The stair climber has been around for quite some time (since 1983!), boasting dynamic cardio workouts and booty benefits. But for all of its praise and popularity, it’s not necessarily the most intuitive machine at the gym.
Sure, you just walk up the stairs, but to what end? And for what benefits exactly?
Clearly there are still some unanswered questions. So, we decided to recap the basics. Read on for answers to your most pressing stair climber questions.
How do I use it?
Hop up on the machine and lightly place your fingertips on the front or side bars (depending on the stairclimber, you’ll have one or the other—if not both). You should actually be able to use the stair climber without touching the bars at all, but use them for balance as you need it. Don’t lean on them too heavily or shift all your weight forward and off of your legs. This reduces the muscle usage in your legs by placing force on your arms. And, your total calories burned will take a dip, too.
Now that you’re on, check your form. Contrary to what you might initially think, you don’t want to stand completely straight. Instead, stand up straight, but comfortably and lean forward just a bit. This will prevent both your back and knees from overcompensating (overarching and locking out). Be careful not to hunch over, either to avoid placing pressure on your lower back. Lastly, keep your shoulders back and gaze forward.
Okay, you’re ready to press start. Start slow and continuously step as you would on a normal staircase. Find a comfortable, moderate pace. Test the waters and add speed as you feel ready. If you find yourself clutching the bars or leaning over to keep up, you’re going too fast. Avoid quick, hop-like steps. Instead aim to take even steps and press your entire foot down on the stair. That way, you’ll avoid putting too much stress on (and eventually hurting) your calves.
Not sure where to take your workouts? Our Aaptiv trainers will guide you every step of the way.
What are the benefits?
If you’re looking for a low-impact cardio machine that doesn’t sacrifice stamina, the stairclimber is one of your best bets. With consistent work, your quads, calves, hamstrings, and bum will get a a real kick. The repetitive stepping motion will not only aid in toning and sculpting your lower body, but also strengthen your core (so long as that form and balance is on point). By using your largest muscle groups to lift your body up step by step, you’ll be building muscle and burning fat simultaneously.
Want a more intense workout? No problem. Just like a treadmill, alternating your speed will give you a stamina building interval workout. Stair climbing raises your heart rate almost immediately. So, you’re able to maximize those great cardio benefits for your full workout.
How does it compare to other cardio machines?
Not only does the stair climber pack all of the cardiovascular benefits of indoor cycling or the elliptical, it also tones and builds lower body muscles and strengthens the core. All in one go. You can choose to take slow or even double steps to build lean leg muscle and sculpt that booty. Or, add speed for a HIIT workout.
Stair climbing also serves as an excellent alternative to incline running on a treadmill. And with the option to work your upper body with light dumbbells at the same time, there’s no reason to count this machine out. No wonder it’s called the stairway to fitness heaven.
How many steps count as a floor?
Rather than counting the amount of steps you take, each machine keeps track of the vertical feet you climb. Then, that translates to floors. Machines vary, of course. But one flight of stairs typically equals ten to twelve vertical feet. So, if the machine calculates that you climb ten to twelve vertical feet, it should add a flight to your overall count. It’s estimated that stepping 10 vertical feet is equal to running approximately 100 feet on level land.
Keep in mind, though, not all stair climbers provide the number of floors traveled. But, any machine that leaves that information out should provide other details like total steps, stride length, and feet traveled. So, you can still track and approximate your floors to track your progress.
Stair climbing feels repetitive, can I switch it up?
Yes! Contrary to popular belief, the stair climber is a super versatile cardio machine. From HIIT to squats to multidirectional moves, here are just a few ways to switch up your stair climbing routine.
Much easier than it seems. Just like on a treadmill, this type of stair workout involves alternating between levels (speeds) so that you’re warming up, gaining speed, hitting your max, and recovering. Try “HIIT To The Beat.”
Try these if you have experience with box jumps and jump squats. Stand like you’re preparing to do a squat on flat ground—feet shoulder length apart. Start the machine at a slow pace. Squat down, then spring up, landing on the next step (or two, depending on your height). Bend your knees when you land to reduce shock. And keep those hands on the rails in case you need to regain balance.
Sadly, this bears no relation to line dancing. When you do a standard stair climber workout you climb one step at a time. This targets your quads. Climb two stairs at a time to target your hamstrings and glutes. Start slow to get used to the new pattern. Try “Quick Change Artist.”
By now we know the stair climber is the ultimate booty burn. But this variation hits it even more. Pick up your left foot, but instead of stepping forward, place it where you would usually place your right foot on the next step. Then step up with your right foot, placing it where you would usually place your left foot. Keep your hands close to the rails for balance and safety.
Looking to tackle some upper body? Simply bring some light dumbbell weights over to the stair climber and use them during an easy climb routine. Shoulder press, deltoid squeezes, bicep curls—they’re all welcome. Just watch your balance and start light.
If you’re looking to switch up your stair climbing routine, our Aaptiv trainers have workouts to fit your fitness level. Click here to listen to some of our workouts.