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Stair Climbers vs. Treadmills: Which Is Better?

Stair Climbers vs. Treadmills: Which Is Better?

If you’re looking to lose weight this year, you’ll probably want to increase your cardiovascular workouts. Maybe you’ve been eyeing different exercise equipment, wondering which one will be the most effective for your weight loss goals. Two of the most popular cardio machines at the gym are the stair climber and the treadmill. Is one better than the other? Keep reading to get a breakdown of the stair climbers vs. treadmills battle.

A Closer Look at Calorie Burn

It’s no secret that people need to burn more calories than they ingest in order to drop some pounds. It’s the simple equation of calories out > calories in. That being said, not all exercises are created equally when it comes to how many calories they burn. Consider that a 140-pound person would burn around 615 calories per hour when using a stair climber. Now, that same individual would burn about 511 calories per hour on a treadmill. Therefore, it would seem that savvy people would choose stair climbers for weight loss(Read our other article here, Benefits of Stair Climbers for Weight Loss and Fitness ). However, this isn’t the whole story.

There are a few things to take into account when determining overall calorie burn. Even if two people are the same exact weight, their calorie burn could be quite different. That’s because they have to consider the intensity of their workout, their sex, and more. On average, men burn more calories than women because they tend to weigh more and have greater muscle mass. So, even though a man and a woman weigh the same, they could burn different numbers of calories while doing the same activity.

More importantly, you need to take into consideration any adjustments that you made to the stair climber or treadmill. There are often options to run or walk on a gradient, or hill. Let’s say that you start by walking on the treadmill at a 10% gradient. Then you bump it up to a 15% grade and then a 20% grade. Each time that you increase the gradient, your body is burning more calories. So, even if two people with the same weight both use the treadmill, their calories burned may be different due to the different gradients they put on the treadmill.

A Matter of Intensity

The same thing works with a stair climber. People will have a very different calorie burn depending on how they use the machine. A stair climber workout is determined by RPE or rate of perceived exertion. This is just a fancy way of gauging how difficult the workout is. A higher RPE indicates a tougher workout and everyone’s RPE will be different. Someone’s RPE of 3 could be equal to another person’s RPE of 6. It just depends on things such as their stamina and endurance, weight, age, and current fitness level.

This brings up another good point about the stair climbers vs. treadmill debate: intensity. Intensity is another factor that will play a huge role in how effective treadmills or stair climbers are for weight loss. Lots of people forget about intensity when assessing different means of working out. It’s unwise to assume that all cardio machines provide the same workout. In reality, users can switch up the settings and use the equipment in ways that target different muscle groups and improve their cardiovascular endurance. Just as you can amp up the gradient on a treadmill, you can crank up the stair climber to give you a higher RPE and thus a tougher workout for the calves, glutes, and hamstrings.

Never underestimate the power of an intense cardio workout. You can combine strengthening moves with the aerobic exercise in a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) routine to maximize results.

What’s Your Goal?

Speaking of which, you will want to think about your overall goal before hopping on a treadmill, stair climber, or any other exercise machine. While working out is important for everyone, if you have specific goals in mind, that will come into play when deciding which machines to use and how to approach your workout.

When it comes to weight loss, that simple equation still rings true: calories out > calories in. You want to make the most of your workouts by ramping up the intensity and exerting yourself in order to increase your total calories burned. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to your peers or other people in the gym. Everybody (and everybody) is different and your goals may not be the same as their goals. If you want to drop some pounds, you will need to bump up the intensity of your workouts so that you’re burning enough calories.

Both the treadmill and the stair climber can help you get there; it just depends on how you use them. You can customize your workout on these machines in a variety of ways by changing the incline or gradient, working at a higher RPE, or increasing the duration of the exercise. These cardio workouts should also be combined with some strengthening or weight lifting exercises. The more muscle mass you have, the more prolonged the calorie burn you will have. In addition, if you choose an exercise that is enjoyable and convenient for you, you are much more likely to stick with it. Don’t hop on the treadmill just because all of your friends are or you heard one personal trainer mention it. Do what works for you and you will be much more likely to stick around long enough to see results.

Sample Workouts

To give you a better idea of how more fitness-savvy people use treadmills and stair climbers, here are some sample workouts that you might want to try the next time you hit the gym.

Stair Climber Workout for the Glutes

Do each round three times with a one-minute rest in between.

  • Slow climb at 3-4 RPE: 45 seconds
  • Double-step at 3-4 RPE: 25 seconds
  • Slow climb at 3-4 RPE: 45 seconds
  • Side-step at 3-4 RPE: 60 seconds (30 seconds on each side)
  • Sprint at 7-8 RPE: 25 seconds
  • Slow climb: 45 seconds
  • Double-step: 25 seconds
  • Slow climb: 45 seconds
  • Side-step: 60 seconds (30 seconds on each side)
  • Sprint: 25 seconds

HIIT-Style Stair Climber Workout

Do each round five times.

  • Double-step at 3-4 RPE: 30 seconds
  • Side-step left at 3-4 RPE: 30 seconds
  • Sprint at 7-8 RPE: 30 seconds
  • Side-step right at 3-4 RPE: 30 seconds
  • Sprint at 7-8 RPE: 60 seconds

15-Minute Treadmill Workout

Do this round two times. Exertion levels: 1 (easy walk), 2 (easy jog), 3 (easy run), 4 (challenging run) 5 (maximum intensity).

  • Easy walk or jog: 3 minutes
  • Level 2 job: 1 minute
  • Add 0.2 mph and jog: 30 seconds
  • Run at level 3: 30 seconds
  • Jog at level 2: 30 seconds
  • Run at level 4: 30 seconds
  • Jog at level 2: 30 seconds
  • Run at level 5: 30 seconds
  • Walk or jog at level 2: 90 seconds
  • End with an easy walk: 4 minutes
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Beginner Treadmill Incline Workout

  • Walking warmup between 2.5 and 3.5 mph: 5 minutes
  • Easy jog between 4 and 7 mph: 1 minute
  • Walk between 3 and 3.5 mph with 5% incline: 3 minutes
  • Easy jog between 4 and 7 mph with 5% incline: 1 minute
  • Walk between 3 and 3.5 mph at 8% incline: 3 minutes
  • Easy jog between 4 and 7 mph with 8% incline: 1 minute
  • Walking cool-down between 3 and 3.5 mph with 1% incline: 5 minutes
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