BUYER'S GUIDE: RECUMBENT CROSS TRAINERS
A recumbent (seated) cross trainer is a combination of a recumbent bike and an elliptical trainer. It is also known as a recumbent trainer, a recumbent elliptical trainer, or a recumbent stepper.
The seat is usually large and comfortable, similar to what you would see on a recumbent bike. Instead of pedaling like on a bike you push large pedals back and forth with your feet. You also operate handles with your arms like on most ellipticals.
You effectively get a full body workout while sitting comfortably on a large seat with a backrest. Recumbent cross trainers are more efficient in providing a full body, low-impact, easy on the joints, workout than most other home fitness machines. They are great for people with limited mobility as a result of an injury or other medical reasons. You can work out for extended intervals comfortably while targeting the whole body or certain muscle groups. They are quiet. You get the best of both training devices in one! They are very popular!
Recumbent cross trainers have been popular in the rehab setting for a long time. They offer a safe, comfortable way to work out, strengthen your legs and improve your cardiovascular health. Even if you’ve never heard of a recumbent trainer, you may have heard of the NuStep. NuStep made the first (and most popular) recumbent trainer. It was designed by a bio-medical engineer and exercise scientist from Michigan over 20 years ago. The goal was to create a safe cardio machine for people who had cardiac surgery. It was initially marketed to physical therapy and rehab clinics. You can now find a NuStep in nearly every therapy clinic for good reason. They work very well.
Some manufacturers are now producing recumbent cross trainers for home use.
This is great for people who want a tough, full body workout at home. It’s also great for people who want to exercise but have physical limitations. Instead of having to go out to a therapy clinic or a local gym, you can buy a recumbent trainer and safely and easily work out at home.
This guide is intended to show you what to look for in buying a recumbent cross trainer.
TYPES OF CROSS TRAINERS
Variable Stride Length Cross Trainers: These cross trainers provide a choice of stride length settings. This allows the user to choose a shorter stride similar to a walking motion or a longer stride like a running motion. This also allows different size users with different natural stride lengths to use the machine. Tall people will find machines with a larger stride more effective.
Electro-Magnetic Resistance Cross Trainers: These Cross Trainers use a varying magnetic field to control the resistance level. This type of resistance is found on most good quality machines.
Rear Driven Cross Trainers: They have the flywheel at the back of the machine. They have a slightly more elliptical motion.
Front Driven Cross Trainers: They have the flywheel in the front of the machine. They have a slightly flatter more linear movement which provides the lowest impact. The selection of front or back driven machines is mostly a question of personal preference. The quality of the workout will depend primarily on the quality of the machine more so than whether it is front or rear driven.
Belt Resistance Cross Trainers: These machines use a belt and flywheel to manage resistance levels. These tend to be inexpensive, lower quality machines. We recommend avoiding this type cross trainers.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Do you want to work out specific muscle groups? Legs, chest, arms, etc. Increase general cardio health? Lose weight? Gain strength? Flexibility? Balance? Get back in shape gradually from scratch or dive right into a tough HIIT routine? Do you have safety or convenience considerations?
What is your budget
Do you want to go low budget, or higher budget with a medium to commercial (high end) quality machine. The options fall into a fairly wide price range. The most economical machines start about $700 and range upwards of $7,000. The more you expect to use the cross trainer the better quality you should consider getting. You might consider financing if you go for a commercial quality trainer that will last 5-10 years or longer under a strong warranty.
Next, look at features important to you:
Seats on a recumbent cross trainer usually are a little larger than on a recumbent bike and they usually have a backrest. Some have reclining capability. Some can swivel partially or entirely around allowing easier and safer access (for example from a wheelchair). Some come with arm rests for a more comfortable workout particularly if you are just exercising your legs. Some have oversized seats for larger users. The NuStep comes with all these features. Other brands have some of these features.
Stride length is the distance between the back of the front foot and front of the back foot at maximum stride. Stride length effects the range of movement. A shorter stride length is for a walking motion, a longer stride length is for a running motion. If your cross trainer can only provide a walking motion your workout will be restricted. Higher quality cross trainers have longer stride length (over 18 niches) capacity.
Does it have a swivel seat that locks for getting on and off? Does it have a walk through frame? Can you lock the pedals for getting on and off? Does it have a stable hand grip for getting on and off? Can you fasten in feet? legs? hands?
Some cross trainers provide pedal straps to secure your feet for more comfort and security. Others do not.
Some cross trainers provide leg stabilizers to secure your legs during your workout. Others do not.
Arm Handles and grip
Some cross trainers come with adjustable length arm handles. Some provide adjustable grip angles and some allow you to secure your hands to the grip. These features provide a more customized, comfortable, safe workout.
Some models provide a walk-through frame (low to the ground). This makes it easier and safer to get on and off. Especially important to seniors or those with mobility issues.
Some frames are able to accommodate higher user weights than others. Some are sturdier than others. Some have better warranties than others.
Cross trainer consoles normally display metrics like steps, time, and distance. Most consoles offer workout programs but the number and sophistication will vary. More sophisticated consoles provide METs and watts. Some consoles are easier to operate than other.
Most cross trainers allow adjustable resistance levels but the number of levels varies. You want to make sure the lowest level is comfortable to get going and the higher levels provide a good tough workout. You also want to make sure the higher levels will still provide a tough workout after you’ve gotten more fit. This allows users of any fitness level with any fitness goals.
Heart Rate monitor
Some cross trainers are heart rate monitor compatible. Some have heart rate monitor handles. Some do not.
Holders for smartphones, water bottles or books: some models come with holders. Others do not.
User weight capacity
Some cross trainers have higher user weight capacity than others. Consider the needs of yourself and other potential users. The machines with higher weight capacity are generally more durable and higher quality. Good trainers start at 300 lbs and go as high as 600 lbs).
DELIVERY AND ASSEMBLY CONSIDERATIONS
Is the machine delivered to your curb or to a room in your home? Does delivery include unpacking? Does the cross trainer come assembled or does it require assembly? Does the seller provide these services if desired? The NuStep comes fully assembled. NuStep provides a service to deliver from the curb to the room in your home of your choosing and unpack the the product.
Some brands allow a 30 day return policy as long as the machine is returned in the original packaging and the buyer pays return delivery costs. Some brands restrict the return period to less than 30 days. Some even require the machine packaging be unopened and the machine be unused (giving you no chance to try it out first). Be aware of the return policy before you buy.
Recumbent cross trainers typically will be used a long time. So a strong warranty is a must. Most manufacturers provide warranties for varying times on frames, parts and labor.
Frames: usually 5 -10 years (some as long as lifetime)
Parts: usually 3-5 years.
Labor: usually 1-2 years.
REVIEWS AND TESTIMONIALS
Are there relevant product or brand reviews or testimonials you can check out? If so it’s a good idea to see what others have experienced. Maybe check out product reviews or social media.
Recumbent cross trainers provide a number of advantages for seniors, particularly those with health or mobility issues. They offer a low impact workout easy on the joints. You can target certain muscle groups or go for a full body workout. There are a variety of resistance levels and adjustable stride and arm lengths. They are safe to get on and off with swivel seats stable handles and locking features. Recumbent cross trainers are very adaptable to users of all sizes, physical needs and fitness levels and an excellent choice for seniors.
Recumbent cross trainers are great for people with mobility issues as well as serious athletes. They offer a safe, comfortable method of exercise. They can provide a full body workout or can be used to isolate the lower or upper body. They can improve cardio, strength flexibility and balance benefits. Before buying you should know your workout goals, and budget. Be aware of shipping and delivery policies, assembly requirements, return policies and warranties. This is a major purchase. When looking at features be aware of what’s most important to you. Compare apples to applies. Consider your needs or preferences for: console, frame, seat, stride length, arm handles and grip, pedals, resistance levels, user weight, and heart rate monitor.
Make an informed decision! Then enjoy!