Stair Climber Workouts (Killer HIIT Cardio & Glute Focus)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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A stair climber workout is a must-have if you want to build your leg muscles and improve cardiorespiratory health.

Climbing stairs has been shown to have many positive effects on cardiac output, respiratory health, and longevity, among many other things.

Based on my experience as a certified personal trainer and 24-hours of research, I compiled the list of the best stair climber machine workouts so you can experience the same benefits and improve the quality of your life.

After reading the article, you can choose between different workouts to execute in your weekly routine, their benefits, and how to implement them.

Quick Summary

  • The best stair climber workouts include programs like Killer Cardio Burn, Stair Climber Booty Blast, and Booty Pump Cardio Sesh.
  • Despite being low-impact and easy to learn, stair-climber exercises have great effects on cardiorespiratory health and overall fitness.
  • Research published in the BMC journal shows that regular stair climber workouts can reduce coronary death risks by 62% with just two sessions a week.
  • As a fitness coach, I find stair-climber workouts to be an effective and versatile tool for achieving comprehensive fitness goals.

5 Best Stair Climber Workouts

People doing stair climbing exercise

In my experience as an online health and fitness coach, I've found stair climber workouts to be a boon for clients with knee issues who still seek the cardio benefits of running.

It's important to remember, as per the Sports Health Journal, that even low-impact workouts like stair climbing require adequate recovery to avoid overtraining [1].

If you still want to make substantial progress, you want to incorporate what’s called progressive overload, which is increasing the total training volume for each following session, as per the PeerJ research [2].

Drawing from my 15/21 Ultimatum program, here are 5 effective stair climber workouts that I've found to engage most lower body muscle groups efficiently.

"Though many groan when faced with climbing an extra flight of stairs, the act of trudging upwards step by step is a great workout for your legs and glutes. Stair climbing machines mimic this workout (or chore) in the form of moving stairs, foot pedals that move up and down, or even vertical climbers that throw some upper body movement in with your lower body climbing."

- Lauren Keary, Certified Personal Trainer

1. Killer Cardio Burn

Woman doing stair climbing

A killer cardio burn is an effective weight loss workout because of a high-intensity routine that activates your core muscles, glutes, inner thighs, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

If you seek to burn more calories, repeat this workout as many times as you wish, but be careful not to enter the overtraining stage described above.

Here is the entire workout:

  • Start with 60 seconds of skipping up one stair with moderate effort. This is about 5–6 RPE (rated perceived exertion).
  • Follow up with 30 seconds per side step-up (this is primarily to target your glutes). This should be done with an easy effort of 2–4 RPE.
  • Next, you should do 30 seconds of sideways (lateral leg lifts) step-ups on every other stair. This should be done with an easy effort of 3–4 RPE.
  • The last thing to do is step 60 seconds backward, stepping at an easy 3-4 RPE effort.

2. Stairclimber Booty Blast

Woman doing stair climbing

Stair climber booty blast is an interval-focused stair climber workout that targets the quads, glutes, core, thighs, and hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus).

However, you will need a resistance band to complete this workout since you have to loop it around your ankles.

You can repeat this workout multiple times but don't overtrain since that will evoke negative effects.

Here is the entire workout:

  • The first thing you should do is do 60 seconds of box walks. It would help if you stepped wide to the corner of each star while keeping the resistance band tension the entire time at a moderate effort of 6–7 RPE.
  • The next thing you should do is 30 seconds of three-quarter squat walks. This should be done with a moderate effort of 6–7 RPE. Ensure you are holding on to the handlebars to achieve extra balance.
  • Perform 30 seconds of kickbacks on each side with a moderate effort of 6-7 RPE. Ensure not to exaggerate the movement so you overarch your lumbar spine. You must alternate lifting one leg a few inches behind you so you can feel the resistance band tension. This will evoke burning effects in your quadriceps muscles.
  • The last thing you should do is cross-overs for 30 seconds at an easy effort of 3–4 RPE. Corss-overs are similar to kickbacks, but you must lift your leg to the side and back. The main difference is that you shouldn't lift the leg directly behind your body but at a 45-degree angle.

Related Articles:

3. Booty Pump Cardio Sesh

Booty Pump Cardio Sesh Workout is a simple, quick stair climber routine that targets the hamstrings, core, and glutes and significantly raises your heart rate. 

Like with the previous two workouts, be careful with the overall volume not to enter the overtraining syndrome.

Here is the entire workout:

  • Crossovers for 30 seconds on each side with 3–4 RPE efforts.
  • Walking for 30 seconds with a very easy effort of 2–3 RPE.
  • Side steps for 30 seconds on each side. This should be done with an easy measurement of 3–4 RPE.
  • Walking for 30 seconds with a very easy effort of 2–3 RPE.
  • Kickbacks on each side for 30 seconds with a moderate effort of 6-7 RPE. Hold the top position for 1 or 2 seconds to add intensity.
  • Walking for 60 seconds with a very easy effort of 2–3 RPE.

4. HIIT Cardio Stairclimber Circuit

Person doing cardio stairclimber circuit

Engaging in a StairMaster hiit workout like the HIIT cardio stair climber circuit is a high-intensity interval-based training designed to burn calories and increase difficulty.

It will target the same muscles as before but will raise your heart rate the most out of all the workouts listed.

Here is the entire HIIT workout:

  • Jogging for 30 seconds up the stairs with a moderate effort of 4-5 RPE.
  • Walking for 30 seconds with the easy effort of 2-3 RPE.
  • Running up the stairs for 15 seconds with a moderate effort of 6-7 RPE.
  • Walking for 60 seconds with the easy effort of 2-3 RPE.
  • Sprinting up the stairs for 15 seconds at the max effort of 9–10 RPE.

Related: Best Fat Burning HIIT Workouts

5. Stairclimber Cardio Squat Circuit

A stair-climber cardio squat circuit is a glute-focused training session. Here is the entire squat circuit workout:

  • Kickbacks for 60 seconds with a moderate effort of 4-5 RPE.
  • Squat walks for 60 seconds with a moderate effort of 5–6 RPE.
  • Box walks for 60 seconds with a moderate effort of 4-5 RPE.

Also Read: Best Stair Climber Machines

What Are the Benefits of Stair Climber Workouts?

Man climbing stairs

The benefits of stair climber workouts are numerous, but the most important ones include simplicity, low impact, improved cardio health, increased muscle strength, boosted calorie burn, time efficiency, and more.

Easy to Learn

Stair climber workouts are user-friendly. Great for beginners, they offer a simple start and room to progress. If you're unsteady, try stabilizer muscle exercises first and start slow.

Low Impact

Stair climbers are the perfect cardio machine as they offer a joint-friendly workout alternative to running, reducing inflammation risks, making them suitable for those with joint issues who still crave a cardio burn.

Improved Cardio Health

Person doing stair climbing

According to Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine journal research, stair climbing ranks as a top-tier aerobic exercise, outdoing running in terms of cardiorespiratory demand [3].

Regular sessions can enhance heart and lung health significantly, reducing coronary death risk by 62% with at least two weekly sessions, as shown in the BMC journal study [4].

Strengthens Muscles

Targeting lower body muscles like quads, hams, and glutes, stair climbers also work on core stabilizers, including the rectus abdominis, transversus abdominis, and obliques, enhancing overall muscle strength.

Burns Calories

Woman doing stair climbing

Based on my clients' experiences, a 30-minute stair climber session, depending on pace and intensity, can burn between 180 and 250 calories.

Less Time for More Fitness

Ideal for busy individuals, a 15-minute high-intensity stair climber routine can suffice for significant cardiovascular benefits, making it a go-to for time-crunched fitness enthusiasts.

"When you hear the word cardio your thoughts might drift to the drudgery of a treadmill or elliptical. Cardio in lifting circles is often thought of as a dirty word, but improving your cardio has a wide range of benefits including improved conditioning and recovery from resistance training."

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

Improved Coordination and Flexibility

Man doing stair climbing

Beyond improving balance, stair climbing enhances flexibility in the posterior chain muscles, adding diversity to your cardio routine and improving functional movement.

Functional Movement

Man doing stair climbing

Stair climbing, a functional exercise, engages multiple joints, boosts cardiorespiratory fitness, and activates major muscle groups.

Enhance it by lightly gripping the handles and driving your elbows back, ensuring full-body engagement and balance.

Unlike isolation exercises, which target specific muscles, functional movements like stair climbing benefit overall health and mirror real-life activities, as noted in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine [5].

Positive Effects on Mood and Cognitive Performance

Both my male and female clients have reported feeling more energetic, less tense, and less tired after bouts of stair climbing.

Moreover, higher exercise intensity during stair climbing has been linked to better switching performance in males, as shown in a Frontiers in Psychology journal study [6].

How Often Should You Use a Stair Climber?

It depends on your goal of how often you should use a stair climber.

If your main goal is to lose weight or increase aerobic capacity, then three weekly workouts represent the bare minimum.

In addition, if you want to add versatility to your lower body workouts, then two stair climber sessions will be enough.

Start with 5-minute sessions if you are a beginner, and progress to the 15-minute workout in three weeks.

This will ensure you don't overtrain immediately in the beginning and achieve the most significant progress possible.

FAQs

How Long Should You Workout on a Stair Stepper?

It depends on your current fitness level, age, fatigue level, training goal, and many other factors regarding how long you should work out on a stair stepper. However, exercising on a stair stepper between 25 and 30 minutes is generally recommended since that yields the best benefits for the cardiorespiratory system and longevity.

Is Stair Stepper Better Than Running?

The stair stepper is better than running if you want to achieve the same cardiorespiratory benefit with bad knees. However, if you don't have knee problems, it is better to go for a run since you can challenge your cardiovascular system more and achieve even greater benefits.

Are Stairs Better Than Cardio?

Stairs are considered a cardio exercise if you can do the entire workout in the aerobic zone, which is between 50 and 60% of your VO2 max (maximum rate of oxygen consumption). However, including stairs and running in your cardio workout is still advisable since you will experience even more benefits for your lower body and respiratory system.

How Can I Lose More Weight With Stair Stepper Workouts?

To lose more weight using the stair climber machine, it is advisable to pick a high-quality fat-loss supplement.

Fat burners are an excellent supplement if you pick the high-quality one with the right ingredients and include at least one stair climber workout during a week.

Combining a stair climbing cardio machine with different forms of training, such as a HIIT workout, can boost calorie burn and substantially help your weight loss journey.

Read our guides on the best fat burner supplements to help lose weight and fat easier along with conducting a good cardio workout such as climbing stairs:

Let me know how you plan to incorporate a stair stepper workout into your weekly routine.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9528903/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6172294/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8122558/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4592763/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803754/
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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