The Ultimate Guide To Buying a Stepmill
Stepmills are a relatively new invention in cardio machines. They provide all the general benefits of cardio such as fat loss, reducing the risk of heart disease, improving endurance, etc., along with some additional benefits like strengthening and giving shape to the muscles in your lower body.
Quick Run-Down Of The Best Stepmills
Things to know before buying a stepmill
Stepmill vs. Stepper
- Stepmills are motorized machines designed like actual stairs to replicate the feeling of walking up real steps. Stepmills are not a budget choice and tend to cost a lot to purchase and maintain.
- Steppers are manual mechanisms that look like small elliptical machines and use pedals for movement. However, they are quieter than motorized stepmills if that is something you require.
So is a stepmill and a stairmaster the same thing?
- Yes, the most iconic Stepmill and stepper ever built have to belong to the Stairmaster brand. Chances are you didnt even know they were called stepmills, just Stairmasters, and rightly so.
- They first came into existence in the 1980s when Jim Walker, George Schupp and Lanny Potts came together to give the cardio fitness industry a fresh breath of life when it was limited to just treadmills and aerobics.
- The most common argument against stepmills is how is it any different than walking up a flight of stairs, and the answer to that is its not, it coming down the flight of stairs that poses a problem since it puts immense amount of pressure on your knees, and that’s the problem a stepmill resolves.
- Ever since it has become an integral part of the cardiovascular exercise landscape and can be found in almost every gym around the world.
What’s so special about a stepmill?
- The main reason for its popularity is the fact that climbing stairs has already been proven to be a beneficial exercise when it comes to maintaining heart health and toning the lower body and the Stepmill brings an unlimited flight of stairs right to your home gym or even your bedroom.
- You can work on developing your glutes, hams, calves and quads all the while burning an insane amount of calories.
- The benefits of the Stepmill have become so popular that even the firefighters have to pass a gruelling stepmill test to complete their training.
Expect to pay at least $2000.
- Like most other cardio machines, stepmills come in a wide range of prices. A good quality stepmill will cost you anywhere between $2000 to $7000, depending on features, build material, brand name, etc.
- High-end stepmills also come with extended warranty periods, which is useful if you’re going to put the machine through heavy use.
Cutting to the chase, buying a stepmill is a costly affair.
A price tag of $2000-$6000 is hard to justify for one piece of equipment, especially when people have set up entire home gyms for less.
But the question is, in spite of such hefty amounts, why are these machines so popular?
And the answer to that is because no other piece of equipment can replicate the working of a stepmill.
You can go ahead and compare them to ellipticals and treadmills, but each of these differ in their application.
Stepmills vs Ellipticals
Ellipticals are cardio machines just like stepmills and help you burn an insane amount of calories in a short period of time.
But that is all they do.
They can help you burn those stubborn pockets of fats that seem to linger around forever but don’t exactly help you gain muscle.
In fact, while performing high-intensity workouts, you might lose lean muscle mass over a period of time, leading to counterintuitive results if you want to “tone” your lower body.
Also, since the stride and pedal length is fixed, your body gets used to your elliptical workout, further slowing down the results.
Stepmills vs Treadmills
Comparing the treadmill to the stepmill next, treadmills have been around for quite some time now and are usually a go-to for cardio workouts.
Taking nothing away from the benefits of a treadmill, running on one can be damaging to your knees. Also, not everyone can run on treadmills, especially people struggling with obesity.
Climbing stairs is much safer if you’re obese or highly overweight. With stepmills, you can manipulate the speed and height of each step, making for a more tailored workout.
A stepmill also helps you add an element of resistance training to your cardio workouts, which not only helps you burn fat but also develops your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Stepmills need a high ceiling.
- Stepmills occupy a substantial amount of floor space and can elevate you up to 3 feet off the ground, so they also require a high ceiling.
- To be sure the ceiling is high enough, measure the height of the highest step on the machine and add your height to it. Ideally, your ceiling should be at least 6-7 inches higher than your elevated height
What to do if you have a confined workout space and a tight budget
If you’re running short on space, a stepper will the most suitable and economical choice. For instance, the Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper mentioned on the list below costs just $300 which is at least 10x cheaper than the stepmills.
- It measures around 60 x 29 x 37 inches in Length x Width x Height and weighs 71lbs.
- Coming to the dimensions of its shipping box, that measures 45 x 27 x 8 inches in Length x Width x Height, respectively, and weighs around 80lbs.
- This makes the process of shipping and handling as easy for the manufacturer as it is for the user who has to collect the package, carry it inside, and assemble the product together.
- Given its humble size, it can still support users up to 250lbs. Also, steppers are considerably more silent during usage when compared to the colossal stepmills with their motor and all its moving parts.
- If your garage gym is not large enough for a stepmill, or you live in an apartment and don’t have the luxury of a garage, steppers are the next best thing for you.
- They don’t have a huge footprint and also don’t require exceptional ceiling clearance – both of which are huge limiting factors for apartments.
What to do if you have a dedicated workout space and a good budget
Stepmills are the way to go if you have the space and money because they are much better at targeting your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, which helps you effectively gain lean muscle in your lower body.
- Breaking down the dimensions, a stepmill like the StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 has a width of 34 inches, length of 58 inches, and a height of 89 inches. Now, mind you, you need to add your height to that of the topmost step to really know how high your ceiling should be. Which means, if the topmost step is about 3 feet high, and you’re 6 feet tall, you need a minimum ceiling height of 10 feet.
- All in all, if you plan on developing your lower body, your budget is near the $2000 mark and you have a good amount of workout space, you cannot go wrong with a stepmill.
Best Stepmills Of 2021
Best High-end Stepmill
StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill
- Non-slip surface on each step
- 26 to 162 steps per minute will have you drenched in 10 minutes
- Extremely smooth revolution of the steps
- Costs as much as a small car
StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill Review
The most premium Stepmill you can buy is the StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill.
If you are thinking of buying a step mill, chances are you didn’t even know it was called a step mill, just the StairMaster. That’s the impact the StairMaster brand has had ever since it was founded in 1983. Building on 30 years of experience and proven performance, the Gauntlet provides a superior combination of cardio and strength training in the most comfortable design ever.
• The machine features a deeper, wider step surface with durable, rust-free polypropylene construction and weighs around 381 lbs.
• There are a lot of different customizations you can play around with, including 4 frame colors and different LCD options.
• The revolving staircase has eight steps that revolve with a step-rate of 24-162 steps per minute.
• Bluetooth connectivity, USB charging port, HDMI streaming, and multiple cups and accessory holders make for a better workout experience than most machines out there.
It might not be the best option for a home gym
The Stairmaster is definitely built to take everything you can throw at it, and look good while doing it. This is perhaps the most premium-looking StairMaster you can put in your home or commercial gym. But cutting to the chase, even though the StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill is an incredible machine, it comes at an incredible price as well.
• If you aren’t planning on designing the most expensive home gym out there, the StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill is not for you or any other home gym for that matter.
• If you are looking to use the StairMaster GAUNTLET Series 8 StepMill in your commercial gym, the $6000 is still a pretty steep price to pay, but once bought, it will last you a long time and your customers would really appreciate the premium experience.
• You could however look at more economical options for your home gym like the StairMaster 7000PT Stepmill or the StairMaster SM3 StepMill.
Best Stepmill For Compact Spaces
StairMaster SM3 StepMill
- 10 preset programs
- Multiple warranties, up to 5 years for the frame
- Small size makes it practical for home use
- Durability can be an issue
StairMaster SM3 StepMill Review
Since we are reviewing step mills, it makes sense to have more than one StairMaster product on the list. The second StairMaster on the list is the SM3 StepMill.
• The SM3 gives you a great cardiovascular and strength workout with the emphasis on a compact, lightweight design.
• The machine weighs around 212 lbs with a max user weight of 350 lbs, excluding the machine weight.
• StairMaster has recently introduced some structural changes to the steps and drive-train in all its models for increased durability and redesigned the drive-train for a smoother rotation and quieter operation.
• It packs a standard backlit LCD display console with over 25 workout combinations ranging from easy to challenging.
• You can also track your activity, and get feedback including total workout time, calories burned, and floors climbed.
• The SM3 is a power-packed, compact version of the more premium products of the StairMaster line, giving the average user an entry point into the StairMaster world.
• At $3700, the SM3 is by no means cheap, but getting a stepmill for anything lesser can raise questions about the quality and durability of the product.
A great choice for people living in small apartments
• The SM3 can be a great choice if you live in an apartment or have a compact work-out space.
• This one machine takes care of all your cardio needs and can be treated as a one-stop cardio station, which takes less floor space than your traditional treadmill and is way easier on your knees.
• The compact design of the SM3 makes it easier to move around and store, making it a viable option for most home gyms.
• Even for commercial gyms, bundled with multiple warranty options, the StepMill 3 can be a reasonable choice.
Best Budget Stepmill
StairMaster 7000 PT Stepmill
For $2,900.00 (Remanufactured)
- Large steps effectively work quad muscles
- Simulates real steps
- Heart rate monitoring capable
- Console is a bit dull
StairMaster 7000 PT Stepmill Review
The third product from StairMaster on the list is the StairMaster 7000 PT Stepmill.
• First off, since the mentioned product is remanufactured, you might need to do a bit of research into the quality of the stepmill on offer before making the purchase.
• Coming to the product, the 7000PT is not the best or the latest StairMaster product, but it is robust and gets the job done.
• The product weighs about 409 lbs and has a step rate of 24 to 162 steps/minute. It also features an easy-to-read, back-lit C40 LCD console, motivating programs including a nationally recognized fitness test to gauge individual progress and a custom firefighter test (C.P.A.T.), along with polar-compatible telemetric heart rate monitoring.
• It is also backed by a 1-year warranty on labor and wear items, a 3-year warranty on other parts, and a 15-year warranty on the frame, so even though you’re buying it refurbished, the warranties should lend you considerable peace of mind.
• The display console however is a little bit dull when compared to its counterparts like the SM3.
A great entry point into the Stairmaster experience but with some drawbacks
• The remanufactured unit costs around $3000, which is cheaper than all the other StairMaster products on the list. The 7000PT is a decent stepmill and gets the job done, but that’s pretty much it.
• You won’t be blown away by how it looks or performs. The overall structure looks a little flimsy, to begin with, and doesn’t inspire trust like the other StairMaster products.
• It does have a larger step size, which helps you work your quads better.
• Since it’s not as compact as the StepMill 3, it might not be as easy to use in a home gym. But it is a budget offering, and if it doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet, can be deemed as a reasonable purchase.
• Similarly, for a commercial gym, it is a decent machine and if it fits your budget, and you have no apprehensions about the remanufacturing, you can go ahead and get yourself one.
Best Manual Stepper
Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper
- Solid construction
- Adjustable resistance
- Doesn’t simulate real steps, more like an elliptical
Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper Review
Now, it’s time for the outlier on our list. Yes, it’s still a stepmill, but it doesn’t cost you as much as a second-hand car.
Enter the Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper.
• Let’s look at the most attractive feature first, it costs you $300. Yes, it’s not missing a 0, it does cost just 300 bucks and still almost simulates the effects of a StairMaster.
• It would be wrong to label it a true blue stepmill since it’s designed more like an elliptical, but once you begin to use it, the distinctions start blurring.
• The product weighs a meager 80 lbs but can still support users up to 250 lbs.
• An Informative LCD training computer provides workout data, feedback of time, step rate, steps per workout unit, energy consumption, total height climbed, room temperature, pulse, recovery heart rate with recovery fitness grades 1-6.
• The heavy-duty hydraulic piston cylinders have easy to adjust resistance settings, 1-12, to increase or decrease tempo as well as adjust for users of different weights. Ergonomically shaped handlebars with durable rubber grip surfaces guarantee safe exercise in different positions.
• It might not be able to completely deliver the experience of climbing a staircase or come with all the accompanying bells and whistles like the other stepmills on the list, but it gets the core functioning right and helps you burn a ton of calories at varying resistances.
A perfect fit for home gyms
• Given the affordable price tag and lightweight design, the Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper is the best-suited stepmill for home gyms.
• For commercial gyms, it might help in introducing variety and bringing down operating costs.
• If you are looking for an affordable, lightweight stepmill for your home gym and don’t mind the discrepancy from traditional stepmills, the Kettler: Montana Stair Stepper is the way to go.
Q:How do I use the Stepmill?
The Stepmill is just like a treadmill, except it has stairs instead of a flat surface. Just get on the machine, set a pace, and start climbing the stairs to nowhere. However, you must follow proper form. Keep your feet flat as you climb and press down with the entire foot. Keep your posture upright, do not slouch, and maintain a steady pace as you exercise. Most stepmills today help you keep an accurate track of how many flights of stairs you have climbed, the amount of calories you have burnt and your heart rate, helping you measure and record your performance.
Q:Which muscles does the Stepmill target?
The Stepmill is not necessarily a muscle building machine but more of a cardio station. It helps you burn huge amounts of calories in a relatively short time. While using a Stepmill, you work almost all the muscles in your lower body including Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Apart from working on your muscles, the Stepmill also builds your strength, power, and endurance.
The stepmill targets several muscles in your legs: Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Apart from working on your muscles, the Stepmill also builds your strength, power, and endurance.
Q:What sorts of programs does the Stepmill machine have?
Most of the machines have pre-loaded workout programs for fat burning, weight loss, custom intervals, random intervals, speed intervals, calorie goals, and so on. You can also input your age, height, weight, and targets, etc. to customize a program.
Q:What are the benefits of using a Stepmill?
- Stepmills provide a low-impact workout, unlike jogging or running, both of which place a lot of stress on your legs and back.
- Another advantage of a Stepmill is that it is highly customizable; you can decide the difficulty of the workout by setting the speed and step height.
- Using a stepmill isn’t rocket science; you just step on it and set the pace.
- It is also safe; you cannot fall off this machine.
- Stepmills also help you tone your body, especially your legs and glutes.
Q:Can’t I just use a treadmill instead of a Stepmill?
A Stepmill is a lower impact workout than a treadmill, and it works your various leg muscles and glutes more than a treadmill. At the same time, if you are suffering from an injury, you should go for a stepmill as it places lesser stress on your joints. Stepmill also helps burn more calories than a treadmill. However, if you are uncoordinated or are just beginning, a treadmill is a safer bet for you. So, in the end, it boils down to personal preference and comfort.
Q:Which is better: Elliptical machine or Stepmill?
It wouldn’t be fair to say that one machine is better than the other, because both serve different purposes.
If you wish to localize the stress on your lower body, like the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, you should use a Stepmill. This low-impact workout machine is great for building lean muscle. It improves your metabolism and overall strengths, which translates to long-term health benefits.
For a more comprehensive workout for both upper and lower body, the elliptical machine is a better choice. It also helps burn more calories than the Stepmill.
Q:Should I buy a used StairMaster Stepmill?
- Stepmills are usually a huge investment, and most people can’t afford to spend 2000 to 5000 bucks on a single piece of equipment. But that should not stop you from experiencing and enjoying the benefits of one. The market is filled with used and remanufactured Stepmills that you can buy.
- Most StairMasters are designed to last a lifetime and don’t have parts that go through a lot of wear and tear. You should try to get one that’s still in its warranty period. As long as it works properly, fits snugly into your workout space and doesn’t make a lot of noise, you should be good to go with a used Stepmill.
Q:Does the StairMaster burn belly fat?
A Stairmaster stepmill is a piece of equipment geared towards cardiovascular workouts and helps you burn a ton of calories in a relatively short period of time. Burning extra calories consistently will lead to fat loss but spot reduction of fat is not possible and should not be your objective.
Q:Should I use the StairMaster everyday?
Yes, you should perform some sort of cardiovascular exercise everyday, be it on a StairMaster or otherwise. Working out on a Stairmaster helps you maintain a healthy body weight and body fat percentage. It also improves your heart health and tones your lower body.