When you just can't stand the thought of trudging on a treadmill for one more minute, step onto the stair climber machine. It offers an intense low-impact workout that can burn up to 657 calories per hour for a 160-pound person, according to MayoClinic.com. Stair climbers help target common problem areas: your hips and thighs. It invites a few more muscle groups to the workout party as well.
Stair climbers focus most of their energy on your thighs. The steady push-down, pull-up motion keeps the front and back of your thighs engaged the entire time you're on the machine; these are the most likely areas to feel worn out first. As you push down on the step, your quadriceps in the front of your thigh helps extend your knee. When you bring your knee back up, you call upon your hamstrings in the back of your thigh to make that motion happen. When you're ready to really knock your exercise out of the park, bump up the machine's resistance to make it harder to push down on the pedals and get your thigh muscles burning.
You know that one pair of jeans that really shows off your butt? Get that same feeling with all your pants after toning your gluteus muscles on the stair climber. Every time you move your thighs up and down, your gluteus muscles are working. The higher you step, the more action you'll feel on your rear. The stair climber also strengthens the hip flexors in the front of your hips, working as you pull your legs up toward your stomach.
The hip flexors bridge the gap between your quadriceps and your abdominal muscles, so it makes sense that your abs would get to have some fun, too. Hold your stomach muscles tight and keep your back straight to engage your core muscles and keep you stable on the machine.
Point your toes, then flex your foot, pulling your toes back toward your shin. Watch your calf change shape as the muscles contract and release. No, this isn't ballet class -- you're doing a similar motion as you workout on a stair climber. Your foot is slightly flexed at the top of the stepping motion, engaging the soleus muscle in your calf. Push down on the step to lengthen and stretch the calf's gastrocnemius muscle, which works to stabilize your ankle and knee joints. It contracts as you point your toe slightly on the upward movement. The muscle along the front of your shin, the tibialis anterior, contracts to help bring your toes up as you push your heel down at the bottom of the stepping motion.