Cardio Exercise Equipment: Stair Climbers

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Cardio Exercise Equipment: Stair Climber Machines

Are you familiar with the stair climbers? There are a lot of different types of home/gym cardio exercise equipment for you to choose from these days. Treadmills and exercise bikes have been around for years, and you’ve probably used them often. Among them are a couple of more recent additions, stair steppers and stair mills (stepmills). While they are very different from each other, they can both add a new dimension to your cardiovascular workout routine.

The notion of stair climbing itself is not new. Many of you probably have memories of a high school or college coach making you run endlessly up and down the bleachers during gym class. Now, with stair climber machines designed to make you step up the way you would on stairs, you can get the same sort of workout while staying in one place. In this post you will find out all the benefits and drawbacks of using stair climber machines for your aerobic workouts.

What are stair climbers?

The stair climber machine is a good, tough piece of cardio equipment, designed to mimic the action of walking up stairs.

Stair climbers provide an aerobic workout by allowing you to create a climbing action by pushing independent foot pedals up and down, or in some models, by climbing a rotating staircase.

Types of stair climbers

There are two types of stair climbers:

  1. One with pedals (often called a stair stepper) in which the feet go on the pedals. The pedal then drops, and the feet are lifted.
  2. One that has a rolling set of stairs (called a stepmill). You must literally climb the stairs as they fall away.
stair climbers: stair stepper and stepmill

stair climbers: stair stepper and stepmill

Alternating between the two different types can keep boredom at bay.

Stair steppers are more common than stepmills, but many gyms have both types of machines. Stepmills are generally considered more dif­ficult, and you have to pay more attention when you are on a stepmill because you could literally fall off the machine.

Muscles engaged

The primary muscles used in stair climbing are the quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings, assisted by the gastrocnemius, soleus (lower calf muscle), anterior tibialis, and ankle joint. The hip flexors have to flex and extend as you push the pedals down to create the climbing action. This climb­ing action is what promotes the increased cardiorespiratory response, while also increasing muscular strength.

Stair stepper workout options

A lot of workout options are available when working out on a stair climber machine. With most stair climbers, you can adjust the stepping rate speed and resistance, which gives you control over the intensity of your workout. You can choose to reach new cardio heights with slow and steady ascents or quick HIIT workouts.

First time on a stair climber

It’s generally considered a good idea to start at a lower step rate, work your way up to a higher rate that will elevate your heart rate to a level within your target heart zone, alternating between a slower, deeper step and a quicker, shallower step; then gradually slow down again at the end out your workout.

Remember to maintain an upright (straight) and stable position with your abdominal muscles and back extensors engaged. Leaning forward while stair climbing can put undue strain on your lower back. Also, if you have cardiovascular or orthopedic problems you should check with your doctor before using a stair climber.

What are the benefits of stair climbers?

  • Muscle toning. Stair climbers provide resistance for the buttocks (glutes), quadriceps, hamstrings and calves enabling one to sculpt and lean out the lower part of the body.
  • Time-saver. Because exercising on the stair climber involves both cardio performance and resistance movement, stair climbing combines two workouts into one reducing the amount of time spent exercising.
  • Weight loss. Stair climbing trains the larger muscles of the human body including the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, which is key in managing fat. Larger muscles burn more calories.
  • Low impact. Stair climbing is a natural, easy, low impact activity that is gentle on the knees, ankles and back.
  • User-friendly. There is no learning curve with the stair climber. After all, we’ve all climbed stairs before.

What are the drawbacks of stair climbers?

  • One of the disadvantages of stair climbing is the possibility of hyperextension injuries to the knee if it is overextended.
  • You should also be careful not to place too much weight on the arm supports, as it puts strain on your wrists and reduces the effectiveness of the cardio side of things.
  • The repetitive stepping motion may be too hard on someone with weak or injured knees.

Closing thoughts

Stair climbing machines are one of the most popular pieces of fitness equipment in use for aerobic workouts today. The stair climber is a more efficient calorie burner, meaning that it will help you to burn body fat more quickly. In fact, taking 10 steps on the stair climber is as effective as taking 38 steps on level ground, such as when walking on the treadmill. That means that the stair climber is nearly 4 times more time efficient.

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