Step(mill) It Up!

The stepmill tends to be one of the most utilized (yet least in number) machines in a gym. They are in pretty high demand … and for good reason. For the most part, the only times I’ve ever seen more than one of the seven we have at XSport in Alexandria are when it’s either early in the morning on the weekend, or when one is out of service.

So, why the appeal? Because it’s freaking hard.

I spent 30 minutes at the end of my workout tonight doing the routine I try to do on the rare occasion that I either 1. actually find one open, or 2. convince myself to hop up onto that beast. Which got me thinking … I found my topic for today.

The great thing about the stepmill is that you can get one heck of a great workout, and it really doesn’t take that long to start sweating buckets. Because of the sheer difficulty of extensive stair-climbing, your heart rate gets up quick and stays there (meaning major calorie burn) – and it’s great work for the lower body (you’ll feel those legs and glutes burning after just a few minutes).

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your time on the stepmill:

  • Stand up straight. One of the absolute worst things you can do on any machine, but especially the stepmill, is cling for dear life. Leaning on the machine will cut your calorie burn by as much as 40% (yikes!). Don’t be afraid to gently hold the bars – it will help you with stability (especially if you’re climbing doubles) – but make sure your body remains upright.
  • Vary your speed. Go fast, go slow … you can do some seriously tough intervals. You’ll find as you get stronger, you’ll be able to climb quicker … though you’ll find even if you’re moving slow, you’ll still be working harder than you expect!
  • Switch positions. Don’t just climb single stairs facing front. You can take doubles, or climb sideways (single or double stairs).  Mix things up, and you’ll hit different muscles in your thighs and butt – meaning greater toning opportunities.
  • Hours aren’t necessary. Trust me, you aren’t going to want to do more than 20 or 30 minutes on this baby. You’ll torch lots of calories, and it only takes a couple minutes to start dripping sweat.

Bottom line? The stepmill looks incredibly intimidating, but it’s absolutely a challenge worth taking on. So get climbing!