Climbing stairs has long been a staple exercise for runners and other athletes. More than improving cardiovascular health, it can help strengthen lower body muscles and support a healthy body weight.
The StairMaster is a step climber machine that helps you make the most of this exercise. By making you work against gravity, it improves muscle and bone strength and can reduce your risk of injury.
Stair climbing on a StairMaster can burn fat and support muscle building. This relatively simple exercise can be especially appealing for runners.
The best part is that the StairMaster cardio machine is suitable for all fitness levels. In this post, we take a closer look at the StairMaster benefits and how this step machine works.
In This Article:
What Is the StairMaster?
The StairMaster, as the name implies, is a stair climber cardio machine. It features a revolving staircase or two separate platforms that rotate steps. It lets you climb up at a customizable speed, enabling you to increase or decrease the difficulty of the workout as needed.
A regular feature in gyms, the StairMaster provides a tough cardio workout. It also tones the major lower body muscles, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
The StairMaster has been around for over three decades. The latest releases can even monitor your heart rate and estimate the calories you burn.
9 StairMaster Benefits for Runners
Using a StairMaster regularly as part of your running workouts could improve your cardiovascular health. Other health benefits of StairMaster include burning calories and strengthening lower body muscles and core muscles.
Read on to find out why the StairMaster can be particularly effective for runners.
1. Calorie burn
A 180-pound woman (81.6 kgs) can burn around 210 calories in just 15 minutes on the StairMaster. Increasing the speed of the workout could burn even more calories.
A StairMaster workout can be especially effective if you’re overweight. That’s because the heavier a person is, the more calories they tend to burn during a workout on the StairMaster.
The best part is that many modern StairMaster machines have built-in calorie counters. So, if you want to burn calories and lose weight, it’s about time you tried a StairMaster.
2. Cardiovascular fitness
A 2017 study shows that vigorous stair climbing increases VO2 max. This is a measure of cardiovascular fitness that refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise.
When you run, your body needs oxygen-rich blood to perform at its best. Using a StairMaster can often be more convenient than running up and down a flight of steps. Improved cardiovascular fitness is essential for running faster and longer.
3. Stronger quadriceps and hamstrings
Using a StairMaster gives you a thorough lower body workout. This includes stronger quads, the muscles at the front of the thigh, and stronger hamstrings, those at the back of the thigh.
The quads and hamstrings extend and bend the knee. They are essential when running. Making these muscles stronger can help you become a better runner who is less prone to injuries.
Over time, you can see the effects of using a StairMaster on these muscles. With adequate rest and nutrition, they may grow in size and become more toned. Tip: Looking to build stronger legs? Here are some workouts to build strength in your legs as a runner.
4. Stronger core
During a StairMaster workout, you need to maintain your balance. This means you have to engage your core.
While there are more effective ab exercises than climbing stairs, using a StairMaster could improve your posture. Having a strong core as a runner can lead to a better running posture and proper form.
This, in turn, can make your running movements more efficient and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Building a stronger core with the StairMaster doesn’t happen overnight, though. You need to keep using it to see results.Tip: Discover more strength training workouts for runners.
5. Stronger glutes and calves
When you’re climbing stairs, your buttock or gluteal muscles work to move your hips and thighs. Meanwhile, your calf muscles lift your heel and maintain your balance.
A cardio workout on a StairMaster has the added benefit of giving these muscles a thorough workout. Over time, this can help to make you a stronger runner.
Stair climbers with adjustable settings can help you maximize results by increasing speed or resistance. By making you work faster and harder, smart stair climbers give your muscles a tough workout. Tip: Discover a great upper glute workout for a bigger butt.
6. Easier on the knees and joints
Although it’s a weight-bearing exercise machine, the StairMaster puts less stress on your knees and joints than running. On this device, you always climb up so that your joints and tissues don’t have to brake as they would when climbing downstairs.
As a low-impact exercise, it enables lower body strength training even when you’re experiencing knee or joint pain. Knee pain is common in beginner runners with a low fitness level, especially overweight runners.With a StairMaster around, you could continue to build muscular endurance as a runner despite knee pain.
7. Better balance
A study on stroke patients highlights the power of stair climbing to improve not only muscle strength but also balance. In the study, participants saw improvement after just three 15-minute weekly stair-climbing sessions.
As we’ve seen, a StairMaster workout will engage both your core muscles and your calves. It will also make you coordinate your movements so that your foot lands on the steps.
Together, this can help improve your balance and posture. Having good balance as a runner reduces motion from the foot to the torso. By doing so, it can decrease the risk of certain common overuse injuries like iliotibial band friction syndrome. Tip: Looking to improve your hip strength and mobility? Check out these hip strength and mobility exercises.
8. Better mental health
Stair climbing sessions can be as fun or as intense as you make them. Using a StairMaster can release feel-good brain chemicals that can ward off depression and improve mood.
However, bear in mind that StairMaster becomes an effective mental health exercise if you do it at the right intensity and for long enough. This will depend on your fitness level, weight, and other factors. Tip: Discover other simple but effective exercises you can do for a healthy lifestyle.
9. Improved fitness
When it comes to aerobic conditioning, stair climbing is one of the most convenient and effective workouts you can do.
An exercise routine that includes StairMaster can help you strengthen leg muscles and core muscles. It can also condition your lungs and heart to work more effectively. Using StairMaster can help you breathe in more oxygen. It can also make your heart pump oxygen-rich blood more easily to your muscles. If you’re trying to become fit and improve your heart health and aerobic fitness, it’s a cardio machine you can rely on.
Is StairMaster actually good for you?
StairMaster makes stair climbing a convenient and effective aerobic exercise for all fitness levels. It can improve heart health, burn calories, tone leg muscles, and support bone health.
Unlike other weight-bearing exercises, it puts less stress on your joints while promoting balance and coordination. And, unlike a usual flight of stairs, it comes with speed settings.
Whether you want a low-impact or intense workout, StairMaster machines efficiently work the main muscle groups engaged in running. This results in notable calorie burning, making regular stair climbing an attractive addition to your exercise routine.
Stair climbing sessions have long been part of top athletes’ workouts. The bottom line is that this piece of cardio equipment can be a great addition to your fitness routine. The benefits of StairMaster are great for runners.
How long should you do StairMaster for?
StairMaster workouts can be integrated into your training routine or serve as standalone workouts. Here are three cardio workouts for three different fitness levels that help you tap into the key StairMaster benefits.
If you are using a StairMaster with adjustable speed levels, you can change these during the exercise. Otherwise, you will have to adjust your pace accordingly.
Note that each StairMaster workout should have a warmup and cooldown. Do at least one StairMaster workout per week alongside your other cardio workouts, working toward the recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity.
StairMaster beginner workout
- Set the speed of your StairMaster to easy and start with a 5-minute warmup.
- Increase the speed to moderate and continue for 20 minutes at this pace.
- Return to an easy pace for a 5-minute cooldown.
StairMaster intermediate workout
- Begin with a 5-minute warmup at an easy pace.
- Up the intensity to moderate and keep going for 5 minutes.
- Switch to a vigorous pace and continue climbing those steps for 10 minutes.
- Return to a moderate pace for 5 minutes. Don’t stop – keep going!
- Cool down with 5 minutes of stair climbing at an easy pace.
StairMaster advanced workout
- Warm up for 5 minutes at an easy pace.
- Switch to a fast pace for 1 minute.
- Transition to slow stair climbing for 1 minute.
- Keep alternating fast stair climbing with slow stair climbing until you hit 30 minutes.
Does StairMaster help lose belly fat?
Targeting belly fat specifically is challenging, and StairMaster wasn’t built for that. However, because it can help you burn calories effectively, it can contribute to overall weight loss, including losing belly fat.
With a StairMaster you burn calories while building a stronger core. Over time, this can help you develop stronger, flatter, and more toned abs.
To burn fat with the StairMaster, make sure to use it regularly. Increase the duration and intensity of your step climbing to burn more calories. Aim for at least a half-hour workout.You may also want to check our post on simple workouts to lose belly fat you can try at home.
The StairMaster makes climbing a flight of stairs a fun but challenging aerobic exercise. It can be a great cardio equipment if you want better heart health and all the cardio benefits that come with it.
More than that, StairMaster can help you tone the key muscles you use when running, from the gluteus maximus to the hip flexors. Here are a few things to remember about the StairMaster.
- Key StairMaster benefits include better cardiovascular health, stronger leg muscles, better balance, and a lower risk of overuse injuries.
- It puts less stress on your joints than other weight-bearing exercises.
- All your muscles engaged in running get a workout when you repeatedly climb a flight of stairs.
- Climbing stairs doesn’t directly burn belly fat, but it can help you burn calories and contribute to overall weight loss.
- It’s a simple exercise you can adapt to your fitness level and easily integrate into your workout routine.
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- Michael, E., 2018. Stair climbing at home for health benefits (Doctoral dissertation, University of Birmingham).
- Jones, P.P., Skinner, J.S., Smith, L.K., John, F.M. and Bryant, C.X., 1996. Functional improvements following StairMaster vs. treadmill exercise training for patients with intermittent claudication. Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention, 16(1), pp.47-55.
- Takaishi, T., Ishihara, K., Shima, N. and Hayashi, T., 2014. Health promotion with stair exercise. The Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, 3(2), pp.173-179.
- Pelletier, J.R., Nguyen, M., Bradley, K., Johnsen, M. and McKay, C., 2005. A study of a structured exercise program with members of an ICCD Certified Clubhouse: program design, benefits, and implications for feasibility. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(2), p.89.
- Marin, R., Chang, A., Cyhan, T. and Dinauer, P., 2008. Rehabilitation implications of stepper exercise technique on exertion and hip extensor muscle activation-a small exploratory study. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 45(1), p.125.