To move the steps up and down you engage different body parts. Find out what muscles mini steppers work and whether this can build muscle.
Some of the main muscles you work while using a mini stepper include your glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), hip flexors (front hips), quadriceps (front thighs), and calves.
Your hip abductor (outer thigh), hip adductor (inner thigh), and core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae have to work to some extent too.
That being said, it is important to note that mini steppers are typically not hard enough to cause muscle growth in the areas above. For this, you want to turn to resistance training exercises instead.
At the same time, the muscle engagement you get from mini stair steppers can still improve endurance, slow down degradation, and make your muscles healthier.
Muscles worked with a mini stepper
Many of your joints move while using a mini stepper. In turn, that means you are using a variety of muscles to at least some extent.
More specifically, the muscles you work with a mini stepper include the glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, quadriceps, calves, hip abductors, hip adductors, and core muscles.
You can find out where these muscles are and what they do in the sections below.
The glutes are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. In simpler words, these are your main butt muscles which are responsible for a few hip movements.
While using a mini stepper, the gluteus maximus will have to work the hardest. This muscle is responsible for hip extension. In simpler words, for moving your thighs down and back.
The glutes are really strong compared to other muscles. That means you also need a lot of resistance to be able to grow and strengthen them.
Mini steppers are typically not hard enough for this purpose.
Hamstrings (back thighs)
Your hamstrings are the three muscles in the back of your thighs. These muscles are called the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus.
The hamstring muscles have different functions. While using a mini stair stepper, they will mainly help your glutes with hip extension.
Similar to glutes, hamstrings are relatively strong muscles. Likely too strong to see results from just using a mini stepper.
Your hip flexors are muscles that are, as the name implies, responsible for flexing your hips. In simpler words, moving your thighs forward and upward to your torso.
The individual muscles that make up the group are the rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius.
Every time you want to push down your thighs to take a step on the mini stepper, your hip flexors first have to raise your hips against gravity.
Quadriceps (front thighs)
Your quadriceps are a muscle group of four muscles that are located in your front thighs. These muscles are called the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris (also a hip flexor).
One of the responsibilities of the quadriceps is stretching your legs. Together with the glutes and hamstrings, your quadriceps help you push down the pedals of the mini stepper and push your body up.
The calf muscles consist of 2 individual muscles, the gastrocnemius, and the soleus. Your calf muscles push down the front parts of your feet and simply it so your lower legs don’t “fall” forward while you stand up.
Your calf muscles will not have to work the hardest while using a mini stair stepper but they do have to function to some extent.
Hip abductors and adductors (outer and inner thighs)
Your hip abductors are outer thigh muscles that include the gluteus muscles (especially the minimus and medius), tensor fasciae latae, piriformis, and sartorius.
As the name implies, these are responsible for hip abduction. In simpler words, this means bringing your thighs sideways and outward.
On the other side of your thighs, there are the hip adductor muscles. Their more specific names are the adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, gracilis, and pectineus.
They are responsible for thigh adduction, in simpler words, moving your thighs sideways toward the center.
Your hip abductor and hip adductor muscles make sure you don’t fall sideways while using the mini stepper.
They will especially have to work in the moments where you only lean on one leg.
Additionally, there are certain twisting mini stepper models where the pedals are pushed downward and outward. These will work your outer thigh muscles (hip abductor muscles) just a bit more than the regular up/down models.
Core muscles are basically the category name for the muscles around your waist. The main ones are your abs, oblique muscles, and erector spinae.
These muscles keep your body upright and thus prevent it from falling down. Your core muscles also have to work while standing up, walking around, and doing similar activities.
Mini steppers do not necessarily work these muscles more than these activities but the core muscles are worth mentioning anyway.
Does a mini stepper build muscle?
Working muscles with a mini stepper sounds and is nice but you have to know this does not always lead to muscle growth.
To achieve this goal, you have to challenge your muscles with enough resistance and repetitions.
Exactly what enough means theoretically depends on your current strength level.
That being said, the leg muscles involved in mini stepper workouts are relatively strong.
If you are already used to walking around to some extent, a mini stepper will likely not build any muscle.
Instead, the main goal of this device is to train your cardiovascular system which includes your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning that muscle growth is not the only muscle-related benefit out there.
Just engaging the muscle above with a mini stepper could improve muscle endurance, make the muscles healthier, and slow down degradation.
How to work your muscles harder with mini steppers
Interestingly enough, there are ways to make your mini stepper sessions more challenging for your muscles.
You will likely still not see any growth but this can help you get the positive effects from above to a larger extent.
First of all, some mini steppers allow you to adjust the step height. The higher you set this, the bigger the range of motion your muscles have to go through.
A bigger range of motion is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress (but still does not make up for the lack of resistance in mini steppers).
Secondly, you could consider wearing a weighted vest while using this device. This will put more pressure on your muscles which can be beneficial.
Something you do want to keep in mind is that mini steppers typically have weight limits. Make sure you don’t go over these.
Next, one of the benefits of mini steppers is that your hands are free to move.
This allows you to do upper body exercises like bicep curls, front raises, and shoulder presses with things like resistance bands and dumbbells to work additional muscles.
Again, keep the weight limit of the mini stepper you are using in mind.
Do mini steppers tone thighs?
Mini steppers can help you burn fat so in that sense, they can help you tone your thighs. To actually grow your thigh muscles you want to turn to different workouts.