Stair steppers are a type of stepper machine that are considered one of the best exercise tools to improve overall health and fitness. They offer everything that a treadmill does but imitate the stair climbing motion which is something most people do everyday! This functional exercise makes it one of the most popular cardio machines on the market. In this article we look at the best stair steppers available and how to use them. Once you’ve finished you should be in good stead to make a decision on which is the best stair stepper for you.
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Why Buy a Stair Stepper?
Before we dive into the best stair steppers available on the market today it’s good to understand why it’s a good investment for your home gym. Stair steppers sometimes get a bad rap, most people think it’s pointless buying a stair stepper when you can simply just walk up and down the stairs at home or the park. The problem with this is walking continuously up and down stairs can get boring quickly. Also there’s more chance you can injure yourself after doing this for long periods. You can easily fall down the stairs after a given period once your brain switches off of the movement. The beauty of the stair stepper is that they’re built with handrails to maintain balance. So you can hold onto these throughout your workout with peace of mind so you won’t fall off and hurt yourself.
Stair stepper machines are a great investment for those looking to improve overall cardiovascular endurance, tone your legs. Everyone from beginner to advanced level can take advantage of stair stepper benefits so let’s look at the best stair steppers on the market today.
Where can I buy a stair stepper?
At Cardio Capital we provide enough information on all of our recommendations for you to make an informed decision on stepper machines for sale. Simply click the link for each machine and it will take you right to the product to purchase. You can then buy the stair stepper securely through the website its being sold on.
This machine is affordable for all and is a great little option with a reasonable price tag, at such a low cost its ideal for beginners looking to get started in the stair stepping world. The added support of the ergonomically designed handlebars offers extra support while you step, coupled with extra wide non-slip pedals to offer a sturdy ride. The handlebars are also adjustable for the user to offer comfortable support.
The sturdy construction is around 110kg which is considerably heavy for a small machine but this means that it won’t move around on the floor once stepping. The heavy duty steel frame is built to last ensuring years of use and also offers a foldable design so it can be stored neatly away.
For those who struggle for balance this is a great little stepper for the cost. It comes with an LCD screen which displays the step count, time and calories burned.
If you don’t want to break the bank but want a stair stepper that will still do the job and challenge you. Go for the Sunny Health and Fitness Twist Stepper Step Machine. This stepper offers a twisting action to work the glutes and thighs without stressing the bones and joints. This type of movement is slightly unconventional compared to the typical up and down motion of a normal stepper. This type of motion can tone both your lower body, core and obliques.
Built with non-slip foot plates and adjustable stepping height handle bars to help maintain balance throughout your workout.
Its compact build at 250lbs provides a stable, step workout. With its built in LCD monitor allows you to track calories, time spent and step count.
Non Slip Pedals
Twist stepper feature
Adjustable stepping height with handlebars
Not good for advanced users
LCD doesn’t include pulse monitor
Best Stair Stepper Under 1000
PROFROM HIIT L6 Trainer
When it comes to home fitness equipment there are few manufacturers that deliver exceptional quality at reasonable pricing that won’t break the bank. Proforms HIIT L6 trainer provides just that. Although an eyebrow raising £999 you can be assured that you have a durable stair stepper for a very long time.
Although this piece is regarded as an elliptical the motion mimics that of a stair stepper and assembly of the HIIT L6 is straightforward unlike other large stair steppers. It’s built with a compact footprint considering the size of the equipment. Despite its sturdy 82kg (180lb) size, it takes up less space than other steppers in the Proform range. This lends itself to the construction where you dont require additional space over and above the foot pedals. This design makes it ideal for putting in the corner of a room as opposed to having a dedicated room to place it.
The sturdy design is aided by solid, fixed handlebars that are easy to climb onto without any movement. The motion of the HIIT l6 pedals are smooth and quiet. It isnt totally noise free but for most fitness equipment you’re likely to generate some noise while pedalling.
The model is a cross between a traditional elliptical/cross trainer and a stepper. The motion falls between a traditional up and down step and a flattened ellipse when in action. This unique movement has emphasis on the lower body to give you a greater calorie burn. Another benefit of this motion is that the stride length is redundant meaning that anyone from 5’5 to 6’4 can use this without any adjustments.
The console provides the distance, calories, resistance, time, speed and much more through its large 6” LCD display. One issue with the HIIT L6 is the training options are pretty limited. There aren’t any pre-programmed workouts on the console, just a manual mode. So if you are the type to just get on and go this is a simple machine to use but not ideal for those looking to participate in pre-programmed exercise programmes. However, if you are a subscriber to iFit, this can be synced to your machine. Once you login you are then presented with a huge amount of workout programmes.
Stable and heavy construction
Lack of pre-set programmes. Have to subscribe to iFit to access exercise programmes
Off the bat the Bowflex MaX trainer isn’t the most affordable of the best stair steppers available. Adding this stair stepper to your home gym will set you back over £1000 but with this price you can expect a top quality home workout machine.
This particular model has a unique glide that combines both the stair stepper and an elliptical machine. Although you’re paying a big price for this machine you are getting the benefit of both the stair stepper and the elliptical combined.
The Bowflex Max Trainer M6 comes with many features including resistance levels up to level 16. This allows even the most advanced fitness user to achieve a challenging workout on every use.
This strong build allows a user weight up to 136kg (300lbs) making this ideal for those at the start of their fitness journey and looking to lose weight. Despite its strong build the M6 takes up minimal space with its slim footprint, making it perfect for home use. Also built with handlebars for support and sensors to monitor heart rate throughout your workout.
The built in LCD display lets you track your weekly fitness goals, with their free max trainer app and bluetooth connectivity.
Combined benefit of elliptical and stepper motion
Variety of levels of resistance for all fitness levels
StairMaster is often confused as a name for a stairclimber, perhaps because they are the biggest brand of the stairclimber in the world. While their prices of their equipment isnt cheap you can guarantee their products beat most steppers due to their build and functionality.
The StairMaster 4600CL Stepper is one of their most popular rangers providing a variety of adjustable features. They offer up to 20 different levels of resistance and a huge amount of varied step rates and heights. This means that no matter what your fitness level is whether you are a professional athletes to someone who hasn’t exercised a day in their life can feel comfortable finding a setting on this stair stepper.
The 4600CL is very easy to use. This lends itself to its built-in, intuitive LCD display. You can simply adjust any setting you require in a single click. It’s built with cushioned pedals and crafted handrails to provide the most comfortable of uses.
Due to the hefty cost of the equipment you have peace of mind with their 15 year guarantee on the frame. Which demonstrates the level of confidence StairMaster have in their fitness range.
This product is one of the best I could find for those looking for a unique design which folds away for storage.
This design not only neatly folds away but comes with hydraulic cylinders to provide a squeak free, quiet motion. The quiet step and minimal assembly required makes this particular model the perfect addition to anyone’s home gym.
The handlebars on the stepper are layered with foam to provide a comfortable grip during your workout. Despite its compact size it offers a weight limit of 102kg (250lbs).
The LCD monitor is strategically placed on top of the frame between the handlebars which sits nicely in your eyeline throughout your exercise session. Displaying step count, time and calories burned.
The resistance levels can be set by the shock adjustments by each foot rest which means that you have to get off each time you adjust the resistance which isn’t ideal if you want to continue to workout while adjusting the resistance. Similarly, unlike other models the handlebars are not adjustable to your height, which can be awkward for anyone 6’1+
Quiet and smooth motion
Foldable to store away
Non adjustable handlebars
Awkward resistance adjustment
How to Use a Stair Stepper
Using the stair stepper is easy, when done correctly with proper form you can guarantee you will be dripping in sweat within minutes. However, using this correctly is paramount, to get the most out of your workout and to avoid injury. Focussing on form will tone and strengthen your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, glutes and even your abs.
Before starting to increase the resistance and speed of the steps make sure you are going through the full motion of each step and have the correct posture. Below is how to correctly use a stair stepper:
Rest your fingertips light on the handlebars to assist you onto the machine. The reason I say use your fingertips is because you should get into the habit of using a light grip on the handlebars. If you grip the handlebars tightly you start to shift your bodyweight to your arms which loses the emphasis on the legs. Place your fingertips facing upwards, never reverse your wrists so that your fingertips point down towards the floor and elbows are turning up. Ideally you should be able to use the stair stepper without holding onto the handrail, using this to regain balance is totally fine, but try to shift the focus towards the legs, not keeping balance.
Stand upright, facing forwards a slight forward lean with the hips. Doing this forward lean prevents your knees from locking and your lower back arching over the machine.
Take even and deep steps. Performing a quick hop for each step won’t be as beneficial for you as taking long and deep steps. Doing smaller steps is not only harder on our calves but also reduces the amount of work performed, thus more calories burned.
Keep your feet on the pedal. Again raising your feet off the pedal puts extra strain on your calf muscles. Keep your feet flat to engage the glutes and thighs through each step.
How Does a Stair Stepper Work?
The stair stepper simply simulates walking up and down stairs which makes the benefits of stair stepping huge. It’s used as cardiovascular exercise to increase heart rate, improve fitness levels and burn calories. If weight loss is your goal it’s a great way to create a calorie deficit to burn belly fat, in comparison to other cardio equipment its low impact which is ideal if you suffer from joint issues.
Here are some other ways the stair stepper works for you:
Use as Strength Training
The repetitive motion of the stepper using your legs to push up and down is a test of endurance that activates the lower body muscles. This can be great for toning the legs but also strengthening them as well.
Every step you take on the stair stepper engages the quads, glutes, calves and hamstrings. When you focus every step on the legs you will feel the force in your lower body muscles.
The way your foot is placed on the step is equally important. Similar to a stair master, the majority of people when using the stair stepper they use their toe to push down on the stepper, by doing this you engage the calves more. But if you use your heel to push down each step it shifts the focus to the hamstring, the hamstrings are one the biggest muscle in the legs so emphasising these will determine the whole look of the lower body. If you feel more confident pushing from the balls of your feet that’s fine too! That targets the quadriceps more, as long as you are using either technique make sure to go through the full step motion to strengthen the targeted muscles.
Do note that although regular stair stepping can strengthen the muscles in the legs, it doesn’t beat resistance training. Supplement your cardio work on the stair stepper with resistance training to strengthen and build the muscles in your legs. Performing exercises like lunges, squats and deadlifts are the most effective.
Core Training and Improve Posture
If you commonly lean forward while walking up a flight of stairs, it’s likely that you will have the same poor form on a stair stepper. If you focus on using the correct form while using the stair stepper this naturally fixes the hunch and increases core strength with every step.
Provided you have the correct posture while performing the stair stepper you engage your abdominals. Having to readjust your position and balance while you step helps develop a stronger core. It’s important to not slouch over the machine and brace your core throughout to ensure you are working the abs and also ease lower back pain.
Using the Stair Stepper as a Weight Loss Tool
Using a stair stepper to burn calories is a wise investment. When you work the larger muscles in your body (the legs) you can burn more calories when you rest. This is because the leg muscles are the most metabolically active in the body. This heart rate boosting cardio workout means that you burn more calories during and after each workout. Just ensure you are performing this at least a moderate intensity for a good duration.
Use for Recovery
The nature of stair climbing is a low impact exercise. This makes it a good option for those with back or joint issues. Research has shown that stair stepping has been found to relieve lower back pain due to its activation of the glute muscles. This in turn relieves pressure off the back while exercising. Although a low impact exercise and beneficial for some joints, the stair stepper can be particularly tough on the knees so exercise with caution if you have a pre-existing knee condition.
When it comes to exercising, particularly steady state cardio, it’s important that you enjoy the work you are doing. If you start to become bored then your motivation drops and your cardio equipment starts to gather dust. Using a piece of cardio equipment like the elliptical, bike or treadmill can become tedious so adding a stair stepper to your home gym can add some variety. The stair stepper is considered a functional movement because climbing stairs is an everyday activity. This in itself can add some motivation to use it and you will be pleasantly surprised by the cardiovascular gains and calories burned as a result.
How Long to Use a Stair Stepper
If you’re new to stair stepping then begin with 15 minutes. Performing a short period like this helps you familiarise yourself with the technique, speed and comfortable resistance. Once you are comfortable using the stair stepper, gradually build up to 30 – 45 minutes. Performing for this amount of time is sufficient to hit your daily exercise requirements and burn a sufficient amount of calories.
Target a speed of around 60-80 steps per minute for steady state cardio. You can add some interval training in where you increase the step count for a minute then drop this for a given active rest period. Below is a good example workout to follow:
Stair Stepper Workout
Before performing this workout, begin with a 3 minute warm up at a slow to moderate pace. Then complete 1 round of the below for a duration of 30 minutes.
Step off machine and perform dynamic movements of high knees and side shuffles for 3 minutes.
Climb on the stair stepper taking quick steps at a moderate level for 2 minutes, holding gently onto the handrails.
Increase this by 2 levels of resistance for 2 minutes and release your hands from the handrails trying to maintain balance throughout.
Reduce the resistance by 2 levels to a moderate intensity for 1 minute while holding gently on the handrails.
Increase by 1 level for 2 minutes again letting go of the handrails, if you have to hold on you can do so but try to have short bursts where you maintain balance and your hands are completely off. You can swing your arms with each step to help balance and improve posture.
Reduce setting by 1 level and step for 3 minutes
Increase by 2 resistance levels and step for 2 minutes
Reduce by 1 level holding the hand rails for 1 minute
Increase by 3 resistance levels and step for 1 minute without holding the handrails
Reduce by 1 level and hold onto the handrail for 1 minute
Increase by 2 levels and go for an all out sprint intensity for 1 minute
Slow down by 6 resistance levels and cooldown for 5 minutes.
As you can see from this workout you are laddering the intensity so that its progressive overload. You can adjust the resistance levels where required but try and follow a pattern of reducing by 1 and increasing by 2.
This example workout can be for both beginner and advanced levels but there is nothing wrong with performing steady state cardio on the stair stepper for 30-45 minutes. You can mix up the resistance as you go to increase the intensity.
When shopping for a good stair stepper there are a lot of factors to consider to make the right choice. Reviewing the list the PROFROM HIIT L6 Trainer is overall the best pick as its perfect for all levels of fitness and high quality. Although not reasonably priced if you are going to invest in a stair stepper you need to choose a high quality, durable machine that will offer years of performance, the HIIT L6 does just that and more.
With most products like the best stair steppers reviewed today there will be one or more with stand out features that matter most to you. Although there are hundreds of stair steppers available we try to compile only the top rated models on one article to make it easier for your buying needs.
Affordability wise we have kept it quite broad so that they are a moderate cost at all price points. But it’s worth reiterating that although some on the surface seem costly, if you are going to invest in a stair stepper, try and push your budget higher because it will provide a solid exercise routine at home for a lifetime.