Cross Trainer Manual Or Electric? Know Here

Written By Christian
Updated On October 31, 2021

Electric Cross Trainers Vs Manual Cross Trainers - Our Guide

Cross trainers are one of the most popular cardio exercise machines in the world next to treadmills, whether you want to lose weight, tone your body or simply want a full-body workout, exercising on a cross-trainer can help you reach fitness goals.

When looking for a cross trainer you will likely come across both manual and electric models, the first using air resistance and the latter an electromagnetic system to generate resistance, both providing a great workout but also a different feel.

Figuring out which cross trainer is better can be a hassle, so we have compared both types of cross trainers below with their pros and cons to help you make a decision. 

What Is an Air Resistance Cross Trainer? 

First off, before we can get into comparing both a manual and electric cross trainer, we should understand how air resistance works on a cross-trainer

Manual cross trainers work by turning a fan equal to how you pedal, the more you are pedalling the more resistance that is generated. These types of cross trainers typically have a manual meter too which tracks the workout by counting how many reps and pedals you are doing. 

You will often find manual cross-trainers less in gyms and more for at-home use with its self-adjusting resistance.

What Is An Electric Cross Trainer?

An electric cross trainer on the other hand uses an electromagnetic which is near the flywheel to generate electronic resistance.

The magnetic levels of resistance on elliptical trainers can be adjusted via electronic buttons on your trainer, the more you apply the stronger the resistant trainer and current applied to the flywheel. 

Some cross trainers will have an adjustable resistance level from a turning knob too. They often come with a large LCD and adjustable pre-set programmes to do various forms of cardio with. 

Manual Vs Electric Cross Trainers - Which Is Better? 

Now we have briefly gone over how manual and electric cross trainers work we can move on to comparing them to help you decide which type of elliptical you want for an enjoyable workout session.

Manual Cross Trainers

Manual cross trainers have advantages over electric cross-trainers when it comes to the fact that they are more affordable and easier to use, without too many complicated programmes of set-up systems.

These trainers additionally are a little safer than magnetic models as they respond to your pedalling directly, they also are perfect for a quick workout such as HIIT you can play around with intensities when pedalling. 

Manual air resistance cross-trainers fall short in comparison to electric cross-trainers when it comes to a tougher workout experience. The magnetic system on electric models created a harder level of resistance that air resistance can't match.

They further have fewer programmes and can often be very noisy during an extreme workout due to the fan. 


  • More affordable. 
  • Great for HIIT intensity of Workout. 
  • Safe. 
  • Easy to use.


  • Less programmes. 
  • Noisy. 
  • Lower levels of resistance. 

Electric Cross Trainers

Electric cross trainers have some important advantages over a manual type of exercise machine which are worth noting. These pieces of exercise kit always come with more engaging features such a pre-set working programmes and are easy to adjust. 

The technical cross trainers are available in more powerful forms and give a more challenging workout than a regular cross trainer because of the electric resistance. 

Downfalls of electric cross trainers in comparison to manual ones are that they are more expensive cross-trainers. 


  • Stronger resistance level. 
  • Better cardiovascular workout routines. 
  • Engaging features.


  • High cross trainer cost. 

Conclusion - Which Type Of Cross Trainer Should I Choose?

Overall, the models of the cross trainer are both great for working out with and can give an excellent aerobic workout to improve your health. 

If you can afford it, electrical cross trainers are a better piece of exercise equipment due to their stronger power and programmes which gives a more customisable exercise experience. 

However, if you are on a budget then a manual cross trainer is also a great piece of exercise kit for at-home workouts and is an alternative for people who do not want to payout for a monthly gym membership.

Benefits Of Working Out With a Cross Trainer 

If you are still on the edge about whether or not to invest in an electrical cross trainer or manual cross trainer then it might be worth knowing the advantages you can get by using one of these exercise machines. 

We have listed the main benefits of working out with your new cross trainer below. 

  • Great for stress - Increased physical activity with your average cross trainer can boost your mood as exercise releases endorphins in your brain when you work out. 
  • Low-impact workout - If you have problems with your knees or lower body joints then cross trainers are perfect as your feet do not have to do the pounding option of running as your feet never end up leaving the pedals, it can also help you strengthen your bones. 
  • Good for the heart - Cardio on your advanced cross trainer has many benefits for your heart, it reduces the chance of cardiovascular diseases and helps you control blood pressure. 
  • Can help with weight loss - Cross trainers are great exercise machines if you want to lose weight with an exercise routine, you can burn a lot of calories fast. For example, a 150-pound person can burn around 232 calories on a trainer when working out for 30 minutes. This does depend on factors such s your weight and resistance level, however. 
  • They are safe - These exercise equipment types are very safe in comparison to other forms of exercise equipment as the mechanical cross-trainers move according to how fast you pedal. This means when you stop on your electrical cross-trainers model, the machine will stop too. 
  • Varied resistance - Working out with electrical cross trainers allow you to experiment with resistance and track improvement. 
  • Gives a full-body workout - Cross trainers don't just work out your lower body but are also great because of their handlebars, the forward and backwards motion can help tone your arms as well as your lower body. 
  • Shapes your glutes - By pedalling backwards on your electronic cross trainer you can train your glutes and legs.

Top Features To Consider In Your Manual/Electric Cross Trainer

Whether you choose a manual or an electronic cross trainer, both are built very similarly and you must make sure that your types of exercise equipment have the features you need for beneficial exercise. 

We have listed the cross trainer key features to look for in your new model below. 

  • Resistance levels - Always look for a good range of resistant levels on your cross trainer, whether you set via your manual resistance dial or display, they should be enough for you to progress with.
  • Motion handles - The motion handles of your cross trainer should be comfortable and easy to work with, they should also have safety handles, these will not move and have sensors on them to help you monitor your pulse rate.
  • Stride length - This is important on your cross trainer as it refers to the amount of motion you get from each stride on your machine. Try and look for a model with adjustable resistance so as you can get a tougher workout if you want.
  • Display - Your cross trainer should have a high-quality informative display that shows important metrics such as your distance and speed. Manual cross trainers will not have a display like electronic trainers.
  • Inclines - Manual cross trainers will not have an incline setting but expensive cross trainers will, this allows you to work out your muscles in a different way.
  • Design - Your cross trainers design should be able to fit in the space you have, some models are foldable which can save you even more space. 

Tips For Working Out With Your Cross Trainer 

If it's your first time working out with your cross trainer, you might not be sure how to use your trainer properly for the most effective workout. 

We have listed out our best cross trainer tips for working out with your cross trainer below. 

  • Use the inbuilt programmes - If you decide to buy an electronic cross trainer then it will have a variety of inbuilt programmes to work out with. These programmes can be excellent for cardio ideas and help with boredom when working out, after all, they are there for a reason.
  • Make use of the resistance and inclines - Gradually vary and up your resistance/incline as you start to work out with your trainer. This will help to improve your strength and work your glutes over time. 
  • Try HIIT - Working out in high-intensity cycles on your manual or electric cross trainer is a great way to get a good workout in a short amount of time and can help your burn fat fast.
  • Be in the right posture - Make sure your body is tilted slightly forward when using your cross trainer to avoid back strain.
  • Work backwards - Pedalling backwards on your cross trainer is an excellent way to fire up your glutes and can help vary your workouts. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Manual & Electric Cross Trainers 

What is a front-drive cross trainer? 

Front-drive cross trainers have their flywheel and drive system located at the front of their machine, they are regarded as more of a stepper machine and do not use a running motion, making them perfect if you after more of an inclined workout. 

How much does an electronic cross trainer cost?

Depending on the model, they can cost anything from £300-£1000, this goes from home brands to professional gym equipment standards.

Are there benefits of resistance training?

Yes, resistance training is great for cardio and can help tone all the muscles in your body over some time when you keep upping the resistance. This is known as a form of progressive overload and can help you grow muscles too, especially in your lower body on a cross-trainer. 

How much does a manual cross trainer cost? 

A manual cross trainer is much more affordable than an electric cross trainer and will cost you around £100-£200. 

What are some manual cross trainer cons? 

Manual cross trainers do not have as much resistance or programmes to play with, they are best for basic cardio only. 

How much space do you need for a cross-trainer?

Most cross trainers will take up around 1.2-2m in your home depending on the model you get, you should ensure the area has space on either side and that your ceiling is high enough when standing on the machine.

Can a cross trainer help with cardiovascular strength? 

Yes, cross trainers are an excellent form of cardio, you can use them for HIIT or standard low impact LISS to get your cardio in and build strength. They are great for building up your cardiovascular health too by reducing diseases and strengthening your heart.

Are cross trainer workouts better than treadmill workouts?

Cross trainers and treadmills all have their pros and cons, a treadmill is better for burning more calories with and practising running while a cross trainer is a perfect choice for people who have bad joints as they are designed to be low impact. 

Both cross trainers and treadmills burn a similar range of calories and provide cardio which can aid weight loss or grow cardiovascular health.

Final Words 

To conclude, manual and electronic cross trainers are both perfect for low-impact cardio exercise, but if you have a higher budget, an electric cross trainer will be more beneficial to your fitness thanks to their wider range of features and harder resistance levels. 

Remember when picking your manual/electric cross trainer to always check the resistance levels that it comes with as well as the stride length so you can be sure the cross trainer is right for you.


Starting my working career as a personal trainer, I quickly became familiar with equipment around the gym. While each piece of kit has its place in your overall body fitness; I find the cross trainer to be the most effective while mitigating the most amount of risks. That is why I created to help others in their home fitness journey.

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