Step machines are a great way to burn calories while toning your lower body.

The stair machine deserves a lot more credit. This often-overlooked machine is versatile AF. You can work tons of different muscles by switching up the speed and style of your steps.

Here’s how you can make the most of this booty-blasting machine — including five of the best step-machine workouts and some common faux pas to avoid.

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Before we get into variations, here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to use a stair machine:

  1. Step on up! Take a moment to adjust the machine’s settings and get yourself situated. Make sure you have all the stuff you may need — like a water bottle, a dope workout playlist, and towels to wipe off sweat.
  2. Grab the bars. Grip the handles on both sides of your body, but don’t press into them too hard. They’re there to provide stability and balance, not to support your entire body weight. Psst … You can also go hands-free for a killer core workout.
  3. Get to steppin’. Start to climb the stairs at your desired speed and resistance. You can go slow and steady with large strides for targeted toning benefits or go fast and take smaller steps if you’re focused on cardio. You should feel the burn in your butt, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
  4. Mind your body. Try to maintain proper posture. Stand tall and don’t slouch over the machine — that puts pressure on your lower back and can make your workout less effective. Also, be sure to press down with your entire foot, including the heel. This helps target your butt and thighs and lessens the strain on your calves.

Here are five step machine workout routines that target different parts of your body.

This is a good starter workout on the stair machine that goes for the core, glutes, quads, thighs, and hamstrings.

Start with 60 seconds of medium-intensity stepping. This will help get your heart rate up and your blood flowing. Then perform the following routine at a low to medium intensity:

  1. Turn your body to the left. Climb 1 stair at a time for 30 seconds.
  2. Turn to the right and repeat for another 30 seconds.
  3. Switch back to the left, but this time take it 2 steps at a time. Do this for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the right for 30 seconds.

Repeat this circuit for 10–15 minutes. You can go longer if you want a little mo’ cardio.

This booty workout is a blast! It works your gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus.

Start things off with some squat jumps:

  1. Stand at the bottom of the machine with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big jump forward, landing in a squat 2 steps up.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you stand.
  4. Continue for 1–3 minutes.

Next, let’s skip a step:

  1. Set the controls to a slow pace and high resistance.
  2. Pull your body up using the same leg for 1 minute, skipping a step each time you climb.
  3. Switch sides and repeat.

Pro tip: Squeeze your booty as you pull your leg up. Also, be sure to press through your heels to activate your glutes.

Finish this routine with some cross-over lateral leg lifts. They’re a great way to target the outsides of your hips (aka the medial glutes). Here’s how:

  1. Turn sideways on the machine.
  2. Hold the middle bar for extra balance.
  3. Cross your outside foot over your inside foot as you step up.
  4. Bring your back foot up to the step above.
  5. Quickly sweep the outside leg up to perform a lateral leg lift.
  6. Work each side for 1–3 minutes.

Repeat this circuit 2–3 times.

Adding a resistance band can activate and isolate specific muscles. Here’s a basic resistance band butt workout.

  1. For 60 seconds at medium intensity, step forward to the corner of each stair.
  2. For 45 seconds, step up sideways and drop into a half squat with each step.
  3. Switch sides and repeat for another 45 seconds.
  4. Walk straight up the stairs, but hold your back leg up behind you for 2 seconds each time it leaves a stair.
  5. Step up sideways by crossing your back leg over your front one to reach the next step. Let your front leg follow.
  6. Switch sides and repeat for 30 seconds.

Repeat this circuit 2–3 times.

This intense step machine workout looks simple, but it really works your core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

Let’s HIIT it:

  1. Jog up the stairs for 60 seconds at medium intensity.
  2. Walk up the stairs for 60 seconds at low intensity.
  3. Run up the stairs for 30 seconds at medium intensity.
  4. Walk up the stairs at low intensity.
  5. Sprint up the stairs for 30 seconds.

Repeat this circuit 2–3 times.

Finally, this one’s all about the booty. It’s a glute-focused step machine workout that, again, doesn’t look too complex. But give it a go and you’ll quickly feel your butt cheeks start to complain. They’ll thank you later.

To begin:

  1. Step up with one foot and hold your back leg up behind you for 2 seconds each time it leaves a stair. Do this for 60 seconds at medium intensity.
  2. For 60 seconds at medium intensity, step up sideways. Try to drop low as you step, almost like you’re entering a squat.
  3. Step up sideways and skip 1 stair at a time. Keep your knees bent in a half squat position. Continue for 60 seconds.

Repeat this circuit 2–3 times.

If you gave any of those routines a try, you’ll know that step machine workouts can feel punishing. But are they worth it? Science says yes! Using a step machine gives you three major advantages.

1. Health benefits

Step machine workouts target a number of different lower body muscle groups. They can also improve your core strength and overall stability.

One 2021 study found that daily stair climbing can help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that can contribute to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Another 2021 study suggests that step exercises — particularly stepping downward — could be good for insulin sensitivity. Woot!

2. Flexibility and versatility

Most step machines offer a range of settings and data to show exactly how you’re performing. That makes them perfect for fine-tuning your workout.

Bonus: Some research suggests that step workouts could be particularly effective at maintaining preexisting lower body strength in older adults. Score!

3. Accessibility and ease of use

Stair machines are hella popular, so there’s a good chance your local gym will have at least one.

Most machines are user-friendly, requiring zero special training before you hop on.

Also, since they’re very versatile, you can customize your workouts for your unique needs. For example, a slow stair machine sesh can place less strain on your legs and back than running.

Step machines are generally considered safe for most folks to use. But you might want to avoid this machine if you have joint problems or have a tough time climbing stairs.

You should also check with a healthcare professional before using this type of machine if you have balance issues.

And of course, as with any workout, you need to keep your form on point. That means:

  • Keep your knees aligned above your feet. This puts less strain on your joints.
  • Land with your whole foot, not just the ball of your foot. This reduces pressure on your hammies and calves.
  • Don’t grip the handrails too hard. This can make your workout less effective and throw your back out of whack.

Give the step machine a try next time you’re in the gym. While you may think of them as a relic of the ’80s, these machines are still around for a good reason — because they offer a world of benefits.

Once you start throwing advanced techniques into the mix, you can start seriously sculpting your booty, legs, hips, and (to a lesser degree) core.