Fitness / Stair Climber

How Does the Stair Climber Compare to Regular Stairs?

The biggest differences to look out for when using the stair climber versus climbing traditional steps.

Every year, the Empire State building hosts a ‘run-up’ for participants to climb up eighty-six flights of stairs. That’s over 1,500 steps! This killer cardio race is globally known and is certainly an intense workout. However, for all of us either not living in New York City or wanting to maybe climb ten flights of stairs instead of eighty-six, it begs the question, “Can’t I get the same workout in on a stair climber?” The comparison that many have been wondering about may have more differences than we originally anticipated. We talked to Aaptiv Trainer Jennifer Giamo about the pros and cons of working out on a stair climber versus traditional stairs. Read on as she goes through the benefits and disadvantages of both, to see which method is right for you.

The Biggest Difference Between the Stair Climber Versus Traditional Stairs

According to Giamo, there are three key differences that trainers recognize between using traditional steps and the stair climber machine.

  1. There are quicker turnaround speeds when using the stair climber versus traditional stairs. Because the stair climber is on a moving loop, the user must keep up with not only the cadence, but also form, making sure that they have proper foot alignment to not throw themselves off or increase their risk of injury.
  2. What comes up apparently does not always come down. When climbing traditional stairs, Gaimo explains how her clients (depending on what they’re training for) utilize both walking up and down when training on traditional stairs. When using a stair climber, the option is to walk up and follow the routine of the machine.
  3. Not all surfaces are created equal. According to Giamo, “The stair climber tends to be easier on the joints than actual stairs, because of the softness of the machine’s stairs or pedals. Climbing real stairs, depending on the surface, can be much harder and have more impact on the joints.”

It Depends on What You Want From Your Workout

When asked whether Giamo prefers her clients to use the stair climber versus traditional stairs, she insisted that it “really depends on their goals.” Personally, she leans more towards using the machine because of the reduced joint impact and the “concept-up forced movement (the stairs continuously rotating).” However, she explains that “there is also the ability to cheat on the machine by leaning or gripping onto the handrails. [This] greatly reduces the effectiveness of the workout.”

Switching From Traditional Stairs to the Stair Climber, and Vice Versa

There are a few things to consider before moving your workout on or off a machine. Giamo believes that one major consideration before switching should be understanding your fitness level and injuries. “Staircases can be taken at your own pace (resting when needed). Machines are continuously moving (although you can stop, of course),” says Giamo.

Additionally, traditional stairs all have the same step height. In order to strengthen your workout or make it more challenging, you may have to incorporate skipping steps on the traditional stairs. Whereas the stair climber can take into consideration your workout goals and output your desired routine. Another crucial point to consider when using the stair climber is that form is key. According to Giamo, “Form is critical on the stair [climber]! At the very least, you won’t get a good workout and, at worst, you will get injured.”

Fitness Stair Climber

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