What Muscles Does The Cross Trainer Work?

muscles worked on a cross trainer

Do you dream of a J-Lo bum or do you want to get rid of your flabby arms? Hop on a cross-trainer and you’ll get a good total body workout, with an increased focus on your legs. 

Fitness looks different on everybody, but an elliptical will keep your muscles toned and increase your endurance. Besides, cross trainers offer a wide array of low-impact exercises so that you’ll never get bored!

Read along to find out which muscles the cross trainer works and how it compares to other fitness machines.

Lower Body 

The cross trainer gets 5/5 stars for lower body muscles worked, just like a rowing machine. 

The front and back of your thighs are activated during pedalling or striding, plus you can choose which muscle group you want to get stronger. As such, you can pedal backwards to engage your hamstrings or pedal forwards to activate your quads.

Your glutes will get a nice workout during the backward pedalling motion. When you’re pedalling forward, your glutes are only engaged as a supporting muscle group. So, if you want firmer buttocks, push your butt back as if you were sitting during the front pedalling motion.

Your calves and hip flexors are activated well when you pedal regardless of the direction.

By comparison, your glutes aren’t that active when you’re on a treadmill or an exercise bike. These muscles are engaged only to support your other leg muscles. Besides, swimming could use a little more focus on your quadriceps muscles, whereas stair steppers need more emphasis on your hamstrings.

Upper Body

cross trainer muscles worked

The upper body muscles used by the cross trainer get a 2/5-star workout, compared to 5/5 for rowing machines and 4/5 for swimming. That’s because cross trainers don’t activate all muscle groups and don’t increase your muscle mass. 

Your triceps and chest engage when you’re pushing the handles, whereas your biceps and lats contract during the pulling motion.

However, a rowing machine and swimming work your shoulders quite a lot too. These exercises use a lot of resistance so that they’ll also build your strength. By comparison, cross trainers are best for toning.

Also, keep in mind that some fitness machines like treadmills, recumbent bikes, and stair steppers don’t exercise your upper body at all unless you add resistance bands or hand weights.


Cross trainers get 4/5 stars for core workouts, whereas rowing machines get 5/5 stars. It’s a pretty good score, though, compared to treadmills, upright bikes, and stair steppers that only get 2/5 stars. Conversely, a recumbent bike doesn’t exercise your core at all.

Back to cross trainers, your core muscles targeted are supporting muscles that keep your balance during your workouts. Your core also keeps your upper body upright in a correct posture, and you’ll notice that your core is more engaged during the back-pedalling motion.

However, rowing machines are better for core strength because they actively involve your abs and lower back in the pushing and pulling motions.

In Conclusion

Getting a cross trainer is a good choice if you want low-impact exercises to tone and build endurance. You won’t get ripped, but you’ll lose weight fast and you’ll improve your fitness level. You may also not notice huge improvements in your upper body muscles, but you can vary your workouts so that you’ll never get bored.

Remember that correct posture and exercises that challenge you are essential requirements to see these improvements. So, don’t look at your feet when you’re on an elliptical! Keep your back straight and increase the resistance every ten days according to your needs. 

Also, remember that rest is an important part of your workouts because it allows your muscles to recover so that they can become stronger!


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