The stair climber is an essential piece of gym equipment, allowing you to burn calories and tone your legs in one efficient workout. Some women avoid such equipment, fearing that the machine will only build bulky muscles they'll want to hide. However, cardio machines like a stair climber mainly build cardiovascular endurance. Instead of bulking up your legs, the stair climber is more likely to result in a lean, toned pair of knock-outs.
The Myth of Bulky Legs
Many women believe that too much time on the stair climber will give them unsightly, bulging leg muscles. This myth may have originated from the fact that after an intense workout on a stair climber your legs may look larger than they did when you first stepped on the machine. However, this is not a result of larger muscles. Instead, it means that you were working hard enough to cause the blood vessels in your legs to dilate, allowing for more blood to carry oxygen to your depleted muscles. When you have a chance to recover, the swelling will go down. A consistent workout on the stair climber will help tone your muscles without bloating them.
For the best results, use the proper technique on the stair climber. Throughout the workout, maintain good, upright posture. Your hips should be above your legs. Rest your hands on the machine with your arms bent at the elbow at 90 degrees. You can also keep your arms at your sides, moving them as if you are running. When you step, press your heel down on the stair, forcing your hamstrings and gluteal muscles to feel the burn, not just your calves. Try not to push the step all the way down and don't let it come up all the way either. Otherwise, your pelvis gets too much movement, which can cause soreness. Stay focused throughout your workout so you don't misstep. Squeeze those butt muscles every time you step.
Consistency is an important part of a stair climbing workout. Using a stair climber three times a week in conjunction with other cardio and sculpting exercises, such as Pilates, will ensure that you establish toned and conditioned leg muscles. Begin with a quick warm-up at a low speed for five minutes. To begin with, you should be able to hold a conversation at this starting pace. While not all stair climbers allow you to select interval training programs, almost all will let you add manual resistance. Increase the resistance on the machine by one level -- or 2 percent -- for a minute. Spend the next minute at warm-up pace and then increase the resistance two levels -- or 4 percent. Continue this pattern for six intervals and begin dropping resistance as you head toward a five-minute cooldown. Once you have achieved a level of fitness where the six-interval workout is no longer a challenge, try adding another set of six intervals.
Including a stair climber in your fitness plan has many health benefits, such as the sculpting of your leg muscles. Your quadriceps at the front of your upper leg will feel the most burn, but your hamstrings, calves and glutes are targeted by this workout as well. Your hip flexors, glutes and core muscles will be worked as they provide stability and balance throughout the climbing motion. These muscles can burn a lot of energy quickly, causing your heart and lungs to get a good aerobic workout, burning calories as you step. If you burn more calories than you take in, your stair climbing workout can lead to weight loss. You can build lean muscle on a stair climber, toning your legs for that sexy -- not bulky -- look. To capitalize on these benefits, incorporate the stair climber as part of a larger workout that uses other machines and forms or cardio such as running, biking or swimming to consistently tone your legs.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.