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Stairmaster vs elliptical is a debate that is worth exploring for anyone considering investing in a cardio machine.

When it comes to cardio machines, there are many options to choose from.

Stairmaster vs Elliptical

While both machines offer a great cardio workout, they have some key differences that may make one more suitable for your fitness goals than the other.

Are you looking to burn more calories, lose weight, or tone your muscles? Do you have joint issues that require a low-impact workout?

These are just some of the factors that can influence your decision between the Stairmaster and the Elliptical.

To save you a bit of time, if you only want to know about the pros and cons of each workout machine, here’s a table comparing the pros and cons of the StairMaster and Elliptical machines:

1. Calorie BurnHigher calorie burnModerate calorie burn
2. Muscle FocusTargets lower body musclesWorks both upper & lower body
3. Bone DensityImproves bone densityLow impact on joints
4. Real-lifeMimics real-life stair climbingSmooth, fluid motion
5. SpaceSmaller footprintLarger footprint
1. ImpactHigher impact on jointsLow impact on joints
2. Muscle FocusPrimarily lower body focusBalanced muscle focus
3. LearningRequires some initial learningEasier to start using
4. BoredomCan become monotonousMore varied workouts
5. PriceOften more expensiveMore affordable options

In the article, we’ll also explore in more details how each machine works, the muscles they target, and the differences in calorie burn between the two.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of the Stairmaster and the Elliptical and be able to make an informed decision on which machine is right for you.

Differences Between Stairmaster and Elliptical Machines

There are a few key differences between the Stairmaster and the Elliptical that can affect your decision-making process.

First, let’s take a look at how each machine works.

The mechanism of the Stairmaster

The Stairmaster is an exercise machine that simulates the action of climbing stairs.

With each step, the user has to lift their body weight and work against resistance to power the machine. This resistance can be adjusted manually or electronically with the push of a button.

As you would expect, this type of workout is great for building leg muscles, as it targets these muscles heavily throughout the entire movement.

The mechanism of the Elliptical

In contrast to the Stairmaster, an elliptical trainer is a low-impact cardio machine that provides a full-body workout.

Unlike the Stairmaster, an elliptical machine requires you to pedal with both feet while pushing and pulling the handles. This type of motion stimulates both your upper and lower body muscles while providing a low-impact workout.

The elliptical is often preferred by those with joint issues as it requires less force to move than the Stairmaster.

Now let’s talk about the actual benefits of using the Stairmaster and Elliptical.

Benefits of Using a Stairmaster Machine

A Stairmaster workout can be very intense and work your core muscles.

But more than that, there are three core benefits associated with using a Stairmaster machine:

Stairmaster for weight loss

If you’re looking to lose weight, the Stairmaster is a great choice.

The intense workout will help you burn more calories in less time and can provide an effective cardio workout.

You can also adjust the resistance to make it as intense as you want, so you can really push yourself.

The reason for the increased calorie burn is because the Stairmaster works your entire body and keeps your heart rate up.

Just imagine how hard it is to climb a set of stairs, and the harder something is, the more calories you burn.

Stairmaster for cardiovascular health

The Stairmaster is one of the best cardio machines out there if you’re looking to make some improvements to your cardiovascular health.

The intense workout that comes with using a Stairmaster can help increase your heart rate and provide great aerobic exercise. This type of workout will also help build endurance and strength, as well as improve your overall fitness level.

When you improve your cardiovascular health, you’ll lower your risk of stroke, heart attack, and a whole cascade of other diseases.

Stairmaster for toning lower body muscles

If you want to tone your lower body muscles, the Stairmaster is an excellent choice.

The intense workout will help work and strengthen your major leg muscles like your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.

With continual use of the Stairmaster, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in muscle definition and strength over time.

Just imagine how much your lower body muscles work with each step you take and how much stronger they’ll become over time.

Benefits of Using an Elliptical Machine

An elliptical machine is another great choice for those looking to get a workout in.

The low-impact nature of the machine makes it a great option for those with joint issues or those who want to avoid putting too much strain on their body .

Elliptical trainers can be used for a variety of fitness goals, including weight loss, cardiovascular health, strength training, and high-intensity interval training.

Elliptical for low-impact workouts

The main benefit of using an elliptical is that it provides a low-impact workout that’s easy on your joints. This makes it a great piece of equipment for those with joint issues or those not looking to put too much strain on their bodies.

The low-impact nature of the elliptical also allows you to work at a higher intensity without putting as much stress on your body. So if you’re looking to get a great workout in with less risk of injury, an elliptical is a great choice.

Elliptical for full-body workouts

The great thing about the elliptical is that it provides a full-body workout. Not only does it work your lower body, but you can also engage your upper body muscles by pushing and pulling the handles.

This means that you’ll be able to tone your entire body in one session without having to switch back and forth between different machines.

Plus, an elliptical allows you to get a great cardio workout while engaging your core muscles. So if you’re looking for a great full-body workout, an elliptical is the way to go.

Elliptical for improving balance and coordination

If you’re looking to improve your balance and coordination, an elliptical machine is the perfect tool.

The movements require both feet to stay on the pedals while pushing and pulling the handles, which helps engage your core muscles and improve your sense of balance.

The motion of an elliptical also promotes good posture since it requires you to stand up straight and use proper form as you exercise.

Just keep in mind that these are just some of the benefits of using an elliptical and stairmaster. There are plenty of other benefits, such as calorie burn, improved blood circulation, and muscle toning, that come with using an elliptical or Stairmaster.

Now, it’s good to go over different real-life examples of when it is better to use an elliptical machine or a Stairmaster.

Comparing Stairmasters and Ellipticals in Real-Life Situations

There is no point in comparing the two machines if you don’t have a real-life situation to apply them to.

Let’s look at some common scenarios and the best cardio machine option for each.

  1. Home gym setup:
    • StairMaster: If you have limited space, a StairMaster can be a better option due to its smaller footprint. It also provides a challenging workout, mimicking the motion of climbing stairs, which can help you build strength and endurance in your lower body.
    • Elliptical: An elliptical is a versatile and low-impact option for a home gym. It works both the upper and lower body and offers a more balanced workout. However, ellipticals generally require more space than a StairMaster.
  2. Physical rehabilitation and joint issues:
    • StairMaster: The StairMaster’s higher impact on joints may not be suitable for those with joint issues or individuals in physical rehabilitation. Consult with a healthcare professional before using a StairMaster in these situations.
    • Elliptical: The low-impact nature of an elliptical makes it an excellent choice for those with joint issues or during physical rehabilitation. It provides a smooth, fluid motion that is gentle on the joints while still offering a full-body workout.
  3. Weight loss and calorie burn:
    • StairMaster: If your primary goal is weight loss, a StairMaster can provide a higher calorie burn compared to an elliptical. The intense lower body workout, combined with the resistance levels, can help you burn more calories in less time.
    • Elliptical: While the elliptical does offer a moderate calorie burn, it may not be as high as the StairMaster. However, the elliptical’s full-body workout can still be effective for weight loss, especially when combined with proper nutrition and other forms of exercise.
  4. Training for specific sports or activities:
    • StairMaster: If you participate in sports or activities that require lower body strength and endurance, such as hiking, a StairMaster can be an excellent training tool. It can help you build the necessary strength and stamina in your legs, hips, and glutes.
    • Elliptical: For those involved in sports or activities that require both upper and lower body strength and coordination, an elliptical can provide a more balanced workout. The push and pull motion of the handles works the arms, shoulders, and back, while the foot pedals target the lower body.
  5. Workout variety and boredom:
    • StairMaster: The StairMaster can become monotonous over time, as it primarily focuses on the same repetitive motion. You may need to incorporate other forms of exercise to maintain motivation and provide a well-rounded fitness routine.
    • Elliptical: Ellipticals typically offer more workout variety, with options to adjust the resistance, incline, and stride length. Some models even have pre-programmed workout routines, helping to keep your workouts fresh and engaging.

If you have a specific goal in mind, here is a table with the main outcomes from Stairmaster and elliptical trainers to help you decide which one is best for you:

Weight LossHigher calorie burn, more effectiveModerate calorie burn, effective with other exercise and proper nutrition
LongevityMay become monotonous, less sustainableBalanced full-body workout, more sustainable
ReliabilityGenerally durable, more maintenance requiredOften reliable, less maintenance needed
Joint HealthHigher impact, unsuitable for joint issuesLow-impact, gentle on joints
Muscle BalancePrimarily lower body focusBalanced full-body workout
Bone DensityImproves bone densityLess effective for bone density improvement
Space RequirementSmaller footprint, suitable for small spacesLarger footprint, requires more space
CostOften more expensiveWide range of prices, more affordable options

Keep in mind that individual preferences and fitness goals play a significant role in determining which machine is best suited for you. It’s always a good idea to try both machines.

Comparing the calorie burn of Stairmaster vs. Elliptical

Most people want to know what the best machine is for burning calories. To compare the calorie burn, we’ll take a look at an estimate of how many calories a 155-pound person will burn in 30 minutes on a Stairmaster and Elliptical.

MachineEstimated Calories Burned (30 minutes)
StairMaster223 – 260 calories*
Elliptical180 – 220 calories*

Now, we will do the same for 200-pound person.

MachineEstimated Calories Burned (30 minutes)
StairMaster285 – 335 calories*
Elliptical230 – 280 calories*

*Please note that these values are estimates and can vary depending on the intensity of the workout, individual metabolic rate, and other factors.

If you’re looking for a machine that will give you the most bang for your buck in terms of calorie burn, the Stairmaster is probably your best bet.

But as you can see, the difference in calorie burn is not that significant. And when it comes to health benefits and other factors, they both offer plenty of options.

You should pick one based on which one you would have more fun with, which encourages you to stay active, and which motivates you to reach your goals.

To help you decide, we’ll include some of the key factors to consider when choosing the right machine for you.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Stairmaster and Elliptical

We will include some of the key factors to consider when choosing between a Stairmaster and Elliptical.

  • If your primary goal is weight loss and calorie burning, a StairMaster might be more suitable due to its higher calorie-burning potential.
  • If you’re aiming for a well-rounded workout targeting both upper and lower body muscles, an Elliptical may be a better choice.
  • If you have joint issues or are in physical rehabilitation, an Elliptical’s low-impact nature makes it a safer option.
  • If you don’t have joint concerns and want a weight-bearing exercise to improve bone density, a StairMaster may be more appropriate.
  • If you prefer engaging and varied workouts, an Elliptical might be more enjoyable due to its multiple workout options, resistance levels, and incline adjustments.
  • If you’re focused on improving lower body strength and endurance and don’t mind repetitive motion, a StairMaster can be effective.
  • If you have limited space in your home or gym, a StairMaster’s smaller footprint might make it a more practical option.
  • If you have ample space and can accommodate a larger machine, an Elliptical can be a viable choice.
  • If you have a tight budget, you may find more affordable options in the Elliptical market.
  • If cost is not a concern and you’re willing to invest in a more expensive machine, a StairMaster may be suitable.
  • If you enjoy the sensation of climbing stairs and the challenge it provides, a StairMaster might be more appealing.
  • If you prefer a smoother, fluid motion that works both your upper and lower body, an Elliptical could be a better fit.
  • If you want to target specific muscle groups, such as the glutes, quads, and calves, a StairMaster can help you focus on these areas.
  • If you want a balanced workout that engages multiple muscle groups in both the upper and lower body, an Elliptical would be a better choice.
  • If you’re looking for a machine that you can use consistently over the long term, consider the potential for boredom or monotony with the StairMaster and the more varied options an Elliptical provides.

These are just some of the key factors to consider when deciding between a StairMaster and Elliptical. Ultimately, the best machine for you is the one that you’ll use more consistently and enjoy more over the long term.

If you still can’t decide, consulting with a NSCA-certified personal trainer or nutritional counselor may be beneficial. A professional can assess your fitness goals , lifestyle requirements, and current physical health to give you personalized advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

After reading all of the information above, you may still have some questions or concerns about choosing between a Stairmaster and an elliptical machine. In this section, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions to help you make an informed decision.

Does Stairmaster or an elliptical machine provide a better workout for the legs and glutes?

Both the Stairmaster and the Elliptical are excellent machines for cardio workouts and toning muscles.

However, when it comes to working out the legs and glutes specifically, the Stairmaster takes the lead.

The Stairmaster’s mechanism of simulating climbing stairs heavily targets the leg muscles and can be adjusted to provide a high-intensity workout that helps build muscle mass and improve cardiovascular fitness.

On the other hand, the elliptical provides a full-body workout but is less effective at targeting specific muscle groups.

Therefore, if you’re looking for a cardio machine that focuses on the lower body, the Stairmaster is the best option.

Can the Stairmaster or elliptical machine cause any injuries?

While the Stairmaster and elliptical machines are generally safe to use, there is a potential for injury if proper form and technique are not used or if the machine is used excessively.

For example, the Stairmaster can be high-impact and may cause joint pain or injury if used improperly or if the user has preexisting joint issues.

The elliptical machine, while low-impact, can also cause injury if the user has poor form or overuses the machine, leading to muscle strain or joint pain.

It is important to use these machines within your physical capabilities; start with low-intensity workouts and gradually increase the intensity and duration over time.

Proper warm-up and stretching before using the machines can also help prevent injuries.

What brands are best for Stairmasters and elliptical machines?

When it comes to buying a Stairmaster or elliptical machine, there are many brands to choose from, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Some of the best brands for Stairmasters and elliptical machines include:

– NordicTrack: Known for their FS14i FreeStride Trainer (an elliptical stair stepper combo) and SpaceSaver SE9i compact elliptical machine.

– Bowflex: Offers the Max Trainer M6 and M8, which are versatile stair steppers.

– Sunny Health & Fitness: Provides the Cardio Climber as a top stair climber and the SF-E905 as an affordable elliptical machine.

– Deco Home: Offers a budget-friendly exercise step machine.

– Body Power: Features a 2-in-1 elliptical stepper.

– Sole: Known for the E35 elliptical machine, which is suitable for sensitive joints.

These brands offer a variety of options to suit different needs and budgets. The main factors to consider when choosing a brand are stability, quality, and warranty.

Are there any joint issues associated with using the Stairmaster or the Elliptical?

Using the Stairmaster or the Elliptical can put stress on the joints, but the extent of the stress depends on the individual’s form, fitness level, and any preexisting conditions.

The Stairmaster can cause joint issues in the knees, hips, and ankles due to its higher impact nature.

However, proper form and gradual increases in resistance and intensity can reduce the risk of joint issues.

The Elliptical is generally considered to be a low-impact machine that is gentle on the joints.

However, improper form or using the machine at too high an intensity can also cause joint issues.

Can the resistance be adjusted manually or electronically on both the Stairmaster and the Elliptical?

Yes, both the Stairmaster and the Elliptical allow for adjusting resistance levels, which can be done manually or electronically.

The resistance on an elliptical can be adjusted electronically, and the resistance on a Stairmaster can be adjusted manually.

Ellipticals and stair climbers have resistance settings that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the intensity of the workout. Therefore, both machines offer the flexibility to adjust resistance levels to suit the user’s fitness level and goals.

Can using the Stairmaster or Elliptical become monotonous?

Yes, using the Stairmaster or Elliptical can become monotonous for some people. The repetitive nature of the motion can make the workout feel boring or unchallenging over time.

However, there are ways to prevent boredom and keep your workouts fresh.

One way to make your Stairmaster or Elliptical workout more interesting is to vary your routine.

This can include changing the resistance levels or incline, adding intervals of high intensity, or incorporating different types of movements into your workout.

Another way to prevent boredom is to listen to music or podcasts while you exercise. This can help pass the time and keep you motivated.

Which machine provides a workout that mimics real-life movement, the Stairmaster or the Elliptical?

The Stairmaster provides a workout that more closely mimics real-life movement compared to the elliptical.

The Stairmaster simulates the motion of climbing stairs, which is a common daily activity for most people.

On the other hand, the elliptical mimics running but with a low-impact, circular motion that reduces stress on the joints.

While both machines offer effective cardiovascular workouts, the Stairmaster’s stair-climbing motion is more representative of a natural movement pattern that people encounter in their daily lives.


Choosing between a Stairmaster and an elliptical machine can be a difficult decision, but understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed choice.

The Stairmaster provides a more intense workout for the legs and glutes, while the elliptical machine provides a low-impact workout that is gentler on the joints.

Both machines can be effective for weight loss, but it ultimately depends on how you use them. It is important to use proper form and start with a lower resistance level to prevent injuries.

When choosing between the two machines, consider your fitness goals, any existing injuries or conditions, and your personal preferences.

Ultimately, the best machine for you is the one that you enjoy using and can commit to using consistently.