You’ve almost certainly noticed the stair climber at your gym (alternatively called a stair stepper). If you have been avoiding this beautiful fitness machine because you’ve seen others chugging up those stairs, faces dripping sweat and breathing like a steam engine, know that that’s the entire point. Rewards of working out on the stair climber are well worth the effort. Why do you think so many high school and college coaches make their athletes run up and down bleachers? Or why do you think Rocky bounded up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art when he was getting into the best shape of his life? You don’t need to be gunning for a fight to enjoy stair climber machine benefits. Instead, jump on, start climbing, and enjoy the workout of your life.
Here are just a few of the top stair stepper benefits you can look forward to:
1. Easy to Learn
If you’ve ever climbed a set of stairs before, you already know how to use the stair climber. This machine is user-friendly for nearly all levels of exercisers, even if you’re new to the gym. That said, if you are struggling with mobility or balance challenges, then it’s best to stay on flat ground.
What does the stair climber do? It makes you climb stairs, of course! Turn the machine on, and the stairs begin to move, forcing you to climb in order to keep up. During your first stair climber workout, start at a slow or moderate pace. You’ll feel the burn quickly. Focus on your form. Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and your back straight to get the most stair climber benefits.
2. Low Impact
Are your knees, hips, or ankles warning you to skip the treadmill today and use a machine that’s a little gentler on your joints? A stair climber is a relatively low-impact cardio alternative, especially if you maintain a moderate pace so that you aren’t jogging or running up the stairs. You can also use the handlebars to take a little weight off your lower body.
Hint: For the ultimate low-impact workout, consider swimming or cycling.
3. Improved Cardio Health
After just a few minutes on the stair climber, you’ll learn quickly why this is such a good cardio workout. You’ll feel your pulse rise and your breathing increase. Climbing stairs will strengthen your heart and lungs, forcing them to become more efficient each time you perform a stair climber workout. Not only will you improve your overall aerobic fitness, but you may also improve your heart health.
A study recruited 15 women and assigned one group to climb stairs each day. By the end of the study, the women were climbing a nearly 200-step staircase five times a day. The study found that compared to the non-stair-climbing control group, the stair climbers dropped their cholesterol by an average of 7.7% and improved their VO2max, a measurement of how efficiently their bodies used oxygen, by 17%.
4. Strengthens Your Muscles
You’ll know your stair climber workout was successful when, by the end of it, your legs feel like jelly. What muscles does the stair climber work? That would be some of the largest and most powerful muscles in your body, including your:
The stair climber is an excellent means of improving the muscular endurance of your core and lower body, but only if you maintain good posture throughout the exercise. Use your core, including your abs, external obliques, and intercostals (muscles that help stabilize your upper body), to keep your chest up and your back straight. You may see other exercisers gripping the handles of the stair climber, hunched over as they read a magazine or check their email on their phone. They are doing themselves a huge disservice and lowering the stair stepper benefits.
Instead, by keeping strong form, you can sculpt your lower body, tightening up your glutes, thighs, and core.
5. Torches Calories
Big muscle groups burn a lot of calories, and stair climbers work some of the biggest muscles in your body. That results in a huge calorie bonfire every time you begin your climb. Research from Harvard Health Publishing has suggested that stair climbers can burn anywhere from 180 to 250 calories per half-hour workout session. The faster you go, the more calories you’ll burn. Additionally, you’ll burn a different amount of calories depending on a number of factors, including weight, age, and your metabolic rate.
6. More Fitness in Less Time
Performing stair climber exercises is hard, but, in many cases, the more difficult the challenge, the more calories you’ll burn. This makes the stair climber a great option for exercisers who have only a limited amount of time at the gym or who want to get the best workout in the shortest amount of time. For example, taking ten steps on a stair climber is roughly comparable to taking 38 steps on level ground. That means using the stair climber instead of walking on a flat treadmill will give you four times the workout in the equivalent amount of time as walking on flat ground.
7. Functional Movement
Stair climbing is known as a “functional” or “natural” movement, meaning that it mimics movements you perform in everyday life. Integrating functional movements into your workout routines can extend that quality of life into your golden years. If you want to stay in a home with stairs long after retirement, for example, a regular stair climber workout can help you maintain that functionality.
8. Improved Balance and Coordination
Sticking with the theme of maintaining a good quality of life, stair climbing can also improve your balance and coordination, which will help you stay mobile for longer. Each time you climb a stair, you are briefly balancing on one leg. Stair climbing also recruits stabilizer muscles in your foot and ankle to keep yourself balanced.
9. Stair Climbers Could Save Your Life
This is a big claim, but a Harvard Health Alumni Study of more than 8,000 older men found an association between higher rates of climbing stairs and a lower rate of death from all causes. This correlation isn’t surprising. Stair climber machines offer resistance and cardio workouts, which have been shown to improve overall health and well-being. If you want to enjoy more days of good health in your life, a stair climber can be your best friend.
10. Offers Many Different Workouts
Did you assume that there was only one way to use a stair stepper? Then, you have much to learn, grasshopper. Once you are comfortable climbing stairs at a moderate pace on the climber, it’s time to get creative. Stair climbers offer different stair climbing programs you can use, but that’s only the beginning of incorporating a stair climber into your workout.
You can up the ante by performing side steps, skipping steps, or walking backward to activate different parts of your muscles and challenging your coordination. You can also perform:
- Squat steps – Squat to parallel on the stair climber and slowly climb while maintaining the squat position. Your quads will burn in the moment but thank you later.
- Sumo steps – Take exaggerated steps to the right and left as you walk on the stair climber to work the outer glute and thigh.
- Alternate leg raises – As you step up with one leg, kick the alternate leg behind you. Squeeze your glute at the top of each kick. This will add extra glute work to your stair climber workout and activate your lower back.
Stair climbers can also be incorporated into cardio circuit workouts and high-intensity interval training workouts. Check out some of our other favorite workout blogs:
- Best HIIT Workouts to Burn Calories and Build Muscle
- Best Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss
- Five Full Body Kettlebell Workouts
Three Stair Climber Workouts
With these 10 stair climber machine benefits in mind, are you ready to start hitting the stairs? Check out these three workout options that will help you get your climb on.
1. Stairway to Heaven
- 1 minute stair climb: Moderate pace
- 1 minute backward climb: Keep the pace slow and hold onto the handles if needed for balance
- 1 minute side steps: 30 seconds on each side. Keep peace slow and hold onto handles if needed to maintain balance
- 30 fast climb
- 1 minute rest
2. Stair Stepper Cardio Circuit Workout
Beginner: Slow pace on all equipment. Cut time to 1:30 for each exercise if needed.
Intermediate: Moderate pace on all equipment
Advanced: Challenging pace on all equipment. Cut rest between rounds to one minute.
- 2 minutes on a stationary bike
- 2 minutes on the stair climber
- 2 minutes on the rower
- 2 minutes of burpees
- 2 minutes of rest
3. Stair-Stepper HIIT Workout
Perform 5 Rounds
Beginner: 20 seconds “on” at fast speed, 40 seconds of rest
Intermediate: 30 seconds “on” at fast speed, 30 seconds of rest (active rest optional)
Advanced: 40 seconds “on” at fast speed, 20 seconds of active rest
- Stair climber squat steps
- Bear crawl sprints
- Medicine ball slams
- Rowing sprint
- Butterfly sit ups
Find a Stair Climbing Machine Near You
Stair climbers are expensive, and they can take up a lot of space which is why you may prefer not to buy one for your home. If you still want to enjoy stair stepper benefits, you can find them at most major gyms, including EōS Fitness. Here, you can sculpt your lower body, improve your heart health, and throw heaps of calories into an exercise bonfire when you perform stair climber exercises. Find an EōS Fitness near you.