The Machine You Absolutely Cannot Skip At The Gym

| Fitness

Most women either love or hate their gym’s stair-stepper for one reason: It’s hard. Unlike some other cardio machines (ahem, the elliptical and bike) stair-steppers take momentum out of the equation. “With the stairs, you have to keep moving—and keep moving upwards against gravity—or you're going to fall off,” says Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S.

Luckily, “hard” is code for “super calorie burner," which is great for your weight loss goals—as long as you follow a few pointers. Women's Health has tips on how to burn more with every step.

1. Set your own intervals. Intervals increase intensity and burn more calories during your workout and after (thank you, after burn effect!). But if you’re really going to push yourself, steer clear of the machine’s pre-programmed routines and do your own intervals, says Donavanik. This way you can tailor your workouts to your individual fitness level and needs.

The pre-programmed interval workouts on your machine might say they're for fat loss or weight loss, but that's probably not 100 percent accurate. Remember, the fat-burning zone on cardio machines usually makes you work out at a moderate intensity, rather than a high intensity. So while you might burn a greater percentage of calories from fat, you'll burn fewer calories overall, which isn't good for weight loss, he says.

2. Push the right buttons. Your interval strategy largely depends on what kind of stair machine you’re on, says Donavanik. Step-mills, which look like legit staircases, allow you to adjust your speed while using only your bodyweight as resistance. Stair-climbers or stair-steppers, however, have two pedals and allow you to adjust resistance.

While, technically, you can increase speed on stair-steppers, doing so requires taking shallower steps, he says. That means you activate fewer calorie-shredding muscle fibers. While you're on this machine, take full steps the whole time at a relatively constant speed. Then, dial the resistance level up during your balls-to-the-wall intervals.

woman on stairmaster step mill

3. Watch the clock. The length of your intervals depends largely on your fitness level, but you shouldn't be able to do an all-out sprint for more than 45 seconds. If you can go longer than that, you can probably push harder.

Also, it's important to make your rest intervals two to three times as long as your working ones, he says. That will help you work hard the whole time.

“Be honest with yourself,” he says. “If the machine takes 10 seconds to get up to your sprint speed, maybe opt for a 45-second sprint. Otherwise, your 30-second interval is really only 20-seconds long.”

To read the rest of the stair stepper tips, click here to read the original article from Women's Health.