How to Use the Stair Stepper

If you’ve never tried a stair stepping machine (StairMaster, stair climber, etc.), you’re missing out on a fantastic cardio exercise that strengthens your legs and lungs at the same time. A stair stepper is a moderate-intensity option that anyone can do.

Not all stair stepping machines are alike, but most offer workout variables based on three things: resistance, pace, and foot position.

Start with a low resistance and ramp up until you have to push in order to move the pedal back down. If the pedal’s doing the work, resistance is too light. Don’t lean on the side rails or handles; these are for balance only.

Most machines allow you to control how fast the pedals move, either manually or in a preprogrammed workout. Go fast enough so that during the peak of your workout, you can answer a question comfortably, but not carry on a conversation.

Foot Position:
Most of the time, you should start with your foot flat on the pedal, rising up onto your toes slightly as the pedal raises. But if you’d like to work your hamstrings or calves, you can scoot your feet back so your heels are off the pedal, pushing you up on your toes more fully and frequently.

*Extra Tip: Your body position should be upright at all times.  Don't lean your weight into the handlebars or console. Leaning to the sides or front of the machine actually decreases your workload dramatically and increases your risk of injury due to improper form.  Think about standing tall and letting your hands just lightly touch the handlebars for support. 
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Member Comments

Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Great advice. Thanks Report
thanks for sharing Report
thank you Report
I just got a stair stepper, so this article is of great help. Thanks. Report
Maybe I should start doing this exercise too. Report
Good to know. I try to get in several flights of stairs each day. Report
Good to know. thanks Report
Good article. Report
Great article. Thanks, Coach Nicole! Report
Moderate intensity? I get my heart rate up higher and faster on the stepper than any other equipment I tried including elipticals, bicycle ergometers and treadmills.

Agreed with the advice not to lean on the equipment.

I notice at the gym that everyone lines up for the stair mills and ignores the old lever steppers. By using the old equipment I can use it as long as I want and there is rarely any wait. I tried the stair mills and didn't find them any better than the lever steppers. Report
Great article...i just summoned the courage to start using the stair stepper so I am happy to have a guideline. Report
Great article. This helps to understand the machine and its use. Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.