If you normally use the stair climber for your cardio training, why not do high intensity interval training on this equipment?

I must admit, I’ve never seen anybody do high intensity interval training (HIIT) on the stair climber–other than some of my personal-training clients when I was a trainer some years ago.

Of course, I myself have done HIIT on the stair climber (revolving staircase).

To get in an effective HIIT routine on the stair climber, you must first get used to the idea of using the stair climber without hanging onto it.

I don’t know why people feel they must clutch the rails. If you were to work out on the staircase of a high rise, or an outdoor staircase like those at the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado, you wouldn’t hang onto anything.

The purpose of high intensity interval training for many people is to burn as much fat as possible.

Holding onto the stair climber will suppress the burning of at least 20 percent of the calories that you’d burn without holding on.

The work segments of high intensity interval training must be brutal for maximal fat-burning following the exercise (the after-burn effect).

Holding onto the stair climber rails will prevent this optimization of fat-burning. So start slowly without using the rails and get used to this.

For high intensity interval training on the stair climber, each work segment lasts 30 seconds, which you can easily track on the machine’s clock.

Simply bring up the stepping speed to a pace that’s difficult to maintain, and go for 30 seconds. At the end of 30 seconds, bring the speed back down to a slow climb.

If you need to hold onto the rail to bring the speed down (because by then you should be heavily fatigued), then do so, but only to adjust the speed.

How fast should HIIT on stair climber be?

Experiment by increasing the speed a bit more with each work segment. So if the stair climber goes up to level 20, try level 10 for 30 seconds.

If that wasn’t maximal output, then for the next segment, see how level 13 feels like, and so on, until you find the level that you can barely sustain for about 30 seconds, after which you are absolutely utterly breathless.

This will be level 16 for some people, 18 for others, and for the fittest, level 20.

Remember, you are not – I repeat – not to hang onto the rails! At some point in the increasing of the speed, you will find that it’s not possible to walk the steps, but rather, it’s necessary to trot or “run” them. You’ll worry that you’ll stumble and fall if you don’t hold on.

This is why it’s important to practice hands-free with slower speeds first, and get used to this, before attempting it at fast speeds.

Trotting hands-free is not Olympic-level athleticism, so don’t underestimate yourself.

I’m telling you, hands-free at level 20 on the stair climber is furious high intensity interval training and will smoke the fat right out of your body!

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Jovan Barajevac