3 Reasons why Not to do the Stairmaster

I have seen far too many people ruin themselves on Stairmasters over the years that I wanted to share some reasons why you should avoid them. First let me share with you the worst part of the first job I had in the fitness industry. It was in the early 90’s and I was hired as a maintenance guy. My duties included all sorts of gross things but none were as bad as cleaning a the Stairmasters. They were on these plastic mats and I would see guys especially get on these things and just go nuts for 45 minutes to an hour sweating up a storm. By the time they were done there would be a lake of disgusting sweat from every inch of their body pooled on the mat. I am getting sick to my stomach just thinking about it again.

Anyway, there was no amount of antibacterial solutions that could make me feel better about that situation. I wanted to where a chemical suit.

Ok now that I have shared my trauma with you lets discuss why these sweat producing monsters are really not your best choice in the cardio area. 

1. Lack of true stimulus to your muscular system. The objective of the machine is to simulate walking up stairs (I know, I am a genius right). The problem is that you are basically floating in space as you do it. There is no necessary reaction of certain muscles in the body since there is no impact into the ground. What happens is you give a tremendous amount of training to the major muscles in the lower body but there is very little to the many smaller muscles that help with the stabilization of your joints. This creates imbalances you do not want. Imbalances that can leave you more vulnerable to nuisance injuries like joints sprains.

2. Tends to promote poor posture – I think we have discussed many times over that we are all suffering from poor posture due to the lack of stimulus t our entire muscular system. This causes imbalances in strength in our bodies which leads to skeletal misalignment. The posture I see most people with on Stairmasters is in a word, atrocious. First off the hand rails should be taken off since as we fatigue what do we do? We put as much of our body weight into our upper backs in an attempt to hold ourselves onto the machine. This creates all kinds of posture issues for us. To do the machine correctly you would need to naturally swing your arms at your sides as you step just like you would walking up stairs. Typically if people need handrails to get up strairs, they are not going to choose this as a major form of exercise. Strange then that a machine to train you in the same manner would encourage you to do so.

3. Takes your lack of muscular efficiency and magnifies it greatly. This is similar to posture but take all of the various imbalances you may have, improper stride, carry your stress in your neck, low back pain, wrist pain, anything you want to name and I can assure yo the Stairmaster will make it worse. Carry your stress in your neck, well imagine how it will feel to put all your weight in your neck and upper back because your hips are too weak to support you so you grab onto those handles for dear life. Same with wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, then try my least favorite pose I see many people use, twist your wrists around backwards to hold onto the handles creating an even greater amount of stress in that area.

Can you burn a lot of calories on a Stairmaster? Yes, you can trust me I have cleaned most of them up in the lake of disgusting body fluids under them. However we are always trying to get you to understand that your training must be to promote muscular efficiency, not take it away. Anything else you do will have negative side effects that will inevitably lead to pain and lack of mobility at some point.

There is a better choice, its called the Step Mill. It is like an escalator that has stairs that keep rotating so it truly simulates walking up stairs. Just stay off the handles!!!!

4 Comments on this post


  1. Joe the Trainer said:

    Can the same arguments be made for Elliptical machines? I know those have adjustable range so that might create more stimulus to the muscular system

    March 16th, 2009 at 9:45 pm
  2. Ben said:

    I’ve never liked them anyway…they looked big and tricky to figure out. I have a good reason not to ever use one now, sweet.

    March 16th, 2009 at 10:12 pm
  3. Scott said:

    Elliptical Machines are a little different. You are correct in the ability to change the range of motion but only certain models are ale to do this. I will put up a post about it so you have more detail.

    March 20th, 2009 at 6:53 am
  4. SuppRatings.com said:

    I was going to disagree with you until I realize there was a difference between a ‘Step Mill’ and a Stair Climber…Step Mills for the win!

    March 14th, 2011 at 12:22 pm


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