Stair Stepper Workout for Mountain Climbing

Stair stepping might help you prepare for your climb.

Stair stepping might help you prepare for your climb.

Mountain climbing guides suggest hill-climbing for preparation. This poses a problem when the garbage mountain is the highest hill in your flatland hometown. The stair-stepping machine at your local gym offers a viable substitute, as long as you resist the temptation to cheat. Since side rails are conspicuous by their absence on the mountain, don't use them on the stair stepper. Use your core muscles to keep you upright. You'll need them when you climb.

Muscles

The most important mountain-climbing muscles include your gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, along with the postural stabilizers in your core, and the muscles of your hamstrings, calves and hips. Since all of these muscles work as a coordinated unit during your climb, it's logical to train them in a manner that teaches mutual cooperation. Stair-stepping machines use muscles and movement patterns similar to those engaged in mountain climbing. Begin your training at least a few months before your scheduled climb.

The Downhill Climb

Congratulations, you made it to the top. Now you have to climb back down, a task that's often easier said than done. The downhill climb uses your muscles in a different manner. Although the stair-stepping machine addresses the uphill aspects of your climb, the climbing experts at Seven Summits Surgical Ventures warn that it's a one-way machine. They suggest integrating your stair-stepping routine with elliptical training, which enables backward movement patterns that simulate downhill climbing.

Training Schedules

The climbing specialists at SWS Mountain Guides suggest a variety of aerobic training schedules based on the length and difficulty of your climb. For a basic backpacking and climbing excursion, do at least 30 to 40 minutes of training at least three times a week. A more technical climb requires 30 to 50 minutes, three or four times a week. Advanced mountaineering demands four or five weekly sessions lasting 40 to 50 minutes. If you're planning an expedition, you'll need five sessions a week, with 40 to 60 minutes three times a week, and one to two hours on the other two days.

The Backpack Dilemma

Mastering the leg muscle and aerobic endurance required for mountain climbing is only one part of the training. For your next trick, you must do the same type of climb, while schlepping a heavy pack on your back. This humbling experience requires a different type of preparation, but climbing experts disagree about the best way to execute it. Proponents of backpack training suggest wearing a pack and adding 5 to 6 pounds of weight each week. Detractors, such as Clyde Soles, author of "Climbing: Training for Peak Performance," calls this a "terrible idea," because it trains you to move slowly, and might damage your knees. Listen to your body and use your judgement.

 

About the Author

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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