6 of the Best Stair Climber Machines for Your Home Gym

What is a Stair Climber?

Stair climbers are a common staple at gyms, sitting among the treadmills and stationary bikes, but they are also found in homes. The way they are built can vary but they all have the same goal which is to mimic the workout of walking or running up a set of stairs.

Some are smaller, but most are about the same size and weight as a stationary bike and has steps or pedals that can change in speed and resistance, depending on what kind of workout you want. 

It’s not very practical having to run up and down the stairs, in your house, as you could fall, or damage your joints. However, with a stair climber, you can have a great workout that is also safe.

The 6 Best Stair Climber Machines for Home Use

The Benefits of a Stair Climber

Stair climbers are popular because they are a great cardio workout as well as a muscle workout for the whole body, which the treadmill does not provide as it’s more focused on cardio. The stair climber is intensive and adds more weight to your leg muscles – especially the quads. On average, just a half-hour session on a stair climber can burn up to 260 calories. 

Stair climbers are beneficial for your joints because they only go up whereas a lot of damage that knees take when using the stairs, is caused by going down. The knee and the joint beneath the kneecap experience significant force and over time can cause arthritis and other orthopedic conditions.

As well as this, the use of a stair climber builds the muscle in the legs that surround the knee and thus takes the pressure off the joint, losing weight also takes the strain off. 

Another benefit of the stair climber is that it can help build bone strength as well as engage the entire body and make the muscles both lean and sculpted. If you maintain proper posture throughout the workout, the core muscle in your abdomen will stay engaged and strengthen the lower back, this will correct your posture even when you are not on the stair climber. 

The stair climber also does wonders for your cardio. When you are walking up a few flights of stairs on the way to your office or your apartment, unless you are very fit - will notice that you need a moment to catch your breath.

This is because your heart rate has increased and is working the cardiovascular system which is burning calories and speeding up the intake of oxygen. The stair climber will help you build this cardio so that you can increase your endurance and make you an overall much healthier person. 

The 6 Best Stair Climber Machines for Home Use

OUR TOP PICK

If you are looking for a machine that can perform as a stair climber and an elliptical then the Bowflex M3 Max Trainer is a good option for you. The information you need regarding your workout is easy to track with the burn rate display which looks like a speedometer in a car.

This shows how many calories you have burned per minute and sets targets. There is also an interactive backlit display with two workout programs and eight resistant levels which can be changed with just a click of a dial. 

The elliptical is easy and has a low-impact motion whereas the stair climber burns more calories which makes this machine great for beginners, it will still give you an intense workout though as in just 14 minutes will give you the same cardio benefits as interval training and supports wireless heart monitoring. 

Pros:

  • Combines elliptical and stair climber – combines low impact with calorie burning
  • Supports wireless heart monitoring – can track heart rate easily 
  • Target zone – sets targets to keep you motivated

Cons:

  • Eight resistant levels – other machines in the series have more than 10 levels
  • Two workout programs – not as much as the other max series

EDITORS CHOICE

When you think of a stair climber you will probably envision something that looks like the StairMaster SM3 StepMill, it looks self-explanatory with a small set of stairs, handles, and a display screen.

StairMaster is a popular brand of stair climbers for a reason as they have made numerous high-performance stair climbers and the SM3 StepMill is no exception. The revolving set of 6-inch stairs offers a step range of 26 to 126 steps per minute which gives your legs a strong workout. 

There are also 10 workout options that involve Manual, Quick Start, Steady, Build, Mystery Challenge, Build, Bell Shaped, Fat Burner, Calorie Burner, Heart Rate Intervals, and Heart Rate Zone.

All of this can be navigated via the console that also tracks your calories, heart rate, time, and what level you are on among other things. The SM3 StepMill can also measure your heart rate with its pulse grips mounted to the handrails, it is also small enough to be easily tucked into the corner of a room or even a cupboard when not being used. 

Pros:

  • 10 workout options – lots of options to choose from so you can vary your workout
  • Pulse grips – ergonomic grips on the handles that measure heart rate
  • Small – it can be tucked away when not in use

Cons:

  • Noisy – earplugs can be used to block out the noise if it is too loud

BEST VALUE

This stair climber is as portable as you can get, weighing in at 14.5 pounds. It is small and compact which makes it easy to put away and even take in the car. As well as being portable, this stair climber also has removable resistance bands. These resistance bands help tighten over 20 different core muscles by using low-impact aerobic exercises. 

You will not have to worry about falling off the stepper as you do these exercises because they have non-slip foot pads that keep you secure, no matter your shoe size. The stepper also has a hydraulic drive system which makes the stepping motion nice and smooth.

You can also adjust the step motion height for either long steps or short bursts. The LCD digital monitor lets you see the distance you have covered, calories, and the time, the scan mode displays your progress which helps to track your fitness and set goals. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight – weighs only 14.5 pounds which makes it portable and easy to put away
  • Resistance bands – resistance bands work out muscles in the whole body
  • Hydraulic drive system – makes the stepping motion smooth and comfortable

Cons:

  • Delicate frame – the frame is not as sturdy as other machines as it is lightweight and portable

RUNNER UP

This stair climber is a bit of a beast as it measures 89-inches high and weighs 343 pounds. Do not let the imposing build of this machine put you off though as it is one of the best stair climbers you can buy. It has eight revolving steps that are 8-inches high, 22-inches wide, and 9-inches deep which give you an accurate feeling of using real stairs.

There is a broad range of intensity you can choose from as can change the speed at which the steps revolve at, ranging from 26 steps per minute to 162 steps per minute. Since the Gauntlet is so big, it has a weight limit of 350 pounds which makes it accessible to more individuals. 

The console is a 10-inch touchscreen that lets you tune into TV and stream videos from your own devices which is done through an HDMI cable. Having this feature lets you tune out and finish your workouts whilst your favorite shows at the same time.

This machine also comes with a USB port for charging devices and software updates, a personal fan that you can program via the console, and a hot bar on the handrail which can be used to remote stop, adjust levels, and contact pulse rate monitor.

You can safely get off the Gauntlet by using the step assistants which are on the bottom stairs on the side and can even be used while the steps are still revolving. If that’s not enough to give you a high-quality workout then maybe the two bottle holders on either side of the console will convince you. 

Pros:

  • Media streaming – the touchscreen console allows you to stream media as you workout
  • Hot bar – lets you control features from the handle
  • 350 pounds weight limit – is accessible to more people

Cons:

  • Big and bulky – takes up more room at home and is hard to move

RUNNER UP

The Deco Home Step Machine is a great little addition to a household. It may be small but it is not fragile and can support up to 220 pounds due to the heavy-duty steel frame. Like other stair climbers, this one has an LCD screen that tracks calories, time, and step count.

Two adjustable handlebars are there for you to provide balance along with the non-slip pedals that keep your feet in the right position. Even during the intense workouts, your floor will remain unscathed thanks to the rubber footpads on the base of the machine. 

Pros:

  • Small – can easily be put away 
  • 220 weight limit – impressive considering its size

Cons:

  • Not many features – the stair resistance cannot be changed and lacks features that other stair climbers have

RUNNER UP

A hydraulic resistance system is used in this machine which results in an effective workout. However, keep in mind that this particular machine is not made for anything intense but if you are a beginner or are injured then this machine will still be very beneficial for your health.

If you are looking to push yourself a bit further then you can use the removable resistance bands to work the whole body. The handlebars with slip-resistant handles are adjustable and the way that this step machine is designed, slightly tilts your body forward which simulates the motion of walking up inclines, resulting in a much more comfortable experience, and with the non-slip pedals, you can relax and focus on toning your muscles.

There is an LCD monitor that tracks all the information you need such as calories burned, time, steps, and step frequency. Once you are done with your workout, the collapsible frame allows you to fold it up and tuck it away out of sight. 

Pros:

  • Collapsible frame – the step machine can be folded up and becomes very portable
  • Resistant bands – allows more workout options and can be removed if needed

Cons:

  • Limited features – does not offer as many features as other stair climbers
  • Intensity – does not provide an intense workout 

Best Stair Climber Machines For Home Use Buying Guide

Finding the right stair climber for you depends on the intensity of the workout you are looking for, the space you have available in your home, and what additional features you want.

If you are looking for a 2-in-1 machine that combines a stair climber and an elliptical then the Bowflex M3 Max Trainer would be a good choice for obtaining the intensity of the steps and the strides of the elliptical which can target different muscles. If you want a stair climber that focuses on the stepping aspect then you would not go wrong with choosing the StairMaster SM3 StepMill, it looks like a mini staircase and acts like one, the six-inch stairs and 10 workout programs guarantee you are going to get the most out this stair climber.

If you are serious about fitness, have plenty of space, and are interested in all of the features a stair climber has to offer then the StairMaster 8 Series Gauntlet will work well for you, otherwise, if you are looking for a machine to make you feel like you’re walking up the stairs and don’t care for the added features, then you are just as well going with the Sunny Health & Fitness Mini Stepper. 

If you struggle with staying motivated then getting a stair climber with features that track progress will feed your drive to see improvements and if you find yourself getting bored while you work out, you can get a stair climber that allows you to stream media on its monitor as you exercise if you do not have one at hand yourself.

Most if not all stair climbers come with handlebars and non-slip pedals but if you are particularly worried about falling or losing balance then you are able to get a stair machine that has little platforms on the side of the steps that help you mount and dismount like the StairMaster 8 Series Gauntlet. 

Stair climbers are a fantastic way to work out every muscle in your body and seeing all of the different models available online can get a bit much, especially if you are new to the scene. Some use revolving stairs and others use moving pedals but they are all completing the same goal of giving you a personalized experience that works best for you.

However, there are some differences between the two machines that you might want to consider. The stepper machines use pedals instead of revolving steps and move in a vertical motion, imitating the pattern of going upstairs. This is a better option for those who are worried about falling but still want a good workout.

The steppers are also usually a bit smaller and less expensive than the revolving stairs machines, so if you are tight for space, look for steppers but if you are looking for more of a challenge then look into the machines that use revolving stairs. Stair climbers that use revolving stairs do a better job at imitating the feeling of climbing stairs and this is usually more challenging and gives you a more intense workout.

However, they do tend to be more expensive, heavier, and take up more space though so it depends on what you are willing to sacrifice.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long should you stay on a stair climber?

If you are just beginning, it is recommended that you start with 15 minutes. This gives you time to test your resistance, endurance, and speed. From there you can gradually build it up to 30 minutes which can burn up to 300 calories per session.

It is also advised to start your session with a 10-minute warm-up to get your muscles and heart activated to avoid any injuries. Once you have gotten your sessions up to 30 minutes, it’s best to do it five days a week instead of seven so that your muscles have time to repair themselves and thus be stronger for the next session. 

Is a stair climber better than a treadmill?

As mentioned earlier, the stair climber and the treadmill are both very beneficial for overall fitness but along with being an effective way to improve your cardio, there is more resistance when using stair climbers, and your core is engaged the whole time.

This is not like the treadmill as it focuses more on cardio, it is also more impactful on the joints, especially the knees which can have detrimental effects for some people so if you want to protect your joints the stair climber is a better option. 

Are stair climbers good for losing weight?

Your muscles get toned and strengthened and engage your whole body which is great for weight loss. It takes strength from both your hamstrings and your glutes in order to push each leg up to the next step and this is the key to weight loss as you are building muscle. 

Building muscle means that the body also burns more calories in order to fuel and build these muscles, this also carries on after you have gotten off the stair climber as your body is still using those calories to repair the muscle fibers which then makes them stronger for the next session. 

Since the stair master is less impact than the treadmill, you may find yourself working out for longer than you were intending to. Having an exercise that is fun and does not make you dread the thought of it is one of the keys to staying consistent which is when you start to see results. Give yourself time to get used to the stair climber as it can be tricky at first, and you will start to reap the rewards. 

The amount of time it will take for you to see results after using the stair climber consistently depends on a few factors. If you are beginning this journey as someone who is overweight, then you will see more drastic results than someone who is fit already. However, in general, if you are sticking with the stair climber and eating healthily you should start to see weight loss in two to four weeks. 

What does walking sideways on a stair climber do?

This last question may sound ridiculous but if you feel you have conquered the stair climber and are confident with it then you can up the ante by walking on it sideways. People might look at you’ve lost the plot, but little do they know, you are actually burning more calories than you would be if you were walking up the stairs normally.

To do this, you will need a stair climber with revolving stairs and shouldn’t be holding onto the handles so if you feel you will lose your balance, give this sideways method a pass. It is important to have your hands free for this because if you are holding on you do not get the full benefit and it can cause bad posture.

When you are walking sideways, always watch your feet while keeping your back straight so that you do not trip over yourself. Because you are balancing your body as you climb, you are burning more calories and the muscles in the lower body are working harder. Make sure you swap sides so that both sides of your body get an equal workout. 

Kevin Harris
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