Five to eight cycles of HIIT training should be followed by an extended (ten minutes or more) of steady state cardio.

As with all workouts on cross trainers, cooling down is important.


If you are ready to hit the cross trainer and become fitter and healthier than ever – then do check out these guides and individual reviews for the best elliptical cross trainers at the best possible prices: