Proper Exercise Technique on a StairMaster

Man stepping stairs in a gym,man working out at the gym on the step exercise machine

The stair-climber machine is a heart-pumping, sweat-inducing workout. Think about the effort it takes to climb a flight of stairs and then imagine doing that for 30 minutes straight. Your heart, lungs, legs and core work together to keep climbing the steps for a stationary workout that takes you to great heights.

Body Position

Position your feet in the middle of the pedal with an equal distance on each side of your foot. Your heel should be underneath your knee, instead of having your knee forward above your toes. Use good posture as you climb. Keep your head looking forward, your shoulders down, your chest up, your core tight and your arms relaxed. Place your hands on the rails for balance, but do not white-knuckle grip the rail.

Leg Movement

When you approach the machine, both of the pedals will be about level. As soon as you step on a pedal, it will begin to lower. This is when you begin the stair-climbing motion with your legs. Push down on one pedal and the other pedal will come up. Push through your heel to use your glutes. Push down to a level that feels comfortable for you. You can use small steps that are 6 to 8 inches deep or use larger steps that are 8 to 12 inches deep. Alternate your steps at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation and does not leave you completely winded.


Stair-climbers have an adjustable resistance. As a beginner, select a light resistance so you do not have to push hard to lower the pedals. When your strength and endurance improve, increase the resistance for a greater muscular challenge and to continue to see improvements. A higher resistance will slow your stepping pace, which may help you maintain good posture. If you find yourself leaning on the machine for support, increase the resistance so you can keep your weight centered in your legs.


The stair-climbing workout is an aerobic activity. Your heart rate elevates. Your breathing rate quickens, and you are able to do it consistently. Aim to spend 20 to 30 minutes climbing stairs. A 5-minute warm-up at a low-intensity level begins your workout session and then you gradually increase your speed or resistance. Maintain your moderate-intensity stair climbing for 15 to 20 minutes and follow with a 5 minute cooldown at a low-intensity level. As your fitness improves, add 5 to 10 minutes per workout per week.