The latest trending exercise hack involves a piece of equipment that has been a staple in the gym for years.
It’s tall and imposing, towering above the other cardio machines. It makes an incline walk on the treadmill look like a breeze. You guessed it: We’re talking about the stair climber.
Last year, the treadmill got all the glory with the viral 12-3-30 workout, a program that calls for walking at a 3.0 pace at level 12 incline for 30 minutes. But TikTok fitness personality Camilla Akbas claims the stair climber cardio program has an additional perk: it can get you abs. The trick is to complete the exercise without using your hands to lean on the handlebars, she said.
But does it work? We talked with a sports medicine physician to find out.
What is the viral stair climber workout?
Akbas’ stair climber workout is simple — at least in name. Level 7, for 25 minutes, twice a week. No hands.
“And the result of that is that it could possibly get you abs, as that is something that it got for me,” she told TODAY.
Akbas first started incorporating this workout into her routine about three years ago when she was trying to get in her best physical shape before competing in a pageant. And to her surprise, instead of more traditional abdominal exercises like crunches, her trainer recommended trying the StairMaster.
Eight weeks later, she finally saw the results in her abdominal muscles that she had been working for.
Back in September, her video about her StairMaster “trick” first went viral, and since then, she’s seen many people post their results after following her advice.
The most important part is keeping your hands off the handlebar, she said. Using the stair stepper, but putting your weight onto the machine by leaning on the rails won’t activate your core as much, she said.
Akbas began sharing her fitness tips and goals on TikTok two years ago in order to share some of her own exercise success with the world.
“There were things that I learned through my fitness journey that I wish I had seen online, and because that source wasn’t out there for me, I had to learn on my own,” she said. “I figured why not share that with others in hopes of being able to help someone else out there?”
Jamaal Banks is another TikTok fitness influencer who shared some love for the stair climber with a video stating, “If you want to lose fat and tone your body then the stairmaster is your friend.” Banks started incorporating the workout into his routine and it became a “go-to” for him after lifting weights.
“I noticed such a change in my body composition when I first started doing it,” he said. “It was hard at first .. then I started to see more of a change in my body once I stuck with it.”
Does the stair climber workout work?
Dr. Jordan Metzl, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, said the stair climber is a cardio and strength workout that uses your full body. And using all of your muscles at once like that can really improve your physical fitness, he said.
His final verdict on the stair climber ab trick? Drum roll please …
“I think it actually can be true,” Metzl said.
By removing your hands from the stair climber, the exercise requires you to use all of your core muscles to stabilize yourself, Metzl explained. Keeping your body in an upright position as it experiences the instability of walking up steps puts a high load on the abdominals.
Keeping your body in an upright position as it experiences the instability of walking up steps puts a high load on the abdominals.
“Just think about basically doing a 25-minute plank, with walking, it's a huge amount of exercise,” he said.
If you don’t remove your hands from the railing, the results are likely to be different. When you lean on the handlebars, you put force on the machine and take pressure off of your core, Metzl said. And without that additional need for balance, your core does not experience as much of a workout.
In regards to getting the sculpted ab look, Metzl cautions that there are additional factors beyond exercise that can play a role in someone’s ability to “get abs.” For one, there is diet. Genetics also play a role.
“Just be the best you you can be, don’t look at anybody else,” Metzl said.
But what if I hate walking up steps?
Above all, Metzl said that the best exercise programs are ones that are fun. Some people may enjoy the uphill walk of the stair climber. For Banks, the exercise reminds him of hiking, something he loves doing.
“If you’re smiling when you’re doing it, I’m fine with that,” Metzl said.
But for others, the stair climber may feel like a “forced march,” he said. If that sounds like you, or if you don’t have access to the machine, never fear, there are alternatives.
In general, full-body workouts will activate the core, much like the stair climber. Here are a few Metzl recommends: