Stairmaster vs Treadmill: Which Is Better for Cardio?

It is well known that a regular dose of cardio is an essential part of every fitness regime. However, deciding how to squeeze the suggested 150 minutes of moderate exercise into your week can prove tricky. When it comes to cardio, does the Stairmaster or the treadmill reign supreme?

Running is just unbeatable for a cardio workout. If you set the speed and incline at a high intensity, you’ll get a better workout on the treadmill than on the Stairmaster. While running will achieve better results than the Stairmaster, walking will not give you as intense a workout as climbing stairs would.

Comparing the Stairmaster vs Treadmill may appear simple, but such a task involves more variables than you think. Even if you reduce the comparison based on a fitness objective, such as weight loss, there are plenty of crucial aspects to consider.

Does A Treadmill Provide a Better Cardiovascular Workout Than A Stairmaster?

Stairmaster vs Treadmill

The treadmill comes out on top when comparing high-intensity treadmill workouts, such as jogging, to higher-intensity Stairmaster training. The Stairmaster provides a cardio and strength exercise for the legs, whereas treadmill running is purely cardio. As a result, jogging on the treadmill burns more calories than a more intense workout on the Stairmaster.

Treadmill activities are excellent cardiovascular exercises that can enhance heart health dramatically. Treadmill exercises are a popular kind of cardio exercise due to their ability to maintain a constant heart rate throughout the activity. 

Individuals with cardiovascular disease or excessive cholesterol may benefit the most from this. Treadmill workouts are good in increasing heart rate to a healthy level, making them an excellent warm-up activity. Raising your heart rate to a healthy level can allow you to execute other workouts with more safety and success, such as weight training or other aerobic exercises.

If your goal is to lose weight, the treadmill is your go-to piece of equipment. However, keep in mind that it may not be sustainable because you must maintain the intensity of each cardio activity and be persistent to lose weight.

Working out on a Stairmaster can help you grow and maintain lean muscle mass. When combined with a healthy diet, Stairmaster workouts will be a more convenient and long-term alternative for reducing weight than the treadmill.

Pros and Cons of Running on the Treadmill Compared to Climbing a Stairmaster

Treadmill or Stairmaster

You Need to Exercise Longer on a Stairmaster to Get the Same Workout Benefits

The treadmill provides you a more intense workout in the same amount of time, depending on how hard you push yourself and what your goals are. If you are focused on burning fat, the treadmill targets calorie-burning better than the Stairmaster.

An average treadmill workout can burn up to 700 calories if you run at a high intensity. A similar intensity Stairmaster workout will burn closer to 400 calories. However, if you run or walk at a lower intensity, the Stairmaster is an excellent alternative since it combines cardio and resistance training. This allows you to increase lower-body strength and endurance while still getting in some cardio.

The Stairmaster Targets Muscle Groups More Effectively Than the Treadmill

While running on the treadmill primarily targets the quadriceps and the hamstrings, you need to increase the gradient to strengthen the muscle groups in your lower extremityClimbing stairs places a more significant load on your lower body, making it far more effective at strengthening the muscle groups. 

You activate your glutes and hamstrings when you push through your heel and move your foot onto the next stair. Strong buttock and thigh muscles boost athletic performance, making it easier to run, leap, and squat. To improve muscle intensity, try skipping a stair.

Climbing the Stairmaster puts the quadriceps, or the front, top section of your legs, to the test. Skipping a stair raises the stakes for the quads. Walking, running, and squatting are all powered by the quads.

Furthermore, the Stairmaster targets the calves located on the bottom, rear area of your legs. Shift your weight onto the balls of your feet to stress your calves throughout a portion of your workout.

The Treadmill is a More Beginner Friendly Workout Than the Stairmaster 

While both the Stairmaster and the treadmills are suitable for beginners, walking on a treadmill requires less expertise than the weight shift of the Stairmaster. Furthermore, a low to moderate intensity treadmill workout is less impactful on the joints in the lower extremity than a Stairmaster workout.

Beginners are more likely to injure their back when starting out on the Stairmaster. This is because individuals have a propensity to slump while using a stair stepper. They become so exhausted that they slouch as they try to complete their regimen.

Furthermore, inexperience in foot placement on the Stairmaster can lead to tight muscles and injuries. Staying on your toes keeps your calf muscles working the entire time, changing the mechanics of your movement. If you do a lot of stair climbing on your toes, you may develop some quite tight calf muscles. This movement pattern can also lead to plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis. 

The solution is to place more of your foot on the step and drive through the heel. Pushing through the midfoot and heel will aid more effectively in engaging the glute muscles. The glutes were created to do heavy activities, such as ascending stairs, moving forward when walking, or simply getting up from a chair.

The hip abductors are a frequently overlooked area of focus in exercise, even though they play such an important role in pelvic stability, affecting mechanics at the knee. Beginners with weakness in the hip are susceptible to altered movement patterns and additional strain on the knee and ankle farther down the leg. 

Stairmaster vs Treadmill For Targeting Muscle Mass?

When you climb a Stairmaster, you improve muscle strength and lean mass. Because muscle weighs more than fat, losing undesired body fat may not be shown immediately on the weighing scale. On the other hand, more lean muscle mass indicates faster fat burning and a more effective metabolism even when you’re sleeping.

A treadmill high-intensity steady-state cardio workout has been found to trigger catabolism or the breakdown of lean muscle mass. High-intensity, steady-state cardio is not the most remarkable approach to losing weight. While the weight reduction may be visible on the scale right away, part of the weight you lose may be muscle mass. Losing muscle slows metabolism, which means you may gain weight more quickly.

Is a Treadmill or a Stairmaster More Likely to Cause Injury?

There is some debate around which exercise machine is less likely to cause injury. While the repetitive impact of intensive running on the treadmill can cause shin splints, those with balance problems and joint pain will most likely prefer a less intense treadmill workout over the Stairmaster. This is because the climbing motion may place excessive load on the front of the knee, which can worsen any joint conditions.

Furthermore, you are far more likely to injure yourself on a Stairmaster since you are moving vertically rather than horizontally – you will have to resist gravity more, which makes hurting yourself more likely. 

Regardless of which exercise machine you prefer, it would be best if you slowly built up your fitness level to avoid overexerting yourself. If your aim is to improve your running pace, begin with walk/run interval training or walking at a steep incline. 

Treadmill Workouts vs Stairmaster Workouts

Types of Treadmill Workouts

  • 30 Second Interval Sprints. This exercise is guaranteed to leave you drenched in sweat. 
    • Adjust the treadmill at a 1% gradient. Begin at a leisurely pace for one minute, then ease into a light jog for 5 minutes. This enhances your circulation and prepares your muscles for a workout.
    • Increase the pace to an intense effort for 30 seconds. Recover with 90 seconds of light jogging.
    • Repeat these intervals nine more times.
    • Finish with a 4-minute cool-down with an easy jog or brisk walk.
  • Side Stepping Workout. This workout adds side shuffles to your run or walk, targeting your glutes and quads. 
    • Adjust the treadmill at a 1% gradient. Begin with a slow walk for one minute, then continue warming up with an easy jog for 4 minutes.
    • Slow back down to walking, then hold onto the side rail, turn your body sideways, drop into a low squat position, and then begin side-shuffling your feet. Continue side stepping for 30 seconds and then return to walking forward.
    • Pick up the pace to a light running pace for 2 minutes. Then slow the pace back down to walking for a 30-second interval of side shuffles on the other side.
    • Continue with interval side shuffles, alternating between sides, for 20 minutes.
    • Finish with a 5-minute cool-down at a light pace.
  • Alternating Incline Workout. This exercise is ideal if you wish to target your glutes.
    • Begin with a light jog or brisk walk to warm up for 5-minutes at a 1% gradient.
    • Increase the gradient to 2% and walk for 1 minute.
    • Decrease gradient to 1% and jog at a leisurely pace for 1 minute.
    • Repeat step 2 by Increasing the gradient by 1% each time, walking for one minute longer than the previous interval.
    • Repeat step 3 between each interval.
    • End with a 5-minute cool-down of easy jogging or brisk walking.

Types of Stairmaster Workouts

stairmaster benefits
  • Alternating Step Workout. Skipping every other step will strengthen your hamstrings and give you greater aerobic exercise. If you’re having problems skipping stairs at first, start slowly. This motion will also work on your glutes and upper thighs. Many individuals rely on handrails to support their bodies as they jump over unusual stairs, so be sure you can do it without them.
  • Sidestep Workout. Turn to the side to help your knee and lower back stabilizers by lifting your glutes from the side. Turn to the right and cross your right foot over your left to proceed. Repeat this action with the left behind the right, and so on. As you get the hang of this motion, use the handrail for balance, and remember not to go too fast until you’re ready.
  • Backward Climb. Because the movement isn’t prevalent in everyday life, you’ll probably need to practice a little. The main benefit of this exercise is that it will help you balance out your leg day routine. Walking backward activates the hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps more. Simply turn around and go up the steps with your heels leading rather than your toes.
  • Alternating Kickbacks. You may start with a single step-up, but it works much better when you skip steps. Take the step-up normally, then raise your back foot behind you until it’s nearly parallel with the floor. Take it slowly with this one to allow for the backlash. If you need more force and balance, lean your body forward slightly.
  • The Ultimate Abs and Glute Stairmaster Workout. You should aim to dedicate about thirty minutes to the Stairmaster. For high-intensity interval training, reduce the number of repetitions and increase the number of sets.
    • 25 x Single Step-Up
    • 10 x Sidesteps (right side)
    • 25 x Skip A Step
    • 10 x Side-Steps (left side)
    • 25 x Single Step-Up
    • 10 x Alternating Kickback
    • 25 x Backward Climb

Although the repetitions seem excessive, the continuous motion of the Stairmaster will help you reach a point where you can complete this routine in half an hour.

Our Verdict on Stairmaster vs Treadmill

A moderate to intense treadmill workout is a more effective and time-efficient way to burn fat and improve cardiovascular health than a Stairmaster workout. However, the treadmill’s superiority over the Stairmaster is dependent on the intensity of your workout. Walking is a far less effective exercise when compared to climbing stairs.

If you are in good health and want to improve your fitness while shedding some weight, you should combine both stair-stepper and treadmill training into your workout program. Cross-training on several kinds of cardio equipment decreases the likelihood of overuse injuries and boredom. It also keeps your body engaged, preventing you from reaching an exercise plateau.

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