Stairmaster machines of all shapes and sizes have been on the market since 1983. At first, they turned the fitness industry upside down for a very simple reason; it allowed anyone to work major muscle groups through low-impact aerobics. However, with newer and more tempting alternatives coming annually, some were inclined to believe that the Stairmaster has had its day. Even so, this humble training instrument still has a few aces up the sleeve.
The Numbers Behind Stair Climbing
Regardless if you do it on actual stairs or on a Stairmaster machine, stair climbing is considered a vigorous type of physical activity. Walking is something that humans have evolved to do, hence its minimal caloric consumption. Climbing stairs, nevertheless, is something we adjusted to. Here are some fascinating numbers sitting behind this apparently simple physical activity:
- Climbing the stairs consumes up to 7 times more energy than lifting and 9 times more energy than sitting;
- Every 10 upward steps that you make consume about 1 calorie (0.15 calories per each step);
- Every 20 downward steps that you make consume about 1 calorie (0.15 calories per each step);
- 120 seconds of extra stair climbing daily can successfully prevent the average weight gain at the middle-age;
- 7 minutes of stair climbing a day can cut the risk of heart attacks on half, for over 10 years.
And remember, the chubbier you are, the more numbers you get into your favor. How many calories you burn depends on your total weight and the intensity of your training intervals. Now that you know the numbers, here are some more facts about the Stairmaster benefits:
What are the exact benefits & weight loss results?
1. It is a more demanding training than it looks
As the name suggests, this equipment intends to help you imitate climbing up stairs. It simply lifts your legs repeatedly, in the same motion. If you have ever climbed a few real stairs, you must know that this activity forces quite a lot of muscles, leaving you out of breath in no time.
Did you know that when you climb stairs (or just imitate the movement on a Stairmaster), you are actually working up to 10 different muscles?
- The muscles that extend your hips – the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, located on the rear of the hip/thigh;
- The muscles that provide your knee extension – the quadriceps, located on the front side of the thigh, which give you the burning feeling;
- The muscles that flex your hips – the iliacus, psoas minor and psoas major, located on the front side of the hip;
- The muscles that provide your ankle plantarflexion – the calf muscles (soleus, tibialis posterior, gastrocnemius), located on the backside of the lower leg.
When working on the Stairmaster, if you have about 150-lb. you can burn up to 360 calories in 45 minutes! The heavier you are, the more calories you burn – up to 480 calories if you have 200-lb!
2. It is a low impact training instrument
Since it involves a repetitive motion for an extended period, this exercise machine is a great cardio support. When you are doing cardio, you do not exhaust yourself with demanding exercises on short periods. On the contrary, you give yourself the time to slowly and steadily increase internal body temperature and stimulate your metabolism to burn calories.
Otherwise said, the Stairmaster promotes weight loss through low impact training. As opposed to other machines, you do not need to alternate sprints with relaxation until you pass out on the floor! The American College of Sports Medicine insists on working between 60 and 90 minutes a day. Thanks to this relatively permissive training method, you can now cover an hour and half of exercising without much effort.
3. It helps you burn calories in 2 different ways
On one hand, you burn calories by working out on a regular base. On the other hand, as already suggested, you set into motion your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. The more you work these muscles, the more extra muscles you are building. And by building muscles, you are not just increasing your resting metabolic rate – you also burn calories while sitting still!
According to the University of Michigan Health System, for every 1 lb. of added muscle your body burns an extra of 30 – 50 calories every day. When you are up on the Stairmaster, you burn calories by working and building muscles. When you are down from it, your newly built muscles will help you burn even more calories while you sit.
4. It sets the base for an easy caloric restriction
The weight loss secret is actually plain math. You need to set a caloric restriction or a caloric deficit, by eating 500 calories less than you need. Cardio and a reduced caloric intake are everything you need to shed the extra pounds. According to the National Institutes of Health, if you cut off 500 calories from your daily meals, you can lose 1-lb. a week.
Moreover, if you alternate low with vigorous intensity training, you can trigger the EPOC – excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Simply put, alternating intensities forces you to consume more oxygen. The more oxygen you use, the more you will need in order to bring back all your body functions to normal. In this way, the body continues to burn calories even after you have finished the workout session.
5. It is easy on your joints and hard on your upper body
Thanks to its main step-after-step motion, a Stairmaster training session is easier on your joints than you might think. The treadmill, for instance, has a considerably bigger impact on your body and it doesn’t even offer the same benefits as climbing stairs at a slower pace. Therefore, while you work your leg muscles without putting pressure on your joints, you also work the upper body.
The only condition is to maintain the right position! Instead of looking down and following every step, try to keep your head forward, your shoulders down, your core tight – remain upright, don’t fold over and don’t rest your upper body on the Stairmaster. You might be surprised to see how demanding this position is for your core muscles.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Stairmaster
If you really want to work all the muscles we mentioned above, to keep your joints in good shape, and to sculpt a few of your core muscles as well, you need to use this equipment the right way.
✔ Watch out for your posture – your hips should be centered over your legs, your body should stay upright, and your hands should merely rest on the machine.
✔ Do the right steps – your soles should press evenly, focusing on the heels, and the movement should stop before you hit the bottom.
✔ Force the core and the glutes – you know you’re doing it right when the most soaring parts will be these two muscle groups.
As a last piece of advice, don’t just assume you know exactly what kind of routines you need. Different Stairmasters have different functions so, ideally, you should hit the gym for one or two supervised training sessions before you take everything into your own hands.