What Muscles Does a Mini Stepper Use?

A mini stepper is a useful – and compact – piece of equipment to have in your home gym. It’s designed to replicate walking or climbing stairs, but with added resistance. If you are shopping around for the best mini stepper, check out this article.

To help you understand why a mini stepper is a great workout accessory, let’s take a look at the muscles it uses.

Mini Stepper Muscles Worked

Whether using the mini stepper sitting down or standing up, a mini stepper mainly works your lower body. In no particular order, here are the main muscles you’ll use on a mini stepper.


The gluteal muscles are a group of 3 muscles that make up your bum. In the group are the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius. Toning this muscle group gives you a firmer backside and helps make your hips more defined.

glutes on a mini stepper

Will a Mini Stepper Tone my Bum?

Climbing stairs or steep inclines is one of the few exercises that effectively targets your glutes. Stair climbing machines are therefore a perfect way of exercising and toning this often neglected set of vital muscles. 

If you’re looking for more of a challenge that could help you tone and strengthen your buttocks while using the mini stepper, one option is to increase the level of tension on the steps.

If you really want to ramp up toning the buttocks add in resistance training on top of your mini stepper workout. Exercises like squats, deadlifts and lunges are common glute building exercises.

Will a Mini Stepper Tone My Legs?

You’ll mainly work your glutes on the up step of the mini stepper. For best results, keep your muscles engaged during the up step as you put your weight on the down foot.

I get asked this question all the time – will a mini stepper tone my legs? Yes! but you need to be consistent and add resistance. For a harder mini stepper workout on your glutes, simply hold a set of dumbbells.

All you’re doing is adding to the weight that your legs and bum have to push, but it’s ideal for improving muscle tone without much difficulty.


Your quadriceps femoris muscle is the group that makes up the front of your thigh muscles. There are 4 main muscles in this group:

  • Rectus femoris
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Vastus medialis
  • Vastus intermedius

Together, these muscles act as the knee extensors and are vital for proper leg movement and flexibility.

Your quads do most of the work on the downward step, so be sure to keep them engaged as you push down.

Tensor Fasciae Latae

The tensor fasciae latae muscle is located in your thigh and helps stabilise the pelvis when standing or walking. It’s also used in hip rotation and flex movements, so toning it is important for proper balance and posture.

Mini stepper footplates are angled to help engage and tone this muscle. There’s not much advice for specifically targeting this muscle, as it works in conjunction with the gluteus maximus. This is why it the mini stepper is a more effective exercise tool than walking.

what muscles does a mini stepper use?

Hip Flexors

Your hip flexors are a group of muscles in your thigh that, unsurprisingly, aid hip movement. Along with the rectus femoris mentioned above, this group contains:

While each muscle does something slightly different, they all help with hip movement and stability. 

Focus on working these in your up and down movements. Again, you can’t target them specifically, but the resistance offered by the mini stepper will help to tone them.


The calf muscle consists of 2 muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Together, they pull the heel up to produce forward movement.

Mini steppers are ideal for calf muscle training because you’re using your whole body weight in conjunction with the machine’s resistance. 


Hamstrings actually refer to any of 3 muscles in the posterior of your thigh. They’re a muscle group most are familiar with because of their susceptibility to injury.

It should come as no surprise that your hamstrings get worked when using a mini stepper. Toning them on this machine should help reduce the chances of injury, as it’s an ideal low-impact exercise.


A cross-trainer at a gym is great because it allows you to work your upper body, but a mini stepper isn’t much different. Granted, you’re not actively moving your arms, but using your lower body forces you to engage your core to maintain balance.

muscles engaged in mini stepping

To get the most from a mini stepper, use proper form to keep your core engaged. This means keeping your spine straight and your abs contracted. It can help to visualize them supporting your body and providing balance while you step.

Be sure to take deep, strong breaths and contract your abs during the exhale. Doing this should allow you to push the air out while keeping your muscles active.

Upper Body

A typical mini stepper works the lower body and core if used properly. Some machines come with cables so you can work your upper body too. So, if you want a full-body workout from this machine, look out for one with cables.

You can use cables to do resistance training on your biceps, pecs, and triceps. Exercises like curls and triceps presses are super easy when using a mini stepper. Of course, if it doesn’t have cables, you can always use dumbbells instead.

upper body on mini stepper

Does a Mini Stepper Build Muscle?

In short, no. The mini stepper does not build muscle. As its primarily used as a cardiovascular machine, it provides an aerobic workout. This type of workout does not build muscle but improves muscular endurance.

However if you have resistance bands attached to your mini stepper or light weights you can hold while you step you can build lean muscle. Holding weights or extra resistance will not only help build the upper body but also strength your core.

Limitations of a Mini Stepper

While a mini stepper is great for muscle tone, it’s limited by its range of movement. You can only move your legs in a regular stepping pattern.

If you were to exercise on real stairs, you could hop, miss out stairs, or mix in other actions that would vary your exercise routine.

Of course, a mini stepper does help by providing variable resistance, which you won’t get on normal stairs.

Regardless of this limitation, it’s still a great piece of kit to own for toning your legs. If you’re set on building bigger leg muscles, you’ll obviously need to vary your routine and use a mini stepper alongside other exercises.

Stair Machine Muscles worked

Like all steppers, a stair machines useful for muscle tone and cardio exercise. The stair machine exercises all muscles in the lower body including the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads and abdominals.

While they can only offer one movement (up and down), you can vary your routine by changing the resistance and adding upper body exercises.

When you go shopping for a mini stepper, be sure to try a few out to find the right model for your needs. Then, make sure you look up some exercise plans to get the most from your new machine.

Whichever model you choose, happy stepping!

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An ex-triathlete, fitness coach and writer with a Masters in Sports Physiology. Fitness is my passion and I've had my fair share of home fitness equipment tried and tested!