Are you, or do you have a loved one who hunches over on the StairMaster? Do they cling on to the handlebars for dear life, stepping on their tippy toes like a poodle with something stuck in it’s paws? If so, forward this blog post to them. Friends don’t let friends have bad form on cardio equipment. It’s time for a StairMaster intervention.
There are two types of stair machines at the gym. The StairMaster (aka StepMill, also called the StairMonster or “The Gauntlet” due to difficulty level) is like an escalator-to-nowhere. Stair steppers are a lot like StairMasters in that they simulate climbing stairs, but they have two separate platforms, or pedals, where you place your feet. As you push one foot down, the other foot rises, and the feet are in contact with the pedals at all times. Both machines work all of the major leg muscles, but I recommend the StairMaster because you can’t get away with taking shallow steps like you can with the stepper. Here are 5 tips for getting the most out of your time on the StairMaster.
1. Slow it down to a level where you can stand up straight for the entire workout. Pull your shoulder blades back and down. Do a shoulder roll every so often to remind yourself to keep your shoulders back. We spend so much of the day hunched over our desk at work and on our cell phones. Think of your time at the gym as an opportunity to undo some of that forward posture.
2. Rest your hands lightly on the handlebars for balance only. Once you have your balance, try resting just your fingers on the handlebars. You can also try resting just your right hand on the right handlebar, then switch to your left hand on the left handlebar, alternating every minute. If you have good balance and this will be safe for you, you can place both hands at your sides, on your hips, or behind your back. I feel safer with one hand on a handlebar. Whenever I remember to do a shoulder roll (see #1) I also check in with how much pressure I’m putting on my hands. When I notice I’m starting to use my arms too much, I adjust by hovering my fingers, barely touching the handlebars.
3. All the fitness competitors at my gym do this. Push your heel down with every step. Really drive down through your heel. Keep your entire foot on the step. If you have larger feet, your heel might hang off the edge of the step a bit, but you should still be able to keep your foot level and push through your heel. This seems like a small detail, but it will make a big difference in how much your glutes are activated, and how cute and round your butt’s going to be.
|Keep the StairMaster on a reasonable level where you can maintain good form and da booty will turn it's frown around!|
4. Just by standing straight and not propping yourself up on your arms, you’re working your core as well as your legs. Maintaining balance engages core muscles with every step. Your instinct will be to look down and watch each step go by, but instead, keep your head looking straight ahead, your shoulders away from your ears, and your core tight.
5. Warm up (5-10 minutes) and cool down (another 5-10 minutes) by adjusting the intensity level to half or less the intensity level of your usual workout. I know it’s tempting to get right to your usual level of intensity or higher if you’re doing intervals, but the literature on injury prevention has concluded time and time again that simply warming up and cooling down prevents injury. Schedule in the extra time to warm up, cool down, and do some foam rolling and static stretching at the end of your workout.