Training for Mountaineering – Stair Master vs. Treadmill

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  • #37522


    I have a few of your training programs (currently doing the 24 week Expedition Mountaineering Program). The most recent article on your site today I saw stated indoor uphill training should be done on a treadmill at 15% vs. a Stair Master type machine. The notes in my program say the opposite, that the Stair Master is more preferred. Maybe some info has been uncovered to change the recommendation. Could you please provide some clarity?



Posted In: Mountaineering

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    Anonymous on #37552


    Thanks for pointing that out. Please refresh your browser and take another look. Editing mistake on our part.


    mgflatt on #37554

    Got it, thanks so much. I’ve been banging out those 2 – 3 hour stair machine sessions for several weeks now. It’s mind numbing but I’ve felt the effect of not getting enough vert (live in the midwest). I’ve vowed never to let that happen again.

    kallikles2003 on #37866

    Could anyone post the link to the article referred to in the thread? I’m having some troubles finding it

    Shashi on #37909

    I believe it is this article –

    Training for Mountaineering

    Frantik on #38379

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Another question for us vertically deprived on this topic:

    I noticed that since you only count half the vertical on the stair machine I end up doing a lot less vertical than if I did the same session(same time/intensity) on an 18% treadmill that is available on my gym.

    Should I still be doing these aerobic sessions in the stair machine for better simulating an actual climb or accumulating more vertical overall is more beneficial?

    mgflatt on #38392

    Frantik – others can correct me if they feel I’m incorrect but due to the difference in incline (60%-ish vs. 18%) the time may be the same but the intensity will not. For example, you would have to go at a much faster pace to get your heart rate near the top of Zone 2 on a treadmill at 18% than on a stair machine. Now, if you get your heart rate the same and commit the same amount of time perhaps your cardio system would not know the difference but your legs would. The stair machine, due to the incline, would require much more effort.

    For my personal training I recently did the following:
    – 1 hour on stair machine
    – 1/2 hour on treadmill at 15%
    – 1 hour on stair machine
    – 1/2 hour on treadmill at 15%

    My total steps just on the stair machine were over 6,600. With an 8″ step that’s 4,356′ of vertical. Even if I can only count 1/2 of that due to the step falling away that is nearly 2,200′ of vert. My workout called for 2,500′ so if I add in the hour spent on the treadmill, I feel I got it. At the end I was worked but would have been much less so had I spent my entire time on the treadmill at 15%.

    Denfri on #69759

    Sorry to resurrect an old thread but this is the exact topic I have a question on so…. How does the incline treadmill that is able to go to 40% compare to Stair Master? I have the treadmill at home but can go to a gym for the Stair Master if needed. Thanks!

    bbarlin10 on #70662

    I assume you are using a NordicTrac Incline Treadmill, since I don’t know of another with 40% capability. I have one, as well as a Stairmaster Stepmill 8. Let me give my own personal experience with these 2 machines. I can train on the NordicTrac up to about 25% incline before I have to hold on to the handles (my old ankles only bend so far), which completely changes the dynamic of the climb. Also the NordicTrac has a safety feature which slows the machine down when you grab the handles, really killing the workout. To further complicate things the NordicTrac motor is weak and as you push to keep moving at the higher incline, you get crazy speed ups since the machine doesn’t have enough power to overcome strong legs. So then you grab the handles because the the machine makes you feel unsafe and it then slows way down. For me, anything over 25% incline on the NordicTrac is just not effective. Possibly those with highly flexible ankles and calves would be able to go to higher inclines and not touch the handles.

    The Stepmill 8 is about 60% incline, but unlike the NordicTrac, I always feel very stable no matter how fast I go and it always keeps consistent speed. However, the Stairmster Stepmill, has rotating steps that fall away under you while you climb. So you need to apply a adjustment factor to get the correct vertical distance achieved. Good news is that the Stepmill, because of the height of the steps, 8″ and the rotating mechanism, it is less of a hit than a traditional stepper. On a stepper, I would use a vertical distance adjustment of 1/2. On the Stepmill I use a factor of 3/4 (i.e. 1,000 ft would be recorded as 750ft of elevation gain).

    So what I do is use the NordicTrac for Zone 1 or 2 workouts with weight in my pack up to the 25% incline. I use the Stepmill with less weight to do Zone 2 workouts to break things up and then put in more weight to do ME workouts. I don’t think think there is a perfect machine for everything. I live in central Texas (completely flat) and really have tried many other machines (stepper, rower, bike, elliptical) but keep coming back to these two and some outdoor running (when it is under 100 degrees lol). I am old (65), so for someone younger the amount of weight or pace might change but I think everything else applies. Hope that helps.

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