StairMill Questions

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  • #25610
    Kyle Brundage

    I’ve tried searching some StairMill manuals to no avail, but what are the implications of increasing or decreasing the weight setting on the StairMill? What about if I am using ankle/backpack weights? I am curious if I need to select a higher weight for more resistance or vice-versa.

    I’ve just reached the Mountaineering-Specific part of the 3-Month course for Rainier DC in Sept. I’ll be doing strictly stairs/StairMill for the ME’s and incline treadmill work for other cardio days. I plan on using real stairs also, but because of work I may not have access to real stairs the entire time before the trip. Today with the tempo work on the StairMill (unweighted) I noticed I just could NOT get my HR to AnT (178) before my legs were full of lactic acid causing me to slow down. This hasn’t happened before, so I’m hoping this means I am now bottlenecked at my legs (or maybe just fatigued?) My question on that (and maybe it just depends) do I know I am no longer aerobically-deficient in that aspect because I couldn’t get my HR high enough? The previous sessions I did not have issues getting to around my AnT and staying there. It wasn’t until the end of the 3rd, and most of the 4th 8mins at AnT I could get it around 178. I felt strong, slept enough, and was well hydrated so I was a bit confused on how that happened.

    Thanks for all the help and comments, I know you all don’t have to so it’s greatly appreciated. My last Rainier climb in ’17 was just me piddling around before reading TftNA and saying “guess I’ll use Stairmill for X minutes with X weight today” and I really look forward to seeing how much smoother it goes this time.

  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #25620


    Thanks for writing in with your questions. Lots of folks are forced to use stair machines for training so it warrants some discussion.

    I’m not a StairMaster master. I’m lucky to live where I have easy access to plenty of steep terrain. So, I might be a bit off here as I have only used a stair machine a few times.

    I think you need to set the resistance on the machine to reflect the total weight (you and the pack weight). Increasing the “weight” setting will slow the machine down and decreasing will speed it up.

    From the feedback we get from our coached clients who use these machines a lot it seems like one the machine the pack weight needs to be higher to induce the same sort of local leg muscle fatigue when using a steep hill outside. I can only guess that is because you do not raise your center of mass the full height of the step on the machine. Instead the step falls away from under you such that you only raise you center of mass about 1/2 the actual step height. While this might reduce the effect a bit form out doors we still see great gains among the folks using machines like this.

    If you were fresh and rested then I think and felt that leg fatigue below 178 then I would say you probably nailed the ME training effect in that workout.


    Kyle Brundage on #25695


    Thanks for the clarification. My goal that session wasn’t ME just cardio tempo, I just couldn’t get the machine fast enough to raise my HR to AnT without legs burning out first. I will take it as a good sign that the cardio-priority of the first part of the plan has worked.

    Today I started the first weighted ME workout, choosing a weight that included my pack and ankle weights. I had to keep increasing the weight of my pack while on the StairMill. At first 30lbs with 3lbs on each ankle, then 40, then 50 but still wasn’t having much burn in my legs yet had a heart rate not quite but nearing my Z3 (150-160bpm) all nose-breathing, under those weights. I had done some weighted hiking before the program, so this weight didn’t feel overbearing at my current bodyweight (5’10, 185, 12-13% bf)

    From the ME video it seems the goal is to avoid a high HR and have a burning feeling in the legs (I had a slight one, not overly so) and says to increase the weight. Might that mean I need to lower weight and go faster, or add more weight and go slower? I was powerlifting prior so I am wondering if I just need even more weight right off the bat. I have the feeling a real pair of stairs would have put me in my place.

    Thank you,

    OwenFW on #25759

    I know this is a can of worms, but the stair only “falls away” if you are exerting pressure to hold yourself up on the stationary handles. Otherwise you can assume the stairs are stationary in terms of the physics.

    Kyle Brundage on #25858


    I didn’t bother to ask since I’ve seen that question so many times online. Truthfully I don’t know the physics, but I once thought it is not as hard as real stairs because by the time you make your next step it has lowered. However, so has your back foot.

    Really though I was trying to find out if the weight setting makes a difference but it seems like with the reading in manuals its just to show estimated calories burned. I’ve signed up for some phone counseling and trying to make sure my performance for the ME’s aren’t going to be impacted by ADS. It may be time to tone down to Z1 aerobic workouts and use more weight for the ME.


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