The stair climber machine resembles a revolving staircase. As with a non-moving staircase, you can ascend the stairs facing forward, sideways or backward, if you choose. Each directional change works your lower body in a different way.
If you want to tone your bum, look to sideways stair climbing. Your glutes contract each time you extend your hip -- when you take a step, for example. Not only does the gluteus maximus engage during sideways climbing, you'll see results in the smaller gluteus medius as you raise your leg to the side. The even smaller gluteus minimus also gets in on this workout to help stabilize your hip joint as you ascend the stairs.
Moving down your legs from your glutes, you have the hip flexors located on the tops of your thighs. These muscles do just what you'd think: flex your hip. Whenever you raise your leg toward the front, your hip flexors contract. Just below the hip flexors are your quadriceps, located on the fronts of your thighs. During sideways stair climbing, your quads contract each time your bent knee raises and then straightens as you take the step. Along the backs of your thighs, the hamstrings contract each time you bend the knee to lift your foot behind you to prepare for the next step.
Inner and Outer Thighs
The sideways stair climb uses your hip adductor and abductor muscles. The adductors muscles are located on your inner thighs. As you raise your lower leg to the next step, the adductors contract to perform the movement. The abductor muscles are usually called your outer thighs. When you raise your top leg to the next step, the abductors contract. Be sure to spend equal time climbing with each hip toward the top of the machine for even muscle toning.
Continuing down, you reach the calves on the backs of your lower legs. The main muscle in your calf, the gastrocnemius, contracts when you push off the step with your toes and raises your heel in preparation to ascend the stairs.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.