Everyone knows taking the stairs is a healthy choice. The Stairmaster amplifies the health benefits of climbing at an incline by extending the amount of time and the intensity of the user’s climb.

Step-up movements inherently rely on the glute muscle to lift the body and move the legs. Stairmasters are a great way to get stronger and more toned glutes. If you understand how to use the machine, you can also build strength in your core and ab muscles during a Stairmaster workout.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about getting toned glutes and killer ab strength from a Stairmaster workout.

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Proper Form On a Stairmaster

Getting all the fitness benefits possible from a Stairmaster workout requires the proper form. This is especially true if you’re trying to target your abs since the machine doesn’t automatically target them the way it does your glutes.

Concentrate on your posture when you use a Stairmaster or another stair climbing machine. Lift your chest like you want to show your t-shirt logo to the wall in front of you. Make sure you maintain a high chest without bending your back, which needs to be straight at all times.

Relax your grip on the handrails and try not to keep a hand on them at all times. They’re useful for quickly catching your balance, but over-reliance on them will make your workout less challenging and lead to fewer calories burned and less glute and ab gains.

Best Stairmaster Exercises

Read through these exercises and practice them until you can get through all of them with the proper form. Once you have it down, use the workout routine in the next section to target your abs and glutes. 

1. Single Step-Up

This is as straightforward as it gets on a stair-climbing machine. Set a speed that’s fast enough to get your heart rate up and make sure you’re not going too fast or else you’ll be working your quads more than your glutes.

Once you have the right speed, proceed to walk up the stairs one at a time. Make sure you have a straight spine and high chest the entire time. 

Jenn Seltzer in a gym.
Single step-ups on or off of a stairmaster build muscle in your glutes.

2. Skip A Step

After you have the mechanics of the Stairclimber figured out, try skipping every other step. This will build strength in your hamstrings and give you a better cardio workout. Don’t overdo it – start at a slow pace if you’re having trouble skipping steps at first. 

Your glutes and upper thighs will both be target by this move as well. This is a move where many people rely on the handrails to support their body as they leap over odd steps, so make sure you can do it without their help.

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3. Side-Step

Turn to the right or left to lift your glutes from the side and help your knee and lower back stabilizers. Take it slow learning this move because your feet will be crossing over one another repeatedly, which could lead to trips and falls if you aren’t careful.

Face the right side and move your right foot over your left to get to the next step. Repeat this movement with the left behind the right to get to the next step and so on. Use the handrail for balance as you get the hang of this move and remember not to get going too quickly until you’re capable of it.

4. Backward Climb

Research shows that walking backward on a Stairmaster results in greater muscular activation. Just like the other moves we’ve talked about, this one takes some getting used to at a low speed. The movement isn’t common in everyday life so you’ll probably have to practice a bit. 

The biggest advantage of this exercise is that it will help you balance out your leg day workout. Hamstrings, calves, and quads all get more activation from walking backward. The instructions are pretty straightforward: just turn around and walk up the steps with your heels leading instead of your toes.

5. Alternating Kickbacks

Anyone who has spent much time with resistance band bodyweight workouts will be familiar with this move. You can try it with the single step-up at first, but it works even better when you’re skipping steps.

Take the step-up as you usually would, then lift your rear foot up behind you until it’s almost parallel with the floor. Go really slow with this one to give yourself time for the kickback. Lean your torso forward a bit if you need the extra power and balance.

The Best Stairmaster Workout Routine for Glutes & Abs

Your aim should be to spend about half an hour on the machine, especially when you’re first starting out. For high-intensity interval training, you can reduce the number of each rep and just do more sets.

  • 25 x Single Step-Up
  • 10 x Side-Steps (right side)
  • 25 x Skip A Step
  • 10 x Side-Steps (left side)
  • 25 x Single Step-Up
  • 10 x Alternating Kickback
  • 25 x Backward Climb
  • Repeat 

These numbers might seem high, but with the continuous motion of the Stairmaster, you should be able to get to a point where you can do this whole workout routine in about 30 minutes.

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Why This Workout Routine Works

Not only does this workout routine target your glutes from multiple angles, but it also has enough variation to get tons of cardio and keep your leg day from feeling too mundane. After all, walking up the stairs endlessly isn’t going to be much fun for anyone.

The key to this Stairmaster routine is that it keeps your legs moving constantly but it changes frequently. If you gain enough strength and balance, you can blast through this routine at HIIT speeds. There are some ways you can really speed this routine up, such as sprinting during the forward climbs, but we’ll talk more about that a bit later on. 

Studies show that 9 weeks of Stairmaster training will have comparable benefits to treadmill workouts on running performance. If you’re trying to build muscle mass without burning tons of calories on the treadmill, the Stairmaster workout routine is a great option. You can also do more frequent Stairmaster workouts if you want to burn fat.

How Does A Stairmaster Target Abs?

Your core muscles are heavily involved in helping your body maintain its balance. When done with the right posture, these Stairmaster exercises put your balance to the test and thus help build strength in your abs and core.

However, stair climbing primarily targets your transverse abdominis muscles, which will help give shape to your other ab muscles but won’t get you chiseled abs on its own. Build the rest of your ab muscles with crunches and other ab exercises and then use the Stairmaster to cut body fat and make those built-up abs even more visible. 

Benefits of Stairmaster Workouts

The Stairmaster is a great cardio machine, especially when used in tandem with ellipticals and similar cardio machines. Use cable machines, dumbbells, or free weights on the Stairmaster to make a full-body workout with tons of aerobic exercise.

One of the greatest health benefits of Stairmaster workouts is aerobic exercise. It builds leg muscle strength in people of all ages and prevents injury by making back and knee stabilizers even stronger. 

If you keep the proper form, with a high chest and straight back, the resulting core workout will build balance skills and increase your ability to move overall. Similarly, functional exercise like you get from a Stairmaster workout will build stronger bone tissue, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and reducing resulting pain in people who already have it. 

Bones are living tissue that becomes stronger with use just like muscles do. The bones in your knees are no different. Many people with slight knee pain use slow stair climbing exercises to reduce pain and the likelihood of further injury.

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Weight Loss and the Stairmaster

Like most other cardio machines, stairmills and Stairmasters are a great way to push your body to the limits of aerobic exercise. Many people prefer them to treadmills for fat burning because they feel much more dynamic than trudging along on a flat surface. You’re sure to burn fat and spend tons of calories if you use our recommended workout routine on a stair-stepper of any kind.

For many people, weight loss isn’t the only goal of their Stairmaster routine. If you’re trying to build muscle, it’s highly recommended that you lose the weight you want to lose before you try to start bulking up. However, once you’ve done so, you can keep the weight off while still building lower-body muscles with a stepmill, Stairmaster, or similar machine.

To make things even more challenging, try including a HIIT workout in your Stairmaster routine. To do this, you want to minimize the amount of time you spend resting between each set. But make sure you can handle the relatively high intensity before you try to climb stairs with no breaks at all.

Make sure you have enough carbs for your muscles to use as energy. People who try to eliminate carbs altogether usually face huge energy shortages because they can’t make up the energy sources in their regular diet.

How to Increase the Benefits of a Stairmaster Workout

You can use kickbacks and skip stairs to target different muscle groups. Increasing the amount of constant tension on your muscles with a resistance band is another great way to make the workout even more challenging and build more strength over time. 

Wrapping the resistance band around your legs is the simplest way to get more activation in your thighs, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. Change up the tension of the band or the settings on the machine to keep your body from getting used to the exercise. The more your body is on it’s toes, so to speak, the more likely it will continue building muscle through hypertrophy. 

Resistance bands can increase the intensity of a Stairmaster workout.

How Often Should I Use a Stairmaster?

Unless you’re concentrating on cardio for losing weight or building aerobic strength, you can limit these half-hour stairmaster sessions to two or three times a week. If you’re looking for a great way to amp up your leg day without having to spend tons of time on a treadmill or elliptical, climbing stairs is a great option.

When you first start out, you might only be able to tolerate 5 – 15 minutes on the machine. If that’s the case, hit the Stairmaster more often and use bodyweight exercises like lunges to warm-up for the stair climbing. This is also a good way for people with bad knees to get a low-impact lower-body exercise in without relying too much on a Stairmaster. 

Always make sure you take at least a one-day break between Stairmaster sessions. Concentrating too much on the same muscle groups is a classic way to accidentally overtrain, which can lead to months of recovery and the loss of all or most of the gains you worked so hard for. Learn the signs of overtraining so you can avoid taking things too far. 

How to Prepare for A Stairmaster HIIT Routine

There are a few other methods you can use to warm-up for a HIIT routine on the Stairmaster. If you’re having trouble shortening your intervals, continue with the Stairmaster at a slower pace until you’ve built up the strength. It could easily take a couple of months to build the necessary strength when you’re just starting out. 

One of the ways people prepare for high-intensity workouts is to slowly increase the speed of the stair climbing machine. Once you’re cable of sprinting for a few minutes, add that into your workout routine for a few minutes. For example, your new routine with sprints could look like this:

  • 25 x Single Step-Up
  • 10 x Side-Steps (right side)
  • 25 x Sprint Step-Up
  • 10 x Side-Steps (left side)
  • 25 x Backward Climb
  • 10 x Alternating Kickback
  • 25 x Single Step-Up
  • Repeat 

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can change the second round of single step-ups to sprints. Just be careful that you also add in a few at regular speed so you can have a full cooldown period before you leave the gym.

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Using a Stairmaster for Overall Wellness

If you aren’t trying to get too much cardio into your weekly workout routine, you can also use the stairmaster in more sparing 15-minute sessions and use bodyweight exercises like lunges and squats to build strength in your lower body. With the help of resistance bands and kettlebells, you can even make full-body exercises work your legs even harder and get a similar benefit without the Stairmaster.

Although stair-climbing machines are great for quick routines like the ones we’ve described in this guide, you should also take time to go on longer walks with changing elevation from time to time. The fresh air and changing scenery is good for your overall wellness and changes things up. Some gym rats don’t mind looking at the wall, mirror, or television in front of them, but it’s always best to get outside regularly even if it isn’t a major part of your fitness routine.

One of the best benefits of stair climbing as a fitness activity is that it boosts the amount of oxygen your body can take in and use. Whether your main fitness activity is rooted in cardio or strength training, having a higher VO2 is highly beneficial. Granted, not everyone has easily trainable VO2 levels, but even for those who don’t the other health benefits of climbing stairs as a fitness exercise are still hugely beneficial for bone health and injury prevention.


Climbing stairs is one of the best low-impact exercises, especially when you use a Stairmaster or a similar cardio machine that has been specifically constructed to mimic that activity. It’s a great way to build your glutes and as long as you don’t use the handrails too much you’ll also build tons of strength in your core muscles.

Weight loss and burning excess body fat are both easier on a Stairmaster than they are on a treadmill because the Stairmaster offers a wider variety of exercises. A workout routine based on a Stairmaster is more stimulating mentally for some people and the fitness benefits are better or the same than a treadmill. Plus, it won’t take as big a toll on your knees.

Next time you’re looking for a way to get some extra cardio into your fitness routine, consider the Stairmaster routines in this guide to get some great cardio that will help your existing muscles stand out and build ample functional strength in your lower body.

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