The Stairmaster, first invented in the 1980s, has increased in popularity over the last 10 years and can now be found in most decent gyms – and rightly so, they’re a great piece of equipment that offer several different benefits.
If you’ve snubbed the Stairmaster while heading towards your favourite cardio machine, it may be time to re-think.
Suitable for beginners to advanced athletes, we’re here to uncover the Stairmaster benefits and show you the reasons why should consider adding it to your routine.
Essentially the Stairmaster is rotating steps that you climb, but don’t actually move (just like the running machine where you run but stay in the same place). Similar to the running machine you can adjust the speed and you stay on it as long as you want based on your goals.
The Stairmaster is a great cardio machine that effectively targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calfs – as well as improving your aerobic conditioning.
Not only is the Stairmaster a great exercise for targeting the muscles in the lower body, but exercising with the Stairmaster provides several different cardio benefits.
The first benefit of using the Stairmaster is how you can efficiently burn calories. If you’ve ever stepped on one, you’ll know that after just a few minutes your heart will be pumping, and you’ll soon begin to melt.
Cardio machines are one of the best ways to burn calories, and the Stairmaster is no different. A 2012 found that on average 8.5 calories were burnt after 1 minute of climbing stairs at a normal pace – that equates to 170 calories after 20 minutes, and that’s at a walking pace! . If we up the pace, we’re going to burn more.
If you didn’t already know, to lose weight, we need to be in a calorie deficit (We need to eat less than we burn daily). To facilitate this, we either need to eat less or burn more. Burning calories on the Stairmaster can help create the negative energy balance (calorie deficit) needed for weight loss.
“Regular stair climbing has been shown to be effective in improving cardiovascular health” .
A benefit of using the Stairmaster regularly is that it can help to improve the efficiency of your lungs. Our VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen our body can utilise during exercise, essentially, it’s our VO2 max that dictates how long we can exercise for before tiring.
Stairmaster training has can help increase our VO2 max, which improves how much oxygen we can deliver to the muscles. This increased oxygen delivery can help up workout for longer before fatiguing.
Getting the heart pumping on the Stairmaster is also great for improving heart health. As with any cardio exercise, if we elevate our heart rate, we’re going to experience positive health benefits. A healthy heart will be efficient at pumping oxygen rich blood to the muscles when they need it.
These benefits spill over into our strength training workouts. Have you ever had to stop on a set of squats before your legs are tired due to being short of breath? Well improving our cardiovascular fitness can help that.
On top of cardio benefits, using the Stairmaster offers several strength benefits.
A recent study conducted in 2020 looked at the gluteus maximas activation of the most popular glute exercises.
What they found was that the step-up exercise activated the glutes to a higher degree compared to exercises such as back squats, hip thrusts, and deadlifts. See for yourself!
Retrieved from Journal of sports science and medicine 
As the Stairmaster is basically the same movement as the step-up, I think it’s fair to say the Stairmaster is going to target the butt.
For the best results, we recommend combining the Stairmaster with muscle building glute exercises to really add some size to the rear.
If you’re one of the few people blessed with sizeable calves, then good for you. Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with the annoyingly difficult task of trying to grow them.
If there’s something more we can do to help them grow, we’ll grab it with both hands. The Stairmaster is a great exercise to target the calves as the muscle will be contracting every time we take a step.
If we’re doing on average 90 steps a minute at an average speed, that’s a lot of contracting for those reluctant to grow calves – forcing them into new growth!
Working alongside the quads, glutes, and calves, the hamstrings are another muscle that greatly benefits from the Stairmaster. The hamstrings are located on the back of the knee and are responsible for bending the knee, so every time we take another step, the hamstrings are working.
Something you may not know is that working out on the Stairmaster can help build stronger bones. When we perform any weight bearing exercise, such as climbing stairs, our body responds to the stimulus and builds stronger, healthier bones.
When you perform weight bearing exercises, osteoblasts (Cells responsible for creating bone matter), build more bone mass to cope with the added stimuli stress. This additional bone mass helps to build dense, thick, strong healthy bones.
Let’s look at the other benefits the Stairmaster has to offer..
Other forms of cardio, such as the treadmill, can wreak havoc on the knees. The Stairmaster is the low impact alternative that can be done without the pain. You still get the cardio benefits, but without soreness.
Using the Stairmaster may even help to prevent future knee pain. You see, the continuous stepping motion can help build the muscles around the knee that are responsible for knee stabilisation. If we can keep the kneecap stable, then we may be able to reduce our chances of injury.
Walking on the Stairmaster is also a unilateral movement (trains one limb at a time), this can help prevent muscle imbalances saving you from injury problems along the line.
As we mentioned earlier, the Stairmaster is a great machine at burning calories. If our goal is to lose fat, then we need to be burning more calories than we consume on a daily basis. If we use the Stairmaster to help create a calorie deficit, then the Stairmaster can help us lose fat.
It is said that walking 20 steps on the Stairmaster is equivalent to 80 steps on the ground – this just goes to show how efficient it really is.
The Stairmaster is a complete lower body workout, which as mentioned previously, targets the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. If you’ve ever walked up a long flight of stairs, you’ll appreciate how taxing it is on your body. Not only does it leave you gasping for air (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration), but your lower body muscles will be burning up!
Using the Stairmaster consistently will work wonders for toning those lower body muscles, and help build that heart shaped butt.
Keeping our workouts interesting is one way to increase adherence. If we did the same workouts day in, day out, we’re going to get bored. As once we’re bored, that’s it. We’ll start making excuses as to why we can’t come to the gym and before we know it, we’ve fallen off the wagon.
Switching workouts up is a great way to stay motivated, it’s always good trying new things, so challenge yourself with a Stairmaster workout.
If you’re looking for a cardio machine to build the glutes – The Stairmaster is your answer. Try the following glute building Stairmaster workout for maximum benefits.
Set 1 – 2 Minutes – 1 Step at a time
Set 2 – 2 Minutes – Skip a step
Set 3 – 2 Minutes – 1 Step kickbacks
Set 5 – 2 Minutes – 1 step at a time
Set 5 – 2 Minutes – 2 step kickbacks
Set 6 – 2 Minutes – Side step crossover (Left leg)
Set 7 – 2 Minutes – Side step crossover (Right leg)
For the Stairmaster fat loss workout, we’ve opted for a HIIT style workout. To begin the workout we’ll perform a 2 minute warm up at a comfortable speed.
After the warm up we’ll be doing 10 sets of the following:
1 minute at a fast pace, followed by 30 seconds at a slow recovery pace. We’ll then repeat 10 times without any rest.
The key here is to find a speed that’s right for you, there is no right or wrong starting point. But the fast pace should be fast enough to raise the heart rate and tire you out.
Set 1 – 1 minute – Fast pace
Set 2 – 30 seconds – Reduced recovery pace
Repeat set1&2 without any rest.
We hope that as you’ve been reading through this article, you’ve realised that the Stairmaster is not to be sniffed at. Not only does this cardio machine provide obvious cardiovascular benefits, but it also provides a number of strength and general health benefits.
Give the workouts we mentioned a try, feel the burn, and thank us later!
As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed the article and learned a thing or two. Drop a comment below to let us know how you get on!
 Halsey, L. G., Watkins, D. A., & Duggan, B. M. (2012). The energy expenditure of stair climbing one step and two steps at a time: estimations from measures of heart rate. PloS one, 7(12), e51213. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051213
 TEH, KONG CHUAN; AZIZ, ABDUL RASHID. Heart rate, oxygen uptake, and energy cost of ascending and descending the stairs. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2002 - Volume 34 - Issue 4 - p 695-699
 Neto, W. K., Soares, E. G., Vieira, T. L., Aguiar, R., Chola, T. A., Sampaio, V. L., & Gama, E. F. (2020). Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review. Journal of sports science & medicine, 19(1), 195–203.