While the Stairmaster is widely praised as a great warm-up piece of equipment, like all forms of steady-state cardio, working out on one can quickly become repetitive, which is why people are always looking to creative Stairmaster workouts to keep things interesting. . But apart from looking like a coordination nightmare, is there anything to be gained from climbing the steps backwards? To find out if walking backwards on the Stairmaster is a good or bad idea, we spoke with Stephanie Thomas, a certified personal trainer and health coach.
Why do people walk backwards on the Stairmaster?
The Stairmaster is an exercise machine that involves a rotating set of steps that you climb. It was designed to be worn facing forward so that you walk up the stairs while facing the console. Thomas says the main motivation for climbing stairs backwards is to burn more calories and use different muscles.
“Walking backwards in general uses more energy in the body,” she says. “This variation of the StairMaster can increase your heart rate and strengthen your endurance.” Thomas also notes that walking forward and stair climbing primarily uses the hamstrings, glutes, and calves, while walking backwards targets the quads.
“Walking backwards is also a great way to improve balance and mobility,” she explains. “You’re moving your body in a way that you normally don’t, so it can help work different muscles and help increase balance and proprioception.” That last word just means being able to understand where your body is in space.
So should you follow the trend and start climbing the stairs backwards?
Thomas says not necessarily. “Walking backwards on a Stairmaster intensifies the movement and shouldn’t be done by people with sensitive knees or physical conditions like arthritis,” says Thomas, who recommends these people walk backwards on a flat surface because it puts less stress on the knees.
If you are in generally good health without the above conditions, you can proceed with caution and some best practices.
Tips for walking backwards on the Stairmaster
1. Hold on to the handrails
Although Thomas says it’s good practice not to hold onto the handles when walking forward because it makes the exercise much more vigorous, it’s not safe when walking backwards.
“It’s easier to control the movement of the exercise and feel more balanced when using the Stairmaster in the traditional way, but walking backwards makes it much more challenging, so it’s a good idea to hold on to the handles at all times. ” she advises.
2. Go slow
Thomas also recommends slowing down. “Don’t rush it,” he warns. “Initially, the goal would be to make you more comfortable with this move so you can approach it safely. Then gradually increase the speed.”
Can you get the same benefits from walking backwards on normal stairs?
If you don’t have access to a Stairmaster, it’s possible to get some of the same benefits if you walk up normal stairs backwards. However, your training may not be as intense, so your heart rate and energy output may be lower.
“The Stairmaster’s speed settings make it easier to maintain the selected pace,” says Thomas. “If you had to do the exercise on regular stairs, you would need to trust yourself to maintain the desired intensity.”
What are the risks of walking backwards on a Stairmaster?
“Because you use your quads more when you walk backwards,” says Thomas, “you may be putting more pressure on that area, resulting in potential knee tenderness. Another risk is not feeling balanced. When we walk, we normally push off our toes and toes, but when you walk backwards on a StairMaster, your toes hang down, so you don’t use them to push off the ground.”
Given this, if walking backwards on the Stairmaster doesn’t sound like the right option for you, there are some safer options.
Alternatives to walking backwards on the Stairmaster
1. If your goal is cardio and endurance
Thomas suggests that you walk forward on the StairMaster and gradually increase your speed. Alternatively, he suggests running intervals on the treadmill.
2. If your goal is to strengthen your leg muscles
She suggests strength-training exercises, like using the leg extension and leg curl machines.
3. If your goal is to improve your balance
Thomas says you can walk backwards on a flat surface, practice yoga, or do tai chi.
This 20-minute yoga flow is a great place to start:
Lastly, Thomas says that if you’re new to exercise, walking backwards on the Stairmaster is probably something you should avoid altogether. “It’s best to focus on safety first and do exercises that you find enjoyable,” he advises.
Otherwise, barring knee problems or joint pain, walking backwards on the Stairmaster can help you break up the monotony of working out on this exercise machine, while improving your stamina and balance, so it’s worth a try. provided you proceed with caution.