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Step Climbers Vs. Stair Masters

author image Lisa M. Wolfe
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.
Step Climbers Vs. Stair Masters
Is the Stairmaster the best choice for you? Photo Credit Joseph C. Justice Jr./iStock/Getty Images

If you take a walk through the cardio equipment area of a fitness center, you will probably see a Stairmaster. It looks like a large machine with handrails and two flat pedals that you push down. A less common sight is a Stepclimber. It looks like a mini, stationary escalator. Both machines function to help you burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness.


The Stairmaster is an aerobic exercise machine that simulates stair climbing. You move your feet up and down against resistance as if propelling yourself up a continuous flight of stairs. You will burn calories as you use the muscles in your legs to accomplish the workout. Stairmasters are easily found in fitness centers and newer Stairmasters have televisions connected to them to keep your mind occupied while you are climbing.


If you are seeking variety in your workout program, the Stepclimber will give you that challenge. This machine looks like a revolving staircase as you continuously climb flights of stairs. The Stepclimber will develop your balance as you are burning calories. As you advance, you can climb backwards and sideways to further benefit your balance and to add variety. The sideways movement also strengthens your muscles along the outsides of your legs.


You will have an easier time finding a Stairmaster at a gym. Most health clubs, even the smaller centers, will have a Stairmaster available for your use. Stepclimbers are more expensive, so smaller gyms may not offer this piece of equipment and if they do, usually only one will be available.


When choosing which machine to use during your workout, keep in mind that both will burn calories and strengthen your heart and lungs. Each machine contains adjustable programs ranging from manual, in which you set the pace, to intervals, in which the machines automatically speed up and slow down according to a set time schedule. When beginning, use the handles on the machines to aid in balance. As you progress, aim to climb stairs without holding the side rails. To accelerate your heart rate, the speeds on both machines can be increased.


The main difference between a Stairmaster and Stepclimber is that when using the Stairmaster your feet do not leave the pedals. On the Stepclimber, you will pick up your foot as the next step descends towards you. The Stepclimber has a fixed 8 inch height for the stairs. The Stairmaster allows you to push the pedal to a depth between 1 and 14 inches. Also, the Stairmaster should only be safely used facing forward. The Stepclimber can be used backwards or sideways. The Stepclimber takes you through a full, true gait cycle, as you're genuinely climbing stairs with forward movement. The Stepmaster only works the vertical portion of the step gait; as such, it's not as complete a movement.

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