In the following article we will be discussing the health and fitness benefits of working out on a cross training machine. It’s a great piece of kits that gives a full body workout in a variety of ways. We’ll start by covering the benefits from an exercise view point. Then talk about some of the practical benefits, before finishing with advice on common training mistakes to avoid.
Fat burning and weight loss
The key to burning fat is making your body use stored fat as fuel. This happens by consuming fewer calories than you burn. There are two side to this equation, calories consumed and calories burned, and regular exercise on a treadmill will bump up the calories burned number. Making should you have a sensible diet will take care of the calories consumed half of the equation. Together exercise and healthy diet will help you burn body fat and lose weight.
A cross trainer is a great calorie burning machine. As you can vary the resistance, length and pace of workouts it’s possible to burn fat in a number of ways.
A popular way of training to ramp up the number of calories burned is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This involves varying intensity of the workout between high pace, high resistance and slower rest periods. This gets the heart rate up high and pushes your muscles hard. Not only are calories burned per minute higher than steady paced exercise, your body continues to burn calories for hours afterwards as it recovers. This form of exercise is demanding on the body, and you should leave a couple of days of rest in between sessions.
The opposite way of training is low intensity steady state cardio (LISS). The form of exercise involves keeping a steady low pace for an extended period of time. It is less demanding on the muscles than high intensity intervals, but it can be carried out for longer periods. Therefore although calories burned per minute are lower, you can burn more calories overall by training for longer. Recovering from a low intensity workout is quicker than high intensity exercise. Therefore you can train this way more often, leading to greater calorie burning in the long run.
If you are thinking about using a cross training machine as part of a weight loss program, the best way to train would be to alternate between these two types of workout. Ideally carrying out 2 days of high intensity a week, with days of low intensity in between. Making sure you have at least 1 day a week of complete rest. This will mean you get the best of both types of training, and maximise overall fat burning and weight loss.
Full body workout
A cross training machine will work all of the major muscles in your body, giving a full body workout. This is unusual for a cardio machine, the only other comparable machine is the rowing machine.
The lower body gets a good workout from the circular motion of the pedal mechanism. At he same time the upper body is exercised by pushing and pulling on the handles. You can control how much exertion you place on either upper or lower body. This means you can decide whether to work out the upper or lower body more.
Exercising the whole body burns a higher number of calories than just concentrating on one part. This is advantageous for weight loss. If your goal is having one machine at home to train with, the full body benefits make purchasing a cross trainer worth considering, as you get a more all round workout than an exercise bike or a treadmill.
Muscle endurance training
If you are training for an event that requires muscle endurance, such as hiking, a cross trainer can provide a perfect workout. Building muscle endurance involves pushing them to work for longer, while maintaining a level of contractile force.
Over time muscles adapt to stimulus and become more efficient. Muscle fibres break down and are regenerated to be bigger, stronger and more efficient. Workouts designed to do this will build up resistance and time gradually. It is important to train with a resistance level that makes the muscles work, and the time period should extend enough so you tire towards the end. If your muscles do not feel tired towards the end of training your are not pushing them hard enough. Another important factor is to train at an intensity that can does not make you stop due to lack of breath before your muscles tire.
Cardiovascular training and health
There is a consensus nowadays amongst health and fitness experts that exercising for just 30 minutes 5 times a week at moderate intensity improves heart health. Blood pressure will fall, resting heart rate will drop and risk of heart disease will decrease. If you are looking for a convenient way to build these sessions into your busy weekly routine, working out at home on a cross trainer is ideal.
Cross trainers can also be used to train the efficiency of the cardiovascular system. Like any muscle, the heart adapts to the work load that is placed upon it. Exercising regularly and making the heart work harder leads to increases in cardiovascular endurance. The heart is able to pump more blood with each beat, sending more oxygen where it is needed to fuel the muscles. Lung capacity also increases, as do the muscles of the chest that help breathing. This means more oxygen can be taken in with each breath, absorbing more oxygen into the bloodstream.
When exercising with the aim of improving cardiovascular fitness it is key to make sure heart rate and breathing are raised to your maximum level. High intensity interval training is the best way to do this. Short bursts of high resistance, full pace sprints on a cross trainer, with short periods of recovery in between, will push your cardiovascular system to its limits. Do these twice a week and you will notice the difference very quickly.
Balance and mobility
A cross training machine is probably the best cardio exercise machine for improving balance and mobility. On other machines such as a bike or rowing machine you sit down, which requires very little balance. A treadmill obviously has you in a standing position, but walking or running is a much more natural way to move, and therefore balancing is easier.
When you move on a cross trainer the rotation of your legs engages your core muscles to keep the upper body in an upright position. Not holding onto the handlebars requires a great degree of core strength and balance. if you are training with balance in mind I would definitely recommend not holding on with your hands.
The circular motion of your feet as you exercise on a cross trainer takes your lower body through a large range of motion. The pedals on many models can be adjusted to increase this range of motion. This makes cross training machines a good way to work on mobility, suitable for those recovery from joint injuries or with joint issues. It is also a great way to build and maintain a level of muscle and joint flexibility for the same reasons.
Low impact exercise
The movement on a cross trainer is a very smooth motion, and the feet are planted at all times. This makes it much kinder on the joints and muscles than machines such as the treadmill where there are constant impacts.
Those with injuries will benefits from this lower impact, as will those with long term joint issues. Even if you don’t currently have any current issues or injury, a cross trainer is less likely to create them than running on a treadmill.
General feeling of well-being
Exercise releases hormones called endorphins which help with mood. It is the release of these hormones that gives the feeling often described as euphoric, that comes with exercise. Regular exercise is a good way to deal with medical conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. Even moderate exercise like a steady 30 minutes on a cross trainer will release these hormones. Regular exercise creates a virtuous circle, where the regular feeling of well-being encourages you to workout more often. For some people this feeling of euphoria becomes almost addictive.
If you are thinking about working out at home a cross training machine brings several practical benefits:
Going to gym involves travel time, the changing room, showering, and often waiting for machines to be available. When time is short it is easy to put off training at the gym. Having any form of exercise machine at home makes time involved in exercising much shorter. This leads to more regular training, and more regular training leads to better results.
The moving parts of a cross trainer are hidden away inside protective casing. When there are small children in the home with wandering fingers, they can’t get fingers caught up inside.
On a cross trainer you are in complete control of the speed and when the machine stops and starts. This is safer than a treadmill for example where the belt moves on its own. You can stop or slow down on a cross trainer immediately.
Low noise levels
This is another great advantage if you are working out on a cross trainer at home. The noise levels are low in comparison to machines such as treadmills where there is the constant bang of the impact of steps. Rowing machines and exercise bikes can also be noisier with the whirling of fans.
Sometimes the repetitive nature of exercise can become boring. This boredom leads to drops in motivation, as you put off working out. It’s easy to listen to music, read or even watch TV on a cross trainer. As there is no boredom excuse to put you off, you’ll exercise even more.
Common mistakes to avoid
No warm up or cool down
With any form of exercise it is important to warm up properly before hand. This warms your muscles, ready to perform at your maximum where the main workout begins. It also reduces the risk of injury, as cold muscles are more likely to get strained.
It’s also important to cool down after exercise as well. Bringing your heart beat down slowly with light exercise is more healthy than suddenly stopping training. A good down will include some static stretching exercises. Warm muscles are easier and safer to stretch than cold ones. This means you can improve flexibility and reduce risk of injury by stretching after exercise.
Many people start off a new fitness regime with great enthusiasm, but let it push them too fast. Any new exercise program should be eased into gently, otherwise risk of injury increases. Also training too much will actually hold back potential gains in strength and stamina. The body needs time to recover and repair muscle. Not giving it enough time to do so will impede progress.
Make sure you are wearing suitable clothing for exercise. Footwear must be cushioned, comfortable and hard wearing. Clothes need to allow a full range of motion, so should be either loose or have elastic properties, so they do not restrict movement.
Staying hydrated during training is very important. Water is a key component of the bodies temperature management system. Water released as sweat cools the body as it evaporates from the skin. If you stop sweating due to lack of water yo run the risk of over-heating. Which in turn has serious implications for the heart and brain.
Water is also in important as part of the chemical process that drives muscle contraction. When you start to get dehydrated your muscles will lose power and start to cramp.
Final thoughts on cross trainer benefits
The cross training machine is a great piece of fitness equipment. The full body workout, possible at varying pace and resistance, leads to many different health and fitness benefits. If you are planning on getting fit in the gym or at home, then a cross trainer is a great way to do so.
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