woman performing a stairmaster workout in a gym
Injury Prevention

Stairclimber Workout Mistakes You Need to Stop Making

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Stairclimber machines are making a come back.

A stairclimber workout can get your heart rate up in a hurry and strengthen the major muscle groups in your lower body in a very functional way.

Sounds like a win-win right?! 

Time out.

Before you go running up the stairs, there are a few things that can sabotage your workout and put you at risk for injury.

This article will highlight some critical stairclimber workout mistakes you need to stop making!

Disclaimer: Always seek proper instruction before initiating an exercise program. Not everything is great for everyone! Consult with your qualified health care practitioners for an exercise program tailored to your needs. Stay healthy and injury-free! Read the full disclaimer.


If I had a dollar for every person I’ve seen climbing up on their tippy-toes. This is about optimizing your movement for the best muscle activation.

The body likes to move in patterns, meaning several muscles work together to perform movements.

Injury, weakness, and poor form can alter these patterns leading to overuse and injury of other muscles that were just there to pick up the slack.  

The fix: put more of your foot on the step and drive through the heel.

Pushing through the midfoot and heel will help engage the glute muscles more effectively.

The glutes were designed to perform heavy work, for example when climbing stairs, propelling forward with walking, or even getting up from a chair. 


I’m not sure when this became a thing, but I’m going to take a stance and say I’m not a fan.

Before you form a line around the block, let me explain.

I fully understand cardio machines can be monotonous.

It might feel like you’re adding some flair to an otherwise dull and repetitive workout. Many articles even encourage adding kicks to your workout and claim that you’re toning your glutes.

Here’s the “kicker”: You’re not getting booty gains from kicking back on a stairclimber machine and it can aggravate your lower back.

When I see people performing said kickback, I see increased extension at the lumbar spine from forcefully whipping their leg backward.

Aggressively extending the lumbar spine can exacerbate existing conditions or cause new issues. Not to mention, if you’re flailing your legs around, you’re not putting intention into the movement.

Not all exercises and movements are created equal and the kickback is not giving you the results you’re after anyway.

There are many other exercises to isolate glute strengthening, producing safer and better results.

Some alternate options are squats, lunges, bridging, leg extensions with a cable machine, quadruped leg lifts, and leg press just to name a few.

You will be able to focus on proper form rather than quickly bringing your leg back, so you don’t miss a step.


You wouldn’t do this in real life, and it’s a great way to cause knee injuries.

Or slip and fall. You know, safety.

If you’re looking to perform side and back stepping, use a step in the gym and keep yourself safe. Use a BOSU round side up if you’re looking to add a balance challenge.

Today it seems we’re always looking to remix everything. Sometimes the classics are the best to accomplish the goal.

Long answer: The hip abductors (the muscles on the side of your hip) are often a neglected area of focus in exercise, and they serve such an important function.

If there is any weakness in these muscles, it changes our movement patterns and places additional stress further down the leg, such as the knee and ankle. Or even up to the low back.

Your body will always figure out how to accomplish a motion, often with bad mechanics at the expense of overusing the wrong structures.

Performing side-stepping with poor mechanics for a prolonged period can aggravate other areas.

Isolating form on exercises can be challenging enough without adding a moving surface into the equation.

When the goal is to work your hip abductors, you can get more bang for your buck elsewhere, sans risk of falling down a moving staircase.  


Stand upright with hands placed (lightly) on the handrails.

No death grip!

Not holding on is a recipe for disaster, one distraction and its over. 

Avoid leaning or slumping over the machine to support yourself. This may mean you need to adjust the level.

Slumping over the machine gives you a false sense of efficiency. Good posture will give you a better workout with less risk of injury.

Slouching forward overworks neck and back muscles. These are the same muscles that are already overworked with poor posture slumped over a computer or phone most of the day.

You took time out of your busy day to get a workout in, might as well do things the right way.

Your time is valuable, don’t waste it on poor form.

Keep these tips in mind for your next stairclimber workout to keep yourself active and safe! Try some interval programs to challenge your workout.

​Craving more workout tips? Check out Body Awareness for Injury Prevention and Exercise Modifications!

Featured image credit: kegfire / bigstockphoto.com

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