Many people use the stair climber sideways, but are they only fooling themselves?

Using the stair climber sideways adds a unique spin to step exercise. I’m a former certified personal trainer and have used the stair climber sideways – with my hands always free, never holding on; this is the correct way to do it.

Most of the benefits of stepping this way are lost when you hold onto the rails.

Every person I’ve ever seen stepping sidewise on the stair climber was holding on. Not holding on totally changes the exercise – for the better.

What’s wrong with holding on while you use the stair climber sideways?
-It causes bad posture.

Watch anyone using this machine with the side stepping. Almost always, they are quite crooked and/or hunched over a bit. Every single time.

Holding on encourages leaning, and because the rails become the support, the body’s inner support system slacks off considerably.

The result is a bent-over posture and/or one that’s leaning towards the side of the hand that’s doing most of the holding. I don’t know how people can do this; it looks so uncomfortable.

-It reduces a lot of workload. I’m sure that many women who use the stair climber sideways do so for toning emphasis of specific lower body muscle groups. Holding on for support will de-emphasize the targeted muscles.

-It doesn’t improve balance or coordination. Though improving balance/coordination may not be the reason one uses the stair climber sideways, why eliminate the added benefit of improved balance by holding on?

It’s great when a workout not only tones muscles and improves cardio function, but also improves balance. You can get all three benefits by using a hands-off approach.

How does one use the stair climber sideways without holding on?

Start at level 1, stand straight, shoulders as square as possible, and just start moving.

Watch your feet! When I go sideways on the stair climber, I watch my feet.

Holding on eliminates this task, but I’d much rather keep my eyes on my feet for much of the time if it means a far more efficient workout.

Sometimes I can look up and about as I get into the rhythm, but for the most part, I’m watching my feet.

Keeping your hands off will force you to maintain a much better posture, though watching your feet will prevent a perfectly straight spine, but again, at least posture will be much better (not crooked) than if you’re holding the rails.

You will burn more calories! Balancing burns calories. When you throw balancing into the mix, the total calorie burn is greater.

The machine’s calorie reading will be the same, though, since a machine can’t tell whether or not your hands are on the rail.

As you get used to sideways stepping on the stair climber, increase the speed.

You will feel a marked difference in muscle recruitment as you progress into your session of walking sideways on the stair climber.

You will also feel that you got much more out of the workout after doing it without holding on.

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.