Having been around for a very long time now, its longevity and reputation speak for itself, but you may be still wondering about the Stairmaster benefits and whether or not the Stairmaster is as relevant today as it was in years gone by.
I was wondering the same thing. I’d heard of the Stairmaster, but I’d never seen one let alone used one until I spent four weeks at my aunt’s house in Hawaii a couple of years ago. During my stay, I used her Stairmaster Gauntlet Stepmill 4 or 5 times a week for 30 minutes. My thighs looked and felt firmer at the end of my vacation, than they did at the beginning. This was a first for me.
Along with giving me a very effective workout, the Stairmaster enabled me to burn stacks of calories too. While I always have good intentions, I inevitably stray from my diet when I’m on vacation. As a result, I dread hopping on the scale once I’m back home. That particular time I was thrilled to find I was the same weight I’d been before my trip. I’d been eating more, and using the Stairmaster was the only exercise I did.
I got to thinking about this recently, and decided to research the Stairmaster benefits and write a review. I hope it will be helpful to anyone who has been thinking about buying a Stairmaster.
NB. The Stairmaster I used is no longer available. Having compared the features and price of other models, I recommend the StairMaster SC5 Stairclimber as an excellent alternative.
Are the Stairmaster Benefits Still Relevant in 2018?
Invented in 1983, the Stairmaster, AKA the Stair Climber or Stairmaster Stepmill, revolutionized the fitness industry. It allowed people to engage in low-impact aerobic activity that also worked the body’s major muscle groups. Coming at a time when the majority of fitness machines involved weights and resistance, stationary bikes, treadmills and other cardio machines were not yet mainstream.
This being so, some may dismiss the benefits of the Stairmaster and be of the opinion it’s had its day. While that could be said of the original model, the reality is the benefits of the Stairmaster Stepmill have increased over the years as research has gone into developing more efficient programming options.
5 Stairmaster Benefits
Stairmaster workouts are very effective for toning and strengthening the legs, hips, butt, thighs and core. They also work the core, and they are excellent for improving balance and agility.
In brief, the 5 main Stairmaster benefits are as follows:
Advancing age or injury can prevent us from engaging in the type of exercise we need to improve our health and fitness. This is often because the activity we undertake is too strenuous for our fitness level, or too hard on our joints. The Stairmaster can be of great benefit in such situations, promoting as it does a smooth and very low-impact motion with little risk of injury.
To take advantage of some cardio equipment, you will need to work hard and fast. In doing so, you risk stressing your joints. With the Stairmaster, you will get an effective workout, even using it at a slow pace. This means that people who are unable to use other exercise equipment can usually improve their fitness, tone up and lose weight safely and comfortably on a Stairmaster.
- Excellent Lower Body Workout
The climbing and pushing resistance required to use a Stairmaster makes for an excellent lower body workout. With a focus on the calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings, you will burn fat and build strength and lean muscle mass.
For optimal Stairmaster benefits, it’s important to maintain correct form throughout your workout. Do this by keeping your head up and making sure your eyes are looking straight ahead. Resist the tendency to stick your elbows out to the sides, hunch your shoulders up or lean forward onto the machine’s rails. Doing so will decrease the effectiveness of your workouts and result in fewer calories being burned.
Use the rails to assist you with balance, only. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. Place your foot firmly onto the step, your toes pointing slightly outwards, and drive your heel into the step. Keep your hip flexors and glutes engaged, and allow your left shoulder to lift as you step up with your right foot, then lift your right shoulder upwards as you step up with your left leg. Using the Stairmaster this way, you will get a great lower body workout that hits all of the right muscles.
NB If you find you have to lean forward onto the rails, work at a slower pace.
- Core Workout
The majority of toning Stairmaster benefits focus on the lower body muscle groups. By maintaining correct form as outlined in the previous paragraph and engaging your abs, you will also get a core workout.
A strong core improves balance. Good balance is beneficial for people of all ages, but especially older folks. Additionally, a strong core improves posture and spinal alignment and helps to prevent or alleviate chronic back pain. It also makes it easier to do day-to-day tasks, such as lifting young children, hoisting groceries out of the car and even walking up a steep flight of stairs.
- Cardiovascular Conditioning
Using a Stairmaster 3 to 5 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes, will benefit your cardiovascular system and increase your stamina and endurance. As your fitness improves, increasing your speed and working at a higher level of resistance will enable you to continue to grow your fitness.
- Weight Loss
One of the Stairmaster benefits that draws so many people to it is that it allows for a high rate of calorie burn with a low-impact exercise. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, exercise that engages the muscles of the lower body typically burns the most calories.
Another reason the Stairmaster is an efficient calorie burner is that when using it, our heart rate very quickly elevates into the fat burning range, with estimates being that during a 20-minute workout the exerciser’s heart rate will be elevated for 19 minutes. This makes the number of calories burned on Stairmaster greater than that obtained from many other forms of exercise.
In fact, Stairmaster weight loss results rank as some of the highest among all fitness machines. This is because the low impact nature of the exercise performed on the Stairmaster allows people of any fitness level to use the machine to lose weight.
3 Effective Stairmaster Workouts
Can’t I just use Regular Stairs?
Some people dismiss Stairmaster workouts as a gimmick, believing that going up and down stairs provides the same benefits. This is simply not true.
While taking the stairs is certainly beneficial and should be a part of your daily routine to work in exercise wherever and whenever you can, there are aspects of using the stairs that don’t make them nearly as advantageous as doing Stairmaster workouts. For example, stairs can’t provide you with a variety of resistance levels to promote muscle fitness and fat loss.
Also, toning will plateau much sooner exercising on regular stairs, compared with when doing Stairmaster workouts. And, after going up a set of regular stairs, you will have to come back down. As with running down a hill, descending stairs puts a lot of pressure on the knees, hips, and ankles. This can lead to injury.
What is the Average Number of Calories Burned on Stairmaster?
The calories burned on Stairmaster during workouts will be between 500 and 800 an hour. The exact number will be shown on the machine’s display screen. This will vary depending upon your weight and how fast you step.
With a Stairmaster, the intensity of your workout can be as challenging as you want to make it. The effort needed to burn calories, however, will not be as great as with some other cardio equipment.
What if I’ve Never Exercised Before?
Stairmaster Stepmill workouts are an excellent option for new exercisers. That’s not to say the workouts are a walk in the park. They’re not. Most people find they sweat far more using a Stairmaster than when using other cardio fitness equipment.
Twenty minutes on the Stairmaster, 3 to 5 times per week, will significantly improve your fitness level and cardiovascular health. This will be the case even if you work at a slow pace. For example, climbing at 1 mile per hour on the machine will give you a workout equal to that of running on a flat treadmill at 6 mph, and the stress on your joints will be far less.
Take it easy in the beginning, and as your fitness improves, include more challenging Stairmaster workouts in your program.
What Do the Best Stairmaster Workouts Involve?
The best Stairmaster workouts will depend upon your primary aim. If you want to tone a specific muscle group, your workout will be different to someone who wants to lose weight or improve their cardiovascular fitness. Regardless of your goal, your workouts should start with a Warm-Up, build in resistance and speed, have variation, and end with a Cool-Down.
Alternating your workouts will prevent your body from becoming accustomed to the challenge of your sessions. By mixing things up, you will also largely avoid the fitness and weight loss plateaus that commonly occur when repeatedly doing the same exercise.
Are Longer Workouts Better?
The time you spend on the Stairmaster doesn’t always reflect the Stairmaster benefits you will gain. The most effective Stairmaster workouts are between 20 and 60 minutes long. You may think you will get faster and better results by working out on the Stairmaster for longer. That is not necessarily the case.
Our bodies are designed to handle stress, and they can quickly adapt to challenging routines. This being so, you won’t see better Stairmaster results by using the machine for over 60 minutes at a time. The reason for this is that after about an hour exercising, our body adapts and our heart rate lowers, taking us out of our maximum fat loss and fitness target range. When this happens, we burn fewer calories and weight loss slows.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Stairmaster
If you’re in the market for exercise equipment, the benefits of Stairmaster should not be overlooked. An excellent calorie burner, its muscle toning potential for the glutes and thighs, in particular, is way beyond that of most exercise machines. The risk of developing a stress injury when using a Stairmaster is far less than it is when doing some other forms of exercise, too. It can provide a very challenging workout, but even working at a slow pace you will burn a lot of calories. As your fitness improves, the difficulty level of your Stairmaster workouts can be increased to keep you challenged. And, with so many Stairmaster workout routines possible, the likelihood of becoming bored is less, so you will be more likely to stick with it.
With its higher than average price tag, the Stairmaster Stepmill won’t be for everyone. If, however, it’s within your budget and you decide to purchase one, I think you will be very happy with it.
To experience the Stairmaster benefits at home without the hefty price tag, take a look at the Maxi Climber. (Click the previous to read a review.) Far smaller and without all of the fancy extras, it is a fraction of the price of a Stairmaster. It won’t give you the same workout, but it targets the same muscle groups.
If you are heavier set and you’re looking for a reasonably priced alternative to the Stairmaster, check out the Xiser Commercial Mini StairMaster. Its performance is far superior to that of many regular sized steppers. It can support a weight of up to 400 pounds, and it will fit into the smallest of spaces. (Click the previous link to read a review.)
You may also like to read this article on the Stair Climber Benefits