Tips for a Fun and Challenging Stair Climber Workout

Planet Fitness club member on a stair climber
When used correctly, the stair climber is an excellent choice for cardio.

by Catherine Santino

Picture this: You walk into the gym for the first time. You look around. You notice some of the machines have complicated names and look even more complex. But then, in the distance, you see a stair climber. You think to yourself, "I climb stairs every day, how hard could it be?" and you hop on.

Yes, the stair climber is a fairly simple exercise machine (which makes it a great choice for beginners). However, if you want to make the most of your stair climber workout, it's important to use the machine properly and maintain good form. Here are some tips that can help you navigate the equipment and maximize the effectiveness of your workout.

Consider Your Posture and Pace

When used correctly, the stair climber is an excellent choice for cardio work. If you have back issues or are looking to switch up your treadmill routine for a lower-impact exercise, head straight for the stair climber. This machine can also help you build strength in the lower body and work those glutes!

When using the stair climber, keep your abdominal muscles tight and back straight. Try not to rest all of your weight on the handlebars. In fact, you can challenge yourself by only using the handlebars for balance when necessary. Don't try to be a superhero, though — if you feel unstable or like you're going to fall over, definitely use the bars. Just make sure you're focusing your weight on the lower body instead of your arms, so you can target the muscle groups in your legs and glutes.

Once you feel comfortable with the equipment, consider the pace you'll want to work at. It's best to keep your heart rate up; you don't want to start off too strong and immediately exhaust yourself. You can follow one of the machine's preprogrammed interval workouts, or you can go at your own pace and design a customized stair climber workout. Either way, this is a great way to kick your normal cardio routine up a notch and target muscle groups in the lower body.

Making the Most of a Stair Climber Workout

Now that you've given some thought to the proper posture and pace, you're ready to plant your feet firmly on the steps and get moving! Depending on how you distribute your weight, you can work different muscles. "Land and push off with the ball of your foot to target the quads, or place more weight on your heels to target the glutes and hamstrings," trainer Lisa Niren told Shape Magazine.

Here's an easy, four-step stair climber workout to try during your next gym visit:

  1. As you warm up, climb at a slow, light pace for two to five minutes. This helps your muscles loosen up and prepare for the work ahead.
  2. As you begin to find your groove, increase your pace for anywhere between one and five minutes.
  3. Then, slow your pace (back down to the starting speed) for another one to five minutes.
  4. Finally, increase your pace again for another one to five minutes. Feel that heart rate rise again!


Repeat this pattern as many times as you want. The intervals help keep your heart rate high without pushing yourself too hard. When you're finished, spend roughly five minutes cooling down at a light pace.

As you get more comfortable performing this workout, you'll likely find you're able to increase your pace for longer intervals and have more energy. As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer hereHappy climbing!