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. Many gyms also offer a step climber that looks like a mini, stationary escalator. Both machines function to help you burn calories and improve cardiovascular fitness. The one you choose depends on your goals and personal preference.
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 burn calories as you use the muscles in your legs to accomplish the workout -- 150-pound woman can sizzle 260 calories in 30 minutes going at a moderate pace. Stairmasters are easily found in fitness centers and newer Stairmasters have televisions connected to them to keep your mind occupied while you're climbing.
If you're seeking variety in your workout program, step climbers give you that challenge. This machine looks like a revolving staircase as you continuously climb flights of stairs. The step climber develop your balance as you burn calories -- 394 calories in 30 minutes for a 150-pound woman. 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.
Most health clubs, even the smaller centers, will have a Stairmaster available for your use. Step climbers 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. The step climber 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 step climber is that when using the Stairmaster your feet do not leave the pedals. On the step climber, you will pick up your foot as the next step descends towards you.
The step climber 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 step climber can be used backwards or sideways.
The step climber 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.
Which to Choose?
Both machines also help develop your lower body, particularly your buttocks. Because the Step climber is most like climbing a true set of stairs and enables you to go through the full range of motion, it's slightly more effective in activating and toning your muscles as well as in burning calories.
On both machines, ensure you stand up tall and take a full step to get the most out of the exercise. If you lean forward and rest some or all of your weight on the handles, you cheat your legs and butt of the workout.