Lab test: Threadmill vs. Stepper

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  • #8942

    Dear Scott and Steve,

    first of, congratulations on a fantastic book and thanks for all the dedicated work you put into this website and forums!

    I’ve recently completed the 16 weeks mountaineering training plan and saw encouraging results. Before starting a second round, however, I plan to have a proper lab test done to assess my thresholds and training zones.

    The lab I will do the test at asked me whether I would like to have it done on a threadmill (running) or on a stepper. I was wondering what your thoughts were on this. I largely train for mountaineering/skitouring objectives (no running), so the stepper might be an obvious choice, however the bulk of my training is done in running mode. Does the test condition (running vs. stepping) actually influence the results, i.e. thresholds and heart rate training zones? And if so, is it a problem that the typical steppers are not fully weight-bearing?

    Your feedback on this would be much appreciated and I can imagine that this question/topic also concerns many other users of this forum who are about to get lab tests done. These are quite costly so I want to make sure I am getting properly tested.

    Many thanks and best regards from Austria,


  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #8946

    I’m curious about this as well, but my first thought is that a treadmill at maximum incline may be the best choice. It seems like a more specific movement than using a stepper.

    Anonymous on #8953

    I agree with Scott S. For mountaineering we normally suggest a treadmill. Please read this article . Notice the graph I included from Adrian’s test. See the increasing gradients? This test was done at a constant 3 miles/hr (5km/hr) pace. There is no way I can tell you what pace to use for this test. This is one way to do the test. The other is to hold the grade steady and increase the pace and this would be easier. Choose a grade in the 10-15% range and then walk on this at increasing speeds. The most important thing is to keep each intensity (speed) stage at least 3 minutes long so your metabolism has a chance to adjust to the load. Ramping up speed (intensity) too quickly will mean the aerobic system can’t catch up and the test will not accurately reflect the aerobic metabolism’s response to increasing load. Be well warmed up for this test: At least 15 min of low intensity till you break a sweat.

    A stair stepper can work too. Interestingly the mode (as long as it is foot borne) does not seem to affect test results much if at all. I have conducted lactate tests on XC skiers skiing up hill, running up hill and doing ski striding in dry land uphill and running on the flats and the results were the same regardless of mode. But these athletes train in all these modes.


    robert.prevedel on #8958

    Dear Scott & Scott,

    thanks for your thoughts and suggestions. It’s good to hear that the mode of the test doesn’t seem to affect the results much. I will thus probably choose the treadmill and see whether it can be put at an incline (not sure whether this is possible with the one the lab provides though).

    Thanks again,

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