A blog by runners. For runners.

All about step machines

all about step machinesWhile it may be spring, most gym memberships run the course of a full year. So, chances are if you have a membership, you’re still heading indoors to do at least some running or cross-training. We thought it’d be good to cover some more equipment you might not be familiar with. And if you’ve been stagnant on the same machines for a while, think of it as a spring refresh from all that winter slugging. (Check out more gym equipment spotlights.)

Today’s topic: The stepper!

I’ve encountered a couple types of steppers in my exercise experiences. First is the stair climber, which is basically like an elliptical, but with stairs that go in a continual loop. The second is the stepper, which has usually two foot holds that you pump to simulate stepping. And actually all these machines have slightly similar names, but the same purpose. All step machines are actually great cross-trianing because they are low resistance and give your lower half a break from all that pounding on the pavement.

The areas on your body targeted by the stepper include the glutes and hips, as well as the core – if you keep it properly engaged. But don’t worry about bulking up – it’s more about sculpting. As far as calorie burn is concerned: “According to Health Status, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn about 477 calories from a 60-minute stair stepper workout.” That sounds worth a try, am I right?

It’s true that steppers and stair machines are made in different shapes and sizes, but use is very similar regardless. Still, there are some DOs and DON’Ts that are worth reading about, as well as some things to consider if you’ve never used this type of machine before.

  • Focus on resistance and step rate. Many machines come with preprogrammed courses with different intervals and the like. It might be good while you’re starting out to just use the basic program and manually put in your intervals to see how they feel (you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll get those legs moving!)
  • Keep an eye on your posture. Resist the urge to slouch forward by instead holding onto the machine’s handles and keeping a neutral spine. You may also wish to pump your arms naturally at your sides.
  • Engage those core muscles – that’s your best bet for keeping good posture. To this same end, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not over-stressing your knees and that the stepper is using your whole body to execute the motion. (Almost like you were running up flights of stairs in real life!)
  • Resist the urge to rely on your calves to do the heavy lifting. It’s best to try and lower your heels during the step motion versus standing on your tip-toes, which could leave you quite sore and unbalanced.
  • Start small. If you’re not used to this machine, it can feel quite difficult. Give it 10 or 15 minutes to start and make sure you warm up with slower stepping before getting into the high resistance stuff.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.