Pros: Works a lot of different muscles, good calorie burner
Cons: Can be disorienting, expensive and bulky if you're looking to buy one
The Reebok Body Trec cross trainer (or Elliptical Trainer as you guys overseas call it) is one of my favourite machines to work out on at our local gym.
How Does It Work?
Elliptical trainers work with you standing on raised pedals and holding bars parallel to the machine. (Look at the picture and see if that makes any sense!) Your arms move forward and back while your legs got round in a vaguely elliptical motion (thus the name, I guess). You can take a bit of the strain off your legs by pushing / pulling with your arms, but on the whole your legs take the vast majority of the strain.
Reebok Body Trec Options
There are several settings for you to adjust before you begin (there is a Quick Start button if youre impatient, but to be honest Ive never used it). Firstly you input your weight in Kg, which is used by the machine to help determine how many calories youre burning. You then select the course, length of time you want to work out, and level, and off you go. If at any time you stop the timer will stall for 5 minutes, so that you can continue and you cant cheat about how long youve done! :-D
There are 10 levels, the higher the level, the more resistance as you push those pedals round. (Pedals is a slightly misleading term but Im not quite sure what to call them you stand on them and theyre a lot bigger than bicycle pedals. There are grooves in the front to prevent your feet from slipping off them.) Time is in minutes, 1-99. The courses range from Walk in the park (mainly flat with a small hill to climb more like a bump really) to Himalayan trek, which is obviously very steep (and thus there is more resistance). There are other programs you can choose including Interval, which is basically alternative periods of high and low resistance, and my personal choice, Steady Climb.
The reason I like that setting is because you are gradually introduced to more resistance as time goes on, so your muscles are allowed to get used to it before the next level of resistance is reached. Doing it this way means that you are progressively working your muscles harder and burning more calories without noticeably more effort. Most people seem to jump on, do a few minutes quite quickly, and thats it. I prefer to do a 20 . 30 minutes stint, and can nowadays (after only about 3 weeks of steady training, using this among other machines 3 or 4 times per week) comfortably manage level 8 at an average speed of about 4.8Km/h or thereabouts for half an hour. (This compares to really struggling with 20 minutes at level 4 to begin with, after nearly collapsing after just 5 minutes the very first time I used it!) Having it at a higher level and being able to sustain a higher speed obviously means more calorie burning potential I have seen my average cals / minute jump from just under 9 to over 11 (I know that doesnt sound much, but if you translate that into cals / hour it means going from slightly over 540 to nearly 700.)
The display shows you several things your calories burned alternated with calories per hour, distance / speed, time remaining, and heart rate (only if you have a chest strap). The display in the middle of all these shows the steepness of your climb (resistance), and how that steepness will change over the rest of the course you have chosen. It will also show the level if you decide to change it mid-workout.
Once youve finished, it will say Great Workout, which is very encouraging and then tell you your calories burned, distance covered, and average speed over the course.
What I like About It
You exercise both your arms and legs, and several key muscles in between. Few machines exercise as many muscles in one go.
Its possible to sustain quite a high calorie burn rate for a long period of time.
If you use it regularly, your ability to keep going increases remarkably quickly.
Though I find all exercise machines rather boring after a while, this is a lot less tedious than treadmills and exercise bikes.
If you go too fast, you can get rather dizzy and disoriented, needing to stop while the world stops spinning around you one very good reason I tend to avoid going as fast as possible! (Bear in mind that you can also go backwards if you want, which can be very disorienting!)
If youre looking to actually buy one of these machines, theyre very expensive ($1,850) and pretty big we would only just be able to get it into our flat! Fortunately we dont need to buy one. I guess if you had the money for one of these things, youd have a house big enough to put it in a spare room somewhere!
If youre finding it really hard going even after a bit of practice, try doing 30 seconds on a higher level than youre used to, then going back down to the original level. That should seem a lot easier now.
Pace yourself if you try to push yourself to your top speed even for a little while, youre unlikely to be able to continue much longer afterwards without a rest, at least.
If you really feel that you can take no more, try stopping without getting off the machine for 10 seconds. It really is amazing what a difference that 10 seconds can make!
Dont be afraid to lower the level youre on if it will help you keep going, even if you can usually manage quite comfortably normally at a particular level. Just face it, some days youre not going to feel as strong as others. Dropping down a couple of levels and still doing 20 minutes is a lot better (and less discouraging) than only doing 12 minutes at your normal level.
If you want to work your arms instead of your legs, stand on one leg and just use your arms to climb.
The design is pretty good but if you use it for a long time with your feet pressed up against the grooves, you get pins and needles. Try to shift your position every so often.
Thanks to Openroad for adding this to the database for me.
This review was an entry into the Expand the Database Write Off - why not join in yourself?
Reebok Body Peak - less of an all-rounder but really works your calf muscles!
Life Fitness 9500 HR - king of the elliptical trainers
Top Ten Reasons to Join a Gym