Successful cyclists have strong legs. Your hamstrings, quadriceps and calf musces handle most of the work when you pedal a bicycle. If you ride outdoors, cycling can be time-consuming. The weather can also limit outdoor cycling. However, you can cross-train with a stair stepper to maintain or improve aerobic fitness and leg strength when you are unable to cycle.
Cross-training allows you to add variety to your fitness plan by mixing in additional exercises. The additional exercises are designed to supplement your primary activity, such as cycling. Among the benefits of cross-training are a reduced risk of injury, better overall fitness and an increased fitness commitment. Cross-training also breaks exercise monotony. Since stair steppers use the same muscles as cycling, they are good for cross-training workouts.
Cycling and stair steppers are both aerobic activities that make your heart healthier. Like cycling, stair steppers exercise your legs. When cycling, your quadriceps and calf mscles face the most resistance. You only use your hamstrings when pulling the pedal up as you raise your knee. On a stair stepper, your quadriceps and calf muscles also do most of the work, while your hamstrings simply raise your knee.
However, cycling and stair steppers differ in leg movement at the hip and knee. When cycling, your knee goes through a greater range of motion compared to a stair stepper. Consequently, the range of motion of your leg at the hip also increases. As you begin to pedal downward, your quadriceps face resistance until the pedal reaches the bottom and your knee begins to lift. On a stair stepper, your legs' range of motion is not as great because your knee is not raised as high. Relative to your hip, the lower knee height demands less work from your quadriceps to push down the step on a stair stepper. Thus, your quadriceps work harder when cycling.
When you cycle outdoors, you probably need to wear clothing designed for cycling. You also wear a helmet and specialized shoes, if necessary. Cyclists also typically carry spare inner tubes, a pump and tools to fix flats. You also need roads suitable for riding. However, most gyms have stair steppers that require no special clothing or other items to use. Only basic gym clothes and athletic shoes are necessary to use a stair stepper.
While stair steppers are beneficial to cyclists, they cannot duplicate riding. Stair steppers can be used as a supplement to cycling or as a replacement workout when riding is not an option. Using a stair stepper is a terrific aerobic exercise that will challenge your legs and possibly make them stronger.
Marcus Schantz is an author and licensed attorney based in Chicago. He holds a Juris Doctor from the Northern Illinois University College of Law, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin.