Stair Climber vs. Incline Walking on a Treadmill – What’s the Better Workout?

Cardio workouts are important but which machine is the right option for your needs? Which one is going to bring in the best results and do the least amount of damage to your joints?

Experts often talk about two options when it comes to cardio workouts: stair climbers vs incline walking on the treadmill.

This read is going to help analyze what each one has to offer and which one is ideal for your workout requirements.

Stair Climber

a stair climber

This cardio machine is designed in two variations (revolving stairs vs two-foot pedals). The idea is of mimicking a regular staircase and stepping upwards as the machine moves. You will face a resisting downward force (gravity) while stepping during the workout.

This is used to create a more challenging and natural workout for those looking to get stronger, leaner, and simply lose weight.


1. Great for Burning Fat

Studies have shown the stair climber is one of the world’s most effective cardio machines and does an excellent job of increasing your heart rate.

Remember, the goal of using any cardio machine is to get the blood pumping by increasing your heart rate.

The stair climber is able to do this immediately and does a wonderful job of keeping your heart rate elevated from start to finish. To make sure you are losing fat and retaining full value from the stair climber, it’s natural incline maintains the challenge.

You will notice how the heart rate picks up after a few steps because it is such a unique movement.

As you enter the fat burning range, you will start to see major results and this is going to occur after a few sessions on the stair climber. It is one of the better options for individuals looking to gain control over their body.

2. Builds Strong Quads

This machine is more than a simple cardio solution. It is going to put natural resistance on the legs and that is essential while looking to develop them. For example, if you don’t have toned legs then this might be an ideal option moving forward. It is going to put a good amount of weight on the quads and that will build them up rapidly.

Of course, you will have to realize the importance of form when it comes to the stair climber due to the resistance in place.

As long as you do this, the quads are going to look absolutely fantastic.

3. Well-Rounded Leg Workout

Along with the quads, you are going to get a natural leg workout. This is important for anyone that doesn’t have the time to do a proper leg workout in the gym and might want to stay as fit as possible.

Over time, your leg muscles are going to be used more and more, which is why the stair climber is such a wonderful option. It feels good and is great for the body. Your legs are going to start popping in terms of the muscular definition that’s present.

It will become noticeable after a while and that’s essential.

Most people will notice the burning sensation in their legs as they go up any local staircase. It’s a natural feeling because of the way you use your legs. As long as the form is good, the leg workout will be a good one.

4. Low Impact

Image via Amazon

Your joints are a major point of concern and as people age, it’s important to focus on them before working out.

No one wants to hop on a cardio machine and get injured. This happens all the time and is not a good feeling especially due to the tension that’s put on your legs every single day. Due to this reason, the stair climber is highly advantageous and is not going to put a lot of pressure on the joints.

This has a lot to do with how the machine is made and the actual movement. It is going to be going at an angle and that’s essential with how the gravity pushes down on your legs.

While your muscles are going to get a good workout, your joints will not face the same level of stress. This keeps things safe and healthy just the way you like.


1. Takes Time To Master

There is one con with the stair climber and that is the initial learning curve. No one likes the idea of being put in a position that’s unhealthy and simply difficult to master. However, once you do get the hang of the stair climber, it is going to offer incredible value.

In general, the best way to go about this is to practice a little bit on a slower setting. This will make sure you are able to go up the stairs without falling down or slipping. Pay attention to your form and watch as you get better over time!


the bowflex bxt116 treadmill

This is one of the most used and recognized cardio machines on the planet. The premise of a treadmill is to mimic walking/jogging/running (i.e. in this case incline walking!). The incline can be used to bring the local hill straight to your gym and that’s far easier to manage.

You are able to play around with the incline and set it based on what you prefer (0-15%).


1. Great for Burning Fat

What is the main goal of incline walking on the treadmill?

You will want to burn fat! This is why using a treadmill is such a neat idea because it is a good cardio machine. It is not going to put you through a workout with burning calories. In fact, according to studies, the treadmill is right up there with the best cardio machines in the world for burning fat.

It is going to be a challenge and that is necessary when your goal is to shed fat. If you want to start increasing your heart rate, burning fat and looking leaner, it has to begin here.

This is going to make sure to bring up your heart rate and keep things as healthy as possible. The additional incline is only going to make things better as you add more resistance into the mix.

2. Builds Strong Glutes

While most people don’t think about this while putting together an incline walking regimen, it is important to note with the treadmill. As soon as you start incline walking on the treadmill, you will notice a burning sensation in your glutes. This has to do with the way you walk and where the pressure is put as you go upwards on the treadmill.

In fact, this has been noted as one of the best ways to build your glutes without lifting weights!

You are going to be putting 20% of your entire weight on the glutes as you start working out on the treadmill. As a result, you will notice a major change in how your body feels and how your glutes look. For men and women hoping to get bigger glutes, this is the right cardio machine to go with.

It simply does incredible things to your glutes in a relatively short period.

3. Well-Rounded Lower Posterior Chain Workout

a row of treadmills in the gym

The final benefit is the impact it has on your lower posterior chain (i.e. glutes, hamstrings, calves, and inner thighs. It will be impressive and something you are going to fall in love with. Of course, it doesn’t have the same impact on the front of your legs but it will do wonders.


1. Difficult on the Joints

The only con would have to be the impact it has on your joints. It is going to be difficult especially if you increase the speed. However, as long as you are focused on walking normally and not overdoing it, the joints will be in good shape.

Please do listen to your body while completing the session!

How to Get the Best of Both Machines

If you’re looking to get the benefits from the treadmill and the stair climber, then you may want to checkout the TreadClimber from Bowflex (learn more).

The TreadClimber is basically a combination of both in awesome machine. Because it takes the best from both, it gives you one amazing workout without having to run, or jockey between a stairclimber and treadmill for your workouts.

Final Thoughts

It all comes down to what you want out of the session. Do you want to burn fat and work out your quads or do you want to burn fat and work out your lower posterior chain? For the former, you can easily use the stair climber, while the latter works better with the treadmill.

In both cases, you will get a great cardio workout for your heart!