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Vertical climbers are exactly what they sound like: they feature foot pedals and handlebars that mimic climbing vertically. So basically like climbing a ladder (or El Capitan?) but without the fear of falling to your doom.
These intense cardio machines increase your heart rate, provide a killer full-body workout in record time, and work for almost any fitness level.
Read on to find our list of the best vertical climbers available on the market, including some picks that come highly recommended by personal trainers.
We chatted with two NASM-certified personal trainers — David Sautter, also on staff at Top Fitness Magazine, and Justin Meissner — to get some intel on what makes for a good vertical climber. Here’s how we picked the best of the best:
- Brand. Sautter says that when it comes to vertical climbers, you get what you pay for, so looking at well-established brands is a must. Our experts recommend brands like VersaClimber, Sole, and MaxiClimber — but we also included some cheaper options for beginners or folks with tighter budgets.
- Smooth movement. A jerky machine will get in the way of developing a consistent climbing rhythm. We made sure our recs had positive customer reviews for a smooth climbing experience.
- Resistance levels. We made sure to include some options with extra resistance levels to help you diversify your workouts. “Higher resistance workouts can promote gains in strength,” adds Sautner.
- Stability. To really focus on your workout, you can’t be worried about the machine falling over or wobbling. We looked for machines with wide bases and steel or aluminum frames that can hold up to heavy, regular use.
- Size. Most vertical climbers can fit under a standard 8-foot ceiling, but watch that square footage. We included machines that can fit in the average home, though we included a few that will probably only fit in a designated home gym.
Best overall vertical climber
- Price: $$
- Maximum weight capacity: 300 pounds (lbs.)
- Maximum user height: 6.6 feet (ft.)
- Dimensions: 25.78 x 41.33 x 55.6 inches (in.)
MaxiClimber is one of the high quality, well-known brands Sautter recommends — and it’s also not hella expensive. The XL-2000 is designed for smooth gliding at all 12 resistance levels, accommodates people in larger bodies, and can fold down flat for storage under a bed or sofa. It also connects with the MaxiClimber fitness app to track progress and participate in challenges.
On the downside, this model has been known to arrive without all of the correct parts. But luckily, the manufacturer has a good customer service reputation and seems to quickly resolve most issues.
Best rated vertical climber
- Price: $
- Maximum weight capacity: 240 lbs.
- Dimensions: 28.3 x 35.82 x 57 in.
The MaxiClimber Classic skips the bells and whistles and opts for simple, smooth gliding — for a lower price, too. Like the XL-2000, it connects to the MaxiClimber fitness app and folds down for super easy storage. But this model is more lightweight and reviewers rave about its affordability and how easy it is to assemble and use.
On the downside, the Classic’s lighter build doesn’t always hold up as well as heavier models. It also doesn’t have any resistance levels, which means the only way to intensify your workout is by picking up the pace.
Best splurge vertical climber
- Price: $$$$
- Maximum weight capacity: 350 lbs.
- Dimensions: 48 x 48 x 94 in.
“My preference is for the VersaClimber,” says Meissner. “It’s on the higher end in terms of price, but it’s a quality you won’t need to replace.”
We can def confirm that this climber costs a pretty penny (and be ready to give up some floor space), but it also has features you won’t find on less expensive models.
The steel frame, for example, brings extra stability and a higher weight capacity of 350 pounds. It also manages to stay under an 8-foot ceiling while still having 20 inches of step height adjustability. More adjustability means more options — longer length is great for people with longer strides and shorter length is perf for a sprint-style climb.
Best budget vertical climber
- Price: $
- Maximum weight capacity: 220 lbs.
- Dimensions: 31 x 20 x 54-63 in.
The Doufit isn’t one of the brands recommended by our experts, but it’s got all the specs to give you a high-end workout on a dime store budget. Seven adjustable height levels let you change up your workout or adjust to each member of the fam’s height. It also provides a good range of motion and folds flat for easier storage — all for a low price.
The Doufit doesn’t have the smoothest movement and doesn’t offer any resistance options, but it’s def a great option for anyone looking for a heart-pumping workout for less cash.
Best vertical climber and elliptical combo
- Price: $
- Maximum weight capacity: 220 lbs.
- Dimensions: 42 x 23 x 60.5 in.
The Sunny Health & Fitness Performance Elliptical Machine combines your fave elements from an elliptical and climber in one machine for a lower impact climb. You can adjust resistance levels to boost your workout intensity and choose from multiple handle positions to focus more on an upper body, lower body, or full body workout. 💪
Best handle adjustability
- Price: $$$$
- Maximum weight capacity: 400 lbs.
- Dimensions: 86 x 59 x 31 in.
Sole is another highly recommended brand on Sautter’s list, and the CC81 provides the stability and smooth gliding you’d expect from a machine at this price. It gets top marks for its ultra-adjustable handles, which have four different height options and can be flipped to target different muscles in your upper bod. This model also has a good weight capacity for people in larger bodies.
There are a few downsides though — it’s expensive, reviewers say the Bluetooth connectivity can be glitchy, and it’s not the easiest to assemble. S#!T.
Best vertical climber for beginners
- Price: $
- Maximum weight capacity: 260 lbs.
- Dimensions: 37.5 x 28 x 85 in.
If you’re just getting started in the world of vertical climbers, you don’t want to spend a bundle on a big ol’ machine you might not like. This option from RELIFE is super cheap, but still has five height adjustments that give you a way to intensify your workout and find your best fit. The handles have a vented design that’s supposed to let sweat evaporate and help you maintain a tight grip as you learn the ropes. It also folds down, so it doesn’t eat up precious square footage.
On the downside, there aren’t any resistance levels for an extra challenge, and it’s not as sturdy as heavier-duty models.
Vertical climbers are a great option for basically everyone. “It’s really hard to mess up doing it, so it’s great for all levels,” says Meissner. “They can be easily scaled for the high-level athletes or the newbie.”
They’re also an amazing option for people that want a machine that’s easier on your body than a treadmill. “[They’re] great low impact usage for people with sensitive joints,” Meissner says. They’re even easy on the back.
But just because they’re easy on your joints doesn’t mean the workouts are easy.
These machines work your entire body in a short amount of time and are effective whether you’re building muscle mass or trying to lose weight. And if you opt for a machine with extra resistance options, you’re in store for an even tougher workout. “[They] allow you to control the intensity and resistance… offering cardio workouts that rival some CrossFit workouts,” says Sautter.
Don’t let that scare you if you’re just starting your fitness journey. You don’t need to look like the Rock to get your fitness on with a vertical climber. As Sautter puts it, “…it’s a choose your own adventure workout, and the intensity level is up to you.”
Vertical climbers get your blood pumping, but some are better than others. Here’s how to pick a climber:
Foldable models save a ton of space, but if they’re rickety, you could end up taking a dive mid-climb. A sturdy steel frame (aluminum is a strong but lightweight option) and a wide base will withstand the forces of climbing.
A sticky climber is a no-go. So are models that grumble like a road grader. Always check customer reviews to make sure the machine glides well and stays quiet with minimal maintenance.
Usage and storage space
Heavy nonfoldable models offer the best stability, but we all don’t have the space to use or store them. Measure your space (and ceilings) — most vertical climbers work with 8-foot ceilings but double check the dimensions before committing.
The sturdiest models can cost several thousand dollars. These models may also have Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities, which let you compete with other users or track several days’ worth of workouts. But if you’re on a budget, make sure the climbers you’re looking at have sturdy construction with a wide base. Of the more affordable brands, Sautter recommends MaxiClimber for its proven track record.
“Increasing the resistance during your workouts will promote lean muscle growth,” says Sautter. If the machine doesn’t have resistance options, you can intensify the workout through speed, but you may need to do added resistance training to tone your muscles.
Step and handle height adjustability
Step height and handle adjustability aren’t absolutely necessary, but they can make the climber more comfortable to use. You can also use height settings to challenge your body and intensify your workouts.
Finding the perfect cardio machine for your home gym can truly be an uphill climb. You’ve got lots of traditional options to consider (hi treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, and stationary bikes) — but the vertical climber might be the perfect high intensity, low impact cardio machine for you.
When searching for the perfect vertical climber, look for a machine known for being stable and durable — and make sure it’s a good fit for your available space, body size, and fitness goals.
And remember that when it comes to fitness, “it ain’t about how fast [you] get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the cliiiiimb.” 🎶