The stepmill — that miniature escalator to nowhere — is a low-impact way to get a high-intensity workout combining cardio and strength training.
“If you’re looking to incorporate more resistance training as part of your cardio workout, it’s one of the best modalities,” says California-based trainer Jill Coleman, creator of TreadLift, a high-intensity training program that blends cardio-machine exercises and resistance training.
To get the most from the stepmill, though, Coleman recommends limiting your workout to 30 minutes to make sure you can maintain the intensity.
Form is also important: Use the side rails for balance, but don’t lean on them to support your body weight, she advises.
Coleman designed this workout, which features a multiplanar warm-up to challenge different movement patterns, followed by a high-intensity interval circuit that will test leg strength and endurance with less joint impact than a comparable treadmill session.
She offers suggested settings for intermediate exercisers, but it’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.
- The Plan
- Fitness Tip of the Day: Get on the Stepmill
- Benefits of using a stair climber
- 1.What is the stair climber?
- 2.What is the difference between a StairMaster and a stepmill?
- 3.How to use the stepper machine?
- 4.Is the stair climber good for you?
- 5.What does the stair climber do for your body?
- 6.Is the stair climber in the gym better than real stairs?
- 7.How long should you stay on the stair climber?
- 8.Which is better, treadmill or stair climber?
- 9.Does the StairMaster burn belly fat?
- 10.Where can I use a StairMaster?
- Why This Is the Perfect Stairmaster HIIT Workout for Beginners
- Why You Should Do a Stairmaster Workout
- Do These 4 HIIT Stairmaster Variations
- The Stairmaster HIIT Workout
- Old-School Stairmill HIIT Combo
- Pace Yourself For Results
- Calories Burned On Step Mill By Body Weight And Time
- Variety Of Step Mill Exercise Modifications
- 1. Steady State Cardio
- 2. Interval Cardio
- 3. Resistance Intervals
- How to Use a Stair Climber Machine
- What types of stair climber machines exist, and what are the similarities and differences?
- What are some tips and tricks for using a stair climber in your exercise routine?
- Why are stair climber workouts effective?
- What sorts of workouts can you do on stair climbers?
- Is there anything you should avoid when working out on a stair stepper?
- What sort of programming is available on common stair climber models?
- What do all the buttons on a stair climber machine mean?
- StairMaster Stepmill 5
Muscle activation warm-up: 10 minutes
Set the timer on the stepmill to count down from 30 minutes. Start the resistance at level 7 or 66 steps per minute (SPM) and begin the warm-up:
*Double steps with kickback: Take two steps at a time. As you place one foot on a step, extend your other hip and kick your leg backward, keeping your knee bent. Focus on engaging your core throughout.
**Lateral steps: Face one side of the stepmill and hold on to the side rail with your outside arm (the one farthest from the screen). Step laterally, focusing on keeping your hips squared forward.
Interval workout: 20 minutes
Immediately after completing the warm-up, lower the resistance to the lowest setting (level 1 or 24 SPM) and begin the interval phase of the workout:
Repeat the interval work for 10 minutes more until you get to 0:00.
This originally appeared as “Step By Step” in the December 2018 print issue of Experience Life.
Nicole Radziszewski is a writer and personal trainer in River Forest, Ill. She blogs at www.mamasgottamove.com.
Fitness Tip of the Day: Get on the Stepmill
Consider changing your routine a bit. Instead of running 20 minutes on the treadmill, try stair-climbing. You can burn as many as 250 calories in that time. You need to run at least half an hour to get the same result.
The stepmill (a.k.a. stairmaster or stepper) has similar effects – it strengthens your thighs, buttocks, and calves – but your legs go through a full range of motion, and that is pivotal for shaping tones muscles. Calves, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes are trained when you do a lot of reps. That’s how you build lean muscle and burn fat. You even work out your core because you use those muscle to keep you balance.
This cardio machine is not very popular among gym-goers, certainly not compared to treadmills or elliptical machines. The stepper is a lot more challenging than either of the other two but even more rewarding – you lose weight, build stamina, and form beautiful legs.
Stair-climbing is a great cardio exercise that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the joints. You don’t bounce as much (and that’s helpful when you have eaten recently and your body hasn’t digested the food yet) and you target muscles in your lower body if you turn sideways or even backwards.
Do the exercise in intervals. You’re likely going to be sweating long before the workout is over.
5 Ways to Make Time for Fitness Despite a Packed Schedule
12 Terrible Fitness Tips To Ditch
10 Top Vacation Spots for Fitness Fanatics
Benefits of using a stair climber
We all know to take the stairs rather than the lift. Workouts with a step have been popular since the 1980s, think step classes and neon lycra.
Despite this, that step machine in the gym can get overlooked. Yet a climbing stairs machine delivers one of the best gym workouts, whether used as part of a wider gym routine or on its own as a whole workout session.
Take a delve into stair climber benefits and you may soon start swapping that treadmill workout for a stair climber workout instead. Or combining the two.
Here is our 10 point answer and question guide about that gym stepper machine, answering everything you never knew you wanted to know about the stair stepper!
1.What is the stair climber?
The stair climber does what it says on the tin and simulates walking upstairs. It rotates steps to simulate climbing a flight of stairs and you can vary the resistance and speed.
There are two types of gym stepper machines, the pedal type steppers and the step mill.
The pedal steppers require you to push down on pedals and keep your body mostly still as you do so (working your core as you do!) Whack up the resistance or take smaller or larger steps as you prefer, to vary the difficulty level.
The step mill is more like a traditional flight of stairs, that moves like an escalator. Up the speed or take the steps two at a time for a more challenging workout variation!
2.What is the difference between a StairMaster and a stepmill?
In fact, StairMaster is actually a brand – other step machines are available! Call it a step machine, stepper, stair stepper, StairMaster, stepmill, Power Climb mill, step-up exerciser and stepping machine – they are all the same thing.
3.How to use the stepper machine?
Don’t slouch! Step machine benefits are maximized when you hold the handrail as little as possible and keep your core strong. Keep your feet flat and avoid coming up onto your tiptoes. Don’t let your knees stick forward of your toes. If your knee comes forward too much it stresses your knee joint and quadriceps tendon.
4.Is the stair climber good for you?
Yes! It works your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes and it also provides a great aerobic cardio workout.
5.What does the stair climber do for your body?
Stair climber benefits are huge. A step machine workout is a good cardiovascular exercise, burning calories as it works your lungs and heart. It also provides a low impact workout, so is kind on your joints.
In addition, the stair climbers exercise gives your core muscles a decent workout, as you constantly have to readjust your balance as you climb. Stronger core muscles improve posture and ease lower back pain. They also help achieve that flat stomach!
Another benefit of a stair climber workout is that it pumps the muscles in your legs and bum, working almost every muscle in that area.
6.Is the stair climber in the gym better than real stairs?
Yes. The benefits of the stair climber at the gym fat outstrip trotting up and down the stairwell at work.
Real stairs do not provide you with differing levels of resistance like the stepper in the gym. The harder your step, the harder you work!
If you’re climbing real stairs, what goes up must come down. Going downstairs places a huge strain on your joints, especially the knees. As you are always on the upward climb on the stair stepper, there is no strain on your joints.
7.How long should you stay on the stair climber?
Start with 15 minutes if you’re new to the gym stepper machine, and build up so you can stay on the stair climber for 30 minutes. A 30 minute stair climbers exercise will burn around 270 calories.
You should try to aim for a speed of about 60-80 steps a minute. This will ensure a decent pace to get the benefits of gym steppers without tiring yourself out too quickly or having to reduce the resistance to a minimum. To make your workout more challenging, increase the resistance rather than the speed.
8.Which is better, treadmill or stair climber?
The benefits of gym treadmills are that you run less risk of injury than pounding the pavements. Gym treadmills are easier on your joints than a hard concrete pavement and there’s no injury-causing uneven ground to worry about.
Gym stair steppers share the same benefits and more. They work your upper leg muscles, strengthening those quads in a way that simple running just won’t do. Step machines are easy on your joints, great if you have knee, hip or back issues.
Unlike a treadmill, it’s hard to fall off a stair stepper! So if you like to zone out and watch TV in the gym while you exercise, this one is for you.
The stepmill also delivers a killer ab workout, as you have to work to keep your core stable and strong.
9.Does the StairMaster burn belly fat?
If only we had a penny for every time we get asked the burn belly fat question.
Whilst you can’t spot reduce and target ‘problem areas’, you can burn belly fat by reducing the overall amount of calories that you take on board and burning fat with aerobic exercise. Therefore the stair stepper will burn belly fat as part of a calorie burning workout, as it is a good aerobic exercise.
There are many StairMaster benefits. The step up exerciser also works your ab muscles and strengthens your core, strengthening those muscles underneath the belly fat and helping to keep your tummy toned.
10.Where can I use a StairMaster?
There are plenty of gyms with StairMasters. As we said above, StairMaster is actually a brand.
Most gyms will have a StairMaster or similar machine. If you’re not sure if your favourite gym haunt has a stair climber, ask one of the gym instructors. Just as you would expect to find a treadmill in most gyms, so you can expect to find a stepping machine, especially in the larger gyms.
Why This Is the Perfect Stairmaster HIIT Workout for Beginners
by: Yuri Elkaim
Stair machine, step machine, stair mill – it goes by many names.
In reality, it should be called the Stairway to Cardio Heaven.
Granted, you might not feel heavenly when you’re on it, but trust me: the results will make the climb worthwhile.
So what exactly is this piece of equipment I’ve just painted a halo over?
We’ll call it by its original name: the Stairmaster.
Chances are you’ve seen one in your local gym, or even tried climbing aboard one yourself a few times.
The Stairmaster is similar to a treadmill, except it features revolving stairs at a high grade.
Now, if you’ve ever decided to take the stairs instead of riding the elevator up more than a flight or two, you know how deceivingly intense just walking up stairs can be.
- Walking for Weight Loss: 2 Clever Ways to Walk off 25 Pounds
That intensity is just one of the amazing benefits of the Stairmaster.
Why You Should Do a Stairmaster Workout
Read on to see why you need to stop the treadmill and switch to the Stairmaster for your HIIT cardio workouts.
1. Serious Fat Burn
As we know (or have at least heard), working out on the Stairmaster is intense.
When used as a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout, this intensity is increased even more, setting up the perfect environment for serious fat burn.
Unlike low-intensity, steady-state cardio workouts (like most typical treadmill workouts), HIIT has been proven to burn fat more effectively than any other type of workout.
This is because high-intensity exercise creates chemical and structural changes to your DNA that increases your number of fat-burning proteins (1). And of course, the more fat-burning proteins you have, the more efficient your body is at using fat as a fuel source, rather than storing it.
Not only that, but high-intensity workouts also boost the release of hormones (including growth hormone), leading to greater muscle growth and fatty acid mobilization (2).
Perhaps the best effect of HIIT workouts – like those we can get with the Stairmaster – is their ability to create a nifty little side effect called “afterburn.”
Officially termed excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (or EPOC for short), afterburn is defined as the number of calories you burn following a workout, rather than during. And nothing creates a bigger afterburn than HIIT workouts.
Why is this?
To put it simply, after a workout your body works to restore your oxygen levels to normal, clear lactic acid buildup from your muscles, and return your body temperature to normal, among other things.
All of these actions require calories. So in essence, the harder you exercise, the harder your body has to work (or more calories it has to burn) to recover.
Burning major calories even when you’re not working out? Who doesn’t want that?
- 10 Cool New Ways to Use Tabata Training for Faster Fat Loss
- 5 Mistakes Most People Make When Doing Tabata Intervals
2. Sculpts Your Stems
Don’t let all of this cardio talk fool you. Once you hop on the Stairmaster, you’ll realize what a powerful lower body workout you’re in for.
The stair motion is similar to that of a step-up on a box, which engages your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves to push your bodyweight up and forward.
The great thing is that by changing your angle of walking up the stairs, or by “skipping a step,” as you’ll see below, you can target different areas of the legs and glutes, so you get some versatility in your workout as well.
- The 7 Best Fat Burning Leg Exercises
- The 10 Best Glute Activation Exercises for a Stronger, Tighter Butt
3. Low-Impact, High-Intensity
If you’ve been avoiding adding HIIT to your workout routine due to the belief that all intense exercises are high impact (running, plyometrics, etc…), the Stairmaster might be a way to increase your workout intensity without causing pain.
Walking on the Stairmaster doesn’t involve bouncing or jumping, which allows you to get your heart rate up without jolting your knee joints.
4. Beats Cardio Boredom
Another amazing aspect of doing a HIIT workout on the Stairmaster is the fact that you’ll be in and out of the gym in under 30 minutes.
In fact, if you’re only doing the Stairmaster workout below, you’ll be out in a mere 15 minutes!
And the best part?
You’ll be burning more fat and seeing better results than you would have if you had spent an hour slowly jogging on the treadmill.
One study showed that three-minute HIIT intervals repeated five or six times created the same muscle and cell adaptations as a steady-state workout lasting 90 to 120 minutes (3).
A year later, the same group revealed through an additional study that HIIT is more effective at burning fat than steady-state cardio.
During the second study, one group performed aerobics while the other started a HIIT regime. At the end of the study, researchers found that the aerobics group burned 48 percent more calories per session than the HIIT group, but the HIIT group burned 900 percent more fat over the 15 weeks than the first group burned in 20 weeks (4).
This effect occurs due to the “afterburn” effect, as well as the DNA changes HIIT induces that I mentioned above.
Do These 4 HIIT Stairmaster Variations
Still wondering if the Stairmaster is a good workout? You won’t have any questions about that after you complete this workout.
Before you get started, check out some of the climbing variations this workout calls for, so you can make sure you’re doing them correctly during your intervals.
Here’s an important thing to keep in mind: try not to hang on to the handrails too heavily, as that takes away the intensity of the workout. If you find that you need to lean on the handrails, slow the machine down so you can use proper form.
“Sprinting” on the Stairmaster doesn’t necessarily mean flying up the stairs the way you would during a sprint on the ground. The intensity of the stairs, even when increased to just a fast-paced walk, will be enough to feel like sprinting at first, especially if you’re a beginner.
As a general rule, a sprint on the Stairmaster (as with any other work portion of a HIIT workout) should be the speed at which you feel you’re giving at least 75 percent effort. You shouldn’t be able to carry a conversation and your heart rate should be high. Tailor the “sprint” to your individual fitness level based on this.
2. Side Step
The side step involves turning your body to one side and shuffling up the steps. It’s great for working the outer hips and glutes.
Be sure to hold on to the middle railing and turn the speed down so you can comfortably climb sideways. You will alternate climbing sides during the workout. Also, be sure you aren’t stepping only on your toes – try to make sure your heels are also touching the stair treads.
3. Double Steps
Taking double steps, or skipping a step, is another way to up the intensity of the Stairmaster without sprinting. Simply skip a stair with each step you take – your glutes and hamstrings will love you for it!
4. Reverse Step (Optional)
The reverse step is essentially walking backwards up the Stairmaster. This is an optional exercise, and I wouldn’t really recommend it until you’re used to the feel of the Stairmaster (no falling off, please!).
However, if you feel up to it, the reverse step puts extra emphasis on your glute and hamstring muscles. You will want to slow down the pace of the machine before you do these, and have your hands near the rail in case you need to catch yourself.
The Stairmaster HIIT Workout
As always, don’t forget to warm up with a 5- to 10-minute dynamic warmup consisting of bodyweight lunges, leg swings, and jogging in place before hopping on the stairs.
Perform this workout twice a week for best results. Lengthen the “slow climb” intervals and/or shorten the sprint intervals if you find yourself unable to complete the workout.
Perform three rounds of this HIIT circuit for a total of 15 minutes. Rest for one minute between rounds.
- Interval One: Slow Climb (45 seconds)
- Interval Two: Double Steps (25 seconds)
- Interval Three: Slow Climb (45 seconds)
- Interval Four: Side Steps (60 seconds – 30 seconds on each side)
- Interval Five: Sprint (25 seconds)
- Interval Six: Slow Climb (45 to 60 seconds)
- Interval Seven: Double Steps (25 seconds)
- Interval Eight: Slow Climb (45 seconds)
- Interval Nine: Sprint (25 seconds)
- Rest one minute
Old-School Stairmill HIIT Combo
If you’re looking for a simpler version of this Stairmaster HIIT workout without any fancy footwork, try doing just the slow climb (45 to 60 seconds) followed by the sprint (20 to 30 seconds) for a total of 15 to 20 minutes.
You can also play around with which two variations you use, such as doing double steps in place of sprints, or even side steps in place of sprints.
Pace Yourself For Results
Just remember: if these routines are pretty intense, you’re doing them right.
Again, it’s important not to shy away from intensity during HIIT workouts (or any workout for that matter), because in the end it’s intensity that brings results.
This is one of the reasons I love the Stairmaster as a tool for HIIT workouts: it’s close to impossible not to get an intense workout once you get on.
Give it a try – I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the results!
Burn More Fat in Less Time
Looking for more ways to boost your fat-burning? Try my Speed Burst Workout!
It’s a follow-along interval cardio workout that’s designed to burn more fat while improving your cardio endurance. And it only takes 5 minutes!
Just click the image below to get your FREE download!
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.
The Step Mill is a beefed up version of the stair master. It looks like a small escalator and has varying speeds and resistance for you to work with. The benefits of climbing stairs has been well known for quite sometime, with incredible leg, thigh, and butt toning you can achieve some pretty incredible results if you perform the exercises correctly. The calorie burning benefit from the Step Mill is also quite impressive, burning on average 800 calories an hour. Many people find this machine to be challenging, but absolutely rewarding!
Calories Burned On Step Mill By Body Weight And Time
All calorie calculations are based on a mid intensity work out.
Body Weight = 120 Pounds
5 Minutes – 52 Calories
10 Minutes – 105 Calories
20 Minutes – 210 Calories
30 Minutes – 315 Calories
60 Minutes – 630 Calories
Body Weight = 150 Pounds
5 Minutes – 66 Calories
10 Minutes – 131 Calories
20 Minutes – 262 Calories
30 Minutes – 394 Calories
60 Minutes – 787 Calories
Body Weight = 200 Pounds
5 Minutes – 87 Calories
10 Minutes – 175 Calories
20 Minutes – 350 Calories
30 Minutes – 525 Calories
60 Minutes – 1,050 Calories
Body Weight = 250 Pounds
5 Minutes – 109 Calories
10 Minutes – 219 Calories
20 Minutes – 437 Calories
30 Minutes – 656 Calories
60 Minutes – 1,312 Calories
Variety Of Step Mill Exercise Modifications
Going forward on the Step Mill is pretty effective, but turning your body will change the muscles that are being targeted, giving you a well rounded work out.
A Full Range
This is another video showing you the differing ways you can utilize the awesome fat burning power of the Step Mill.
The best part is that each of them is completely different so they’ll be something for everybody to pick from…
Because after all, who doesn’t want to have some fun while burning off 600 calories an hour?
Now before I get started, I know you’ve probably read a few articles stating that you can burn 1,000 calories an hour, but unless you weigh over 225 lbs., or willing to take yourself to your absolute breaking point every workout it just isn’t going to happen…
To calculate how many calories you’ll burn per hour of intense exercise you have to first start with a reference point.
The average person can easily burn 500 calories per hour as long as they stay moving and doing some type of moderate to vigorous form of exercise.
For example, if you weigh 165 lbs. and you complete an hour of intense aerobic exercise you’ll burn approximately 500 – 597 calories.
(*I am using a calculation based on running at 5.0 on a treadmill for 60 minutes.)
If you weigh more, you’ll burn more.
If you weigh less, you’ll burn less.
However, you must keep in mind that the duration of your warm-up, cool down, your age, weight, fitness level, adaptation to the exercise you’re doing, as well as many other factors contribute to how many calories you’ll burn.
Okay… So now that all the disclosures are off the table I can tell you that if you’re busting your butt you’ll burn about 100 calories every 10 minutes using 3 specific methods.
Now there are 3 ways of achieving this:
1. Steady State Cardio
Steady state cardio is basically what you see runners do (although most are not burning 100 calories every 10 minutes due to the efficiency they’ve built up by adapting to the current stimulus). Regular old steady-state running on a treadmill is really not great for your health (sorry, it’s REALLY not, but I’ll save that for another article), or joints, so I recommend you opt for a different stimulus.
If you’re going with steady state cardio I would opt for using a a step mill (not stairmaster), a rowing machine, outdoor running on dirt or grass, or combining a few of them in one workout.
Also, skip the elliptical if your goal is calories burning – their calorie burning calculations are super-inflated and they don’t create enough biomechanical work for the body in order to stimulate maximum calorie burning.
2. Interval Cardio
The same principles apply here as steady state cardio in terms of choosing machines at the gym, but now you have even more options.
For interval-based cardio you can get outside and do sprints at the park, run hills, or make up your own heart pumping exercise.
Here’s how it differs dramatically from steady state cardio:
Intervals must be done at or above 90% of your maximum capacity in order to be really effective (unlike steady state where your hear rate won’t go over about 60-75% of your max). You don’t need to go through the whole VO2 max calculations, but you do need to feel like you are pushing yourself to your upper limit when you are doing every interval (run, bike, or other form of sprinting).
(For more information on interval training please refer to the exercise articles and videos at https://stephencabral.com)
One last thing to keep in mind is that you’re not working for an entire hour while doing intervals… You’re resting at least half the time while still getting the same results or better.
3. Resistance Intervals
This is the #1 way to reshape your body.
I’m not going to deny you can lose weight with the other 2, which is why I included them, but resistance interval based training maximizes your metabolism.
This type of training allows you to use your own body weight or other powerful resistance based exercises to keep your heart rate pumping while toning your muscles.
And, just like interval cardio sprints resistance interval training allows you to rest between sets before getting back into your next “round.”
Plus, with any type of interval based training there’s no need to do 60 minutes of training since intense interval based exercise has been proven to help you burn more fat after the workout is over.
In most cases an intense interval workout enables you to effectively elevate your metabolism for up to 38 hours following that session.
What would you rather do? Run or bike every day using steady state cardio or workout every other day for less time using interval based training?
I hope you would choose the less is more approach…
This is why you can’t just continue to go to the gym and play “musical machines” (that’s where you just do the machine circuit line the gym set up and then hop on a cardio machine for awhile).
There’s a science to all this fat burning and weight loss!
All joking aside, I hope this article helps you add a new dimension to your training and allows you to maximize every minute you have to workout. After all, we’re all busy, so when we can sneak in a workout we have to make it count.
Lastly, if you’d like step-by-step directions on how to truly reshape and transform your body, I encourage you to use the same 12-week nutrition plan, exercise system, and lifestyle makeover every one of my clients get at my Boston weight loss and personal training studio:
If you’re truly serious about transforming your body and health, download your 12-week Fatlossity-Lose5in7 Manual today!
Committed to your Success,
Stephen Cabral, CSCS, CPT, NS
Author of Fatlossity – Lose5in7 Weight Loss System
Health Consultant for MTV, Maxim, Men’s Health, SELF, Nutritiondata, Diet.com, Gather, EDGE
>>> Here are the Exact TOP 3
Fat Burning Systems My Clients Use:
http://Lose5in7.com – my complete 12 week in-home
step-by-step, weight loss system as seen on TV. http://TrimToneTighten.com – my monthly online
T3 Personal Training & Coaching Program. http://BathingSuitBodyDiet.com – my secret 17 Day
Bathing Suit Body Diet.
Please feel free to forward this article to anyone it could help!
How to Use a Stair Climber Machine
“A stair climber machine is just big, actual, moveable stairs,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham.
“There are many different brands, but most are similar in what they do. You adjust speeds or levels to get stairs to go faster or slower.”
What types of stair climber machines exist, and what are the similarities and differences?
Stair climber machine, step mill, StairMaster, stair stepper machine, stair workout machine, step machine, step climber—there are tons of names for this machine. It became a fan favorite after being introduced in the 1980s due to its low impact nature. It’s also popular due to its ability to increase both endurance and stamina.
Technically you’re on a slow road to nowhere on the stair climber. However, you can easily customize your workout for speed and resistance to combat boredom. Trust us when we say that the right stair climber workout can leave you dripping in sweat within minutes. You’ll tone and strengthen your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and booty, plus get your heart and lungs pumping.
“You can easily customize your workout for speed and resistance to combat boredom.”
Climbing machines with pedals are usually called “steppers.” These move fast, forcing you to take quick steps. Other types have a rolling set of stairs, known as stepmills. All these are considered stationary cardio machines that can be customized with workout programming, explains Mark Allison, Fitness Manager III of 24 Hour Fitness Escondido North County Mall Club in Escondido, CA. And, most stair climber machines tend to offer heart rate monitor compatibility, handrails, LCD consoles, and even TV options.
Have you seen Aaptiv’s workouts yet? Check out our workout samples here.
What are some tips and tricks for using a stair climber in your exercise routine?
Stair climber workouts allow you to burn calories while developing strength and power. You can modify to make your stair climber workout more challenging or add variability, such as intervals, taking stairs one step at a time in a workout for beginners, or exploring the challenge of two or three steps at a time.
“Drive through your heels, not toes, to target glutes and hamstrings versus being knee dominant and using your quads,” adds Cunningham. “Stand tall and keep a neutral spine. Hold the handrails lightly out in front of you, not below. And when turning around on it, always go slower until you get the hang of it.”
Allison says if you have any lower back or knee pain, warm up with basic mobility exercises for your foot, ankle, hips, and spine prior to getting on the stair climber. “Foam roll your calves, inner thighs, quads, glutes, and mid-back. This will hydrate your tissues and help create more space between your joints so you can climb more without pain, tightness, or stiffness.”
Why are stair climber workouts effective?
You may wonder what does the stair stepper work. Although step climbing works your heart, it also uses your legs in a strenuous fashion to build muscle, creating an effective workout.
“Stair climbers are easy to use and offer a variety of options for different types of metabolic conditioning or cardio programming,” says Allison. “Users will improve movement, improve recovery and regeneration and decrease wear and tear on tissues and joints, among other high-level benefits. It’ll also burn calories up to 24 hours after a workout!”
Cunningham warns the benefits depend on the type of stair climber workout, though. “All stair climber or step machine workouts and speeds are different, so it depends on what you are specifically doing. Stairs cause you to work on cardiovascular strength. You engage the lower body in a way that is different than running, as you are going against gravity with climbing, which can make it more difficult. Always start slow, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes—just like anything else.”
Looking for workouts that are not only fun, but effective? Aaptiv has you covered.
What sorts of workouts can you do on stair climbers?
“Variable metabolic conditioning or cardio-based workouts can be done on stair climbers ranging from high-intensity to recovery and regeneration,” says Allison. He recommends a focus on HIIT variations and recovery-based interval training as a whole. Favorites include high-intensity interval training, high-intensity steady state, and sub-threshold Intensity Interval Training defined as aerobic interval training that is all about creating intermittent bouts of sustainable activity.
Cunningham suggests going in multiple directions with your stair climber workouts in order to target different glute muscles. “You can do fat burning, HIIT style, Endurance, Stamina, Progressive climbing, lower body toning focused, and strength.”
Is there anything you should avoid when working out on a stair stepper?
“Stand tall—do not hunch over!” Cunningham says. “That causes pressure on your lower back and takes away from targeting your glutes and lower body like it should. Also, don’t go faster than you can build up speed over time. Finally, never get on it while it is moving; turn it on after you get on the machine.”
Allison echoes proper form when it comes to posture: “When using the stair climber, do not take the weight off your legs by leaning on the handrails. Apply only light pressure to balance yourself. Keep your shoulders back and look straight ahead.”
Both experts says to always consult your physician or a personal trainer/health coach before embarking on stair climber workouts, to make sure it is a good fit for your exercise routine.
According to Allison, the most common models of stair climber machines are below, with some outlined differences in features:
StairMaster Gauntlet 8 StepMill
- Done with bodyweight only
- Pick up your feet as the next step descends toward you
- Fixed 8-inch height for the stairs
- Can be used backward or sideways
- Takes you through a true, full gait cycle, as you’re climbing stairs in a forward movement
- No arms or handles that move
StairMaster Free Climber 8
- Provide different levels of resistance for arms and legs
- Feet don’t leave the pedals
- Option to push the pedal to a depth between 1 and 14 inches
- Should only be safely used facing forward
- Not a complete movement, as it only works you through the vertical portion of a step
- No arms or handles that move
Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT)
- Provide different levels of resistance for arms and legs
- Feet don’t leave the pedals
- Option to adapt your stride height from 6.8 to 10 inches, and stride length from 0 to 36 inches
- Should only be safely used facing forward
- Arms and handles that move for upper body exercise
What sort of programming is available on common stair climber models?
Allison says each machine has adjustable preset and customized programs, where you can enter your age and weight for accurate calorie expenditure estimates, target heart rates, or desired time frames.
The Precor AMT has specific programs for weight loss, fat burning, manual or interval training, and the Free Climber includes 10 standard console programs (Quick Start, Fat Burner, Calorie Burner, Speed Intervals, Custom Intervals, Random Intervals, Heart Rate Intervals, Calorie Goal, and Heart Rate Zone Trainer) plus two fitness tests.
The Gauntlet model has the most comprehensive set of pre-programmed workouts. It offers 10 standard console programs (very similar to the Free Climber), several fitness tests, and a Landmark Challenge Program. “Users can climb well-known landmarks from around the world, like the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal,” says Allison. It also provides adjustable programs ranging from manual—where you set the pace—to interval—where the machines automatically speed up and slow down based on a set time schedule.
“The buttons allow you to safely start, stop or pause the machine, enter your age, weight, desired heart rate or heart rate zones, calorie burn, program, interval levels and time, adjust speed of the revolving staircase (StairMaster Gauntlet 8), resistance level and intensity of the StairMaster Free Climber 8 and Precor AMT),” notes Allison.
Aaptiv has the perfect stair climber workouts (and more) for you. Take our quiz and learn more.
StairMaster Stepmill 5
The StairMaster 5 StepMill is the new and very much improved version of the classic 7000PT StepMill. The 7000PT has been the most popular step machine in major health clubs the world over for the past two decades.
For a quarter of a century the StairMaster StepMill has been called the toughest workout in the gym, and now you can enjoy that same toughness in the comfort of your very own home, using the totally redesigned user friendly SM5. This StepMill offers unrivalled durability, and burns more calories than elliptical machines and exercise bikes.
The revolving 8-inch stairs closely duplicate the workout of stair climbing, affording the user the heart and muscle benefits that can be gained when climbing real stairs – and, all achieved in complete comfort.
The machines electronically controlled, chain-driven alternator precisely controls the pedal descent, allowing a wide and varied range of users the ability to exercise smoothly, within their desired comfort zone. The Stairmaster Stepmill 5 offers a step range of 26 to 162 steps per minute, perfect for strengthening legs and boosting cardio. Even the fittest users will be challenged and enjoy a great work-out.
The console on the StairMaster 5 offers a fitness test that gauges individual progress, along with a custom firefighter test (CPAT) that measures both cardiopulmonary endurance and muscular strength. Firefighting is considered one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world, which is why the CPAT is a natural fit with the Stairmaster StepMill.
Condition:Excellent Refurbishment:Fully Reconditioned.