The stepmill targets your gluteus maximus along with your thigh and hip muscles for serious butt-sculpting -- and it provides a killer cardio workout to boot. A stepmill is like a treadmill with cascading stairs instead of a flat ramp. You can typically adjust the speed with up-and-down arrows, and most machines have 20 speed levels, although some simply go by steps per minute. See your doctor before starting a new fitness program.
Before you really start huffing and puffing on the stepmill, warm up at a lower intensity. Set the level to two or three, or 31 to 39 steps per minute, for five minutes. Then begin intervals at more intense speeds: go for three minutes at level eight, nine or 10, or 75 to 89 steps per minute. Recover at level five -- or about 53 steps per minute -- for two minutes, return to the higher intensity for another three minutes and repeat the cycle until you reach the 30-minute mark. Cool down at level two, or 31 steps per minute, for five minutes to complete your workout.
Once you reach stepmill mastery, mix up your routine with some advanced stepping. Try skipping a stair for a wider stride or turning around to walk backward. Alternatively, face one side to move laterally for a few minutes and then turn around to lead with the other leg. Although you will probably need to hold on to the railings at first, work toward stepping with free hands. For a serious challenge, maximize your glute building by wearing a weighted vest.
The stepmill provides a vigorous cardio workout, which has specific scheduling guidelines. For maximum benefit, spend 150 minutes per week on this or other vigorous aerobic activities such as running or swimming laps. Each session should last at least 10 minutes; performing your stepmill workout five days per week will meet your quota plus some extra time for the cooldown. In addition to cardio, perform strength-training moves at least twice weekly -- this includes lifting weights or performing body-weight exercises such as squats, crunches and pullups.
Stepping may seem self-explanatory, but good form is essential. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends keeping your back and chin straight, your abdominal muscles tight and your head up. It's OK to lightly rest your hands on the rails, but don't place your weight on them -- a relaxed grip is ideal. If you can't continue without leaning, it's time to reduce the speed.
- ExRx.net: Stepmill
- Shape Magazine: Better-than-the-Treadmill Cardio Blast
- Shapefit.com: Stepmill Workouts -- Cardio Exercises to Burn Fat Calories
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American College of Sports Medicine: Selecting and Effectively Using an Elliptical Trainer or Stair Climber
- Body Results: Cardiovascular Equipment Training Options Review for Mountaineering
- American Council on Exercise: Manual Updates
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.