What Does a Stair Climber Work?

By Linda Ray

  • Overview

    Stair climbers are exercise machines that simulate walking up and down stairways. They come in various forms, from stationary sets of stairs to high tech moving steps that can be adjusted for speed and resistance. Stair climbers, also called step machines, are in integral part of a total workout and are available in most gyms and fitness centers. Since stair climbers work very specific muscles groups, they are not always recommended for home use unless there is room for additional equipment in the home gym.
  • Low Impact

    Stair climbing provides a low impact workout that is easy on the knee and ankle joints. It is recommended for those who cannot perform jolting exercise such as running and treadmill walking. Stair climbing can become aerobic when the speed of the stepping is increased and the time of the workout continues for more than 10 minutes. When taken to a level that increases the heart rate, a stair climber can help to work out the heart and lungs. It also can serve as a valuable addition to a weight-loss exercise program.
  • Legs

    Stair climbers primarily work the legs. Calves are stretched and pumped as each step is taken. Some stair climbing machines have higher rises in the steps, which add to the flexing of the calf and thigh muscles. As a workout on a stair climber progresses, focus can be shifted to put more pressure on the front thighs or on the calves. By varying the posture and changing up on the body movements, the legs can receive a total workout.


  • Buttocks

    The most effective use of stair climbing routines provides a heavy workout for the rear end. By maintaining a very straight posture and focusing on pushing down each step with the use of the rear end muscles, the muscles will begin to develop. By sticking with a stair climber regularly, the gluteus maximus will develop into a firm, rounded mass.
  • Bones

    Stair climbing is well known for its bone building abilities because it is a weight-bearing exercise. Each step alternates the body's weight fully onto the legs and feet to provide steady pressure on the bones in the lower body. To minimize injury, it is important to maintain a straight posture when stair climbing. The impact is meant for the legs and feet, not the back. Bending over too far forward can cause a strain on the back while negating the positive bone building effects in the legs.
  • Warning

    Stair climbing machines are relatively easy to learn, but a certain amount of coordination is required. Most stair climbers have handles to use to maintain balance. Hands should rest lightly on those bars. Do not rest any weight on the handles or half the workout results will be lost. Stair climbing can get boring and should be incorporated into a workout on a rotating basis with other machines in the gym.
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