Cross Trainer vs Treadmill: Which is Better?

Cross Trainer vs Treadmill: Which is Better?


It is very important to understand the differences between the elliptical cross trainer and the treadmill before you make your choice. Is the elliptical machine more effective for weight loss than the treadmill? Which one should I use if I want to work my thighs and glutes? What if I just want to get some exercise to stay in shape? Is the treadmill recommended if I have knee problems? To help you make the right choice, discover our comparison and understand the differences and benefits of each fitness machine!

1) Elliptical Cross Trainer or Treadmill to lose weight?

Both the elliptical cross trainer and the treadmill are effective for weight loss! Indeed, to lose weight, you need to burn calories and these two cardio machines will allow you to burn a lot of calories.

Which cardio machine burns the most calories: the treadmill or the elliptical trainer?

The answer is straightforward: it depends;) Indeed, the calories burned depend on the intensity and the duration of your workout. For example, you'll burn a lot more calories by doing an HIIT interval training on your elliptical cross trainer than if you walk or run on your treadmill at a medium speed. However, at equal heart rate, the treadmill wins over the elliptical. Why ? Because the elliptical trainer always accompanies you in your movements and therefore provides some of the effort while you have to move your entire body and weight on the treadmill.

How many calories are burned on the elliptical machine vs treadmill?

1h of exerciseCalories burned
Elliptical cross trainer, low to high intensity500 to 880 kcal
Treadmill, low to high intensity455 to 830 kcal

Another important factor to be taken into account in the calculation of calories burned is your weight. While it has little influence when you exercise on an elliptical trainer since the machine carries you and accompanies your movements, it does matter when you run on a treadmill. For example, a 60 kg person will burn on average 470 kcal per hour on a treadmill for an average speed of 8 km/h. A 70 kg person will burn 560 kcal and an 85 kg person 690 kcal.

That being said, is the cross trainer more effective than the treadmill to lose weight and fat?

Sure, the treadmill helps you burn more calories. However, the elliptical cross trainer seems more effective for weight loss and fat burning for several reasons. First, the elliptical trainer allows you to follow high intensity workout routines (HIIT) and burn a lot of calories in a short time, which is still possible with the treadmill by increasing its incline but in a much less flexible way. Secondly, it is possible to target certain muscles such as the thighs, buttocks or arms with the elliptical bike, especially during an interval training (HIIT) by increasing the resistance of the machine, as we will see in the following chapter, and tone specific parts of your body. Finally, the elliptical trainer is more accessible than the treadmill and easier to handle.

When you want to lose weight, you should also work out your muscles to strengthen the weak parts of your body in order to have a more athletic body. That's why it's important to know which muscles are used on the treadmill and on the elliptical cross trainer.

The treadmill wins over the the elliptical bike in terms of calories burned. However, the difference is not that big and you will manage to lose weight with either machine if you exercise regularly at a medium or high intensity. You need to work out hard if you really want to burn calories!

If you want to burn calories, you need to increase your heart rate, which means that you need to increase your speed and the resistance level of your fitness machine. If you walk on your treadmill, you will burn on average only 300 kcal per hour. On the elliptical bike, make sure you do not let yourself be carried by the machine without making any effort. You'll feel like you're exercising but you're not. You have to work out if you want to burn calories and lose weight!

2) Elliptical Cross Trainer vs Treadmill: Which muscles work?

Elliptical trainers and treadmills are not strength machines but cardio machines, which means that they will help you tone your muscles, especially in the legs, thighs and butt, but not to inflate them. If that's your primary goal, then you should look for a strength machine or lift weights.

The elliptical trainer and the treadmill both work the muscles of the lower part of the body:

- the gluteal muscles (or the butt)

- the muscles of the thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings, located respectively at the front and the back of the thighs)

- leg muscles (calves and anterior tibial)

The advantage of the elliptical cross trainer over the treadmill is that it also works the muscles of the arms, belly and chest. When you actively pull the handlebars, you work your biceps and abdominals, and when you push the handlebars, your triceps and pecs are targeted. On the elliptical machine, you can also pedal backward to work the hamstrings which are the muscles located at the back of the thighs.

The treadmill particularly targets the legs, thighs and calves. Your legs will work more on the treadmill than on the elliptical trainer since the shocks induced at each stride on the treadmill are more demanding for the body and also for the muscles whereas your movements are accompanied by the machine on the elliptical bike.

Is the elliptical cross trainer or the treadmill the best cardio machine to work the thighs?

Both fitness machines are effective for strengthening your thighs. On the elliptical trainer, HIIT workouts are easier since the machine responds much faster than the treadmill. To work the thighs on the treadmill, you will need to increase the incline. On the elliptical trainer, hold the handles in the middle, put your butt back and do an interval training during which you will increase the resistance of the elliptical as well as your speed for 20 to 30 seconds, then recover for 30 to 40 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times. It is a very effective exercise to strengthen your thighs and glutes.

To sum up, if your goal is to work your thighs and strengthen your buttocks, then the treadmill and the elliptical trainer are both effective. For that purpose, we have a little preference for the elliptical trainer since you can more easily target specific muscles during an interval training with an increase in the resistance. However, if you want to strengthen your arms, then we definitely recommend the elliptical bike.

Muscles need resistance to work. If you want to strengthen your muscles, you need to increase the resistance of your cross trainer or the incline of your treadmill. By doing so, you will also burn more calories!

3) Elliptical trainer vs treadmill when you have knee or joint problems?

The treadmill stresses the joints more and causes shock at each stride. Running on a treadmill can cause very small injuries called microtrauma in the hips, knees and ankles because of the weight of the body absorbed with each stride (the feet absorb 2 to 3 times the weight of the body with each stride). If you have problems with the joints or the knees, it is recommended to choose an elliptical trainer rather than a treadmill. On the elliptical bike, there is no impact and no shock. The elliptical movements are smooth, making it a very gentle fitness machine for the joints. For this reason, the elliptical trainer or even the stationary bike is more recommended for the seniors and elderly than the treadmill.

However, for the knee rehabilitation for example, the elliptical can in some cases be contraindicated because the knees continuously work (see with your doctor in this case), the exercise bike can in that case be a better option.

Exercising on a treadmill is however better running outside on a solid surface for the joints because the treadmill partly absorb the shocks.

4) What is better: a treadmill or an elliptical machine? Advantages and disadvantages

The treadmill and the elliptical machine are cardio machines that offer great benefits: they help you work your cardiovascular system and your heart, improve your endurance and maintain your fitness, burn calories and fat, lose weight, and finally tone your muscles, especially the legs, thighs and glutes. However, these fitness machines correspond to different types of usage and users we are comparing in the table below.

Treadmill vs elliptical machine: Comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of each piece of cardio equipment

Cross Trainer: Pros and Cons

• Easy to handle

• Varied movements: with or without arms, backward pedaling

• Cardio and HIIT workout routines

• Muscle legs, thighs, glutes and arms

• Energy expenditure: 455 to 830 kcal per hour

• Safe for the joints

• Suitable for everyone (beginners and advanced)

Treadmill: Pros and Cons

• Requires some experience to find right position and balance

• Walking or running

• Cardio training (not really appropriate for HIIT)

• Muscle legs, thighs and glutes

• Energy expenditure: 500 to 890 kcal per hour

• Joint stress (hips, knees and ankles)

• Suitable for runners and joggers

In general, the elliptical trainer is appreciated by all those who wish to stay in shape, lose weight, strengthen the muscles of the thighs, legs and buttocks, without being professional athletes while people who are already jogging or running tend to favor the treadmill to find the sensations they already know and continue to track their performance when they train at home. To learn more, read our article about the 10 criteria to consider when choosing your elliptical trainer.

Keep in mind that you should at least exercise for 10 minutes per session on your elliptical cross trainer or treadmill, ideally 30 to 45-minute sessions to maximize the benefits of exercise on your body and health!


Clara Miller

Clara Miller

Fitness Writer

Clara Miller has a Master's degree in Sports Science and has worked for famous sports and fitness brands. She is passionate about sports and regularly writes about fitness, weight loss and motivation for various blogs and magazines.