It only takes a few minutes on the machine that the StairMaster works a few different muscles. Find out which ones and whether it can help you reach your goals.
The first thing to note is that StairMasters are typically not challenging enough to build a lot of muscle. At the same time, you can still see muscle endurance improvements in a few areas.
Some of the muscles you work the most with the StairMaster include your quadriceps (front thighs), gluteus maximus (main butt muscle), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves.
Theoretically, you can also work your biceps, latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and scapular muscles (around your shoulder blades) if you pull yourself up by the handles.
Besides that, some of the secondary muscles muscles worked with StairMasters include your hip flexors, hip abductors (outer thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), and core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back).
You could consider using the StairMaster with something like a weighted vest and/or skipping a step to increase your chances of building muscle.
That being said, if you want to really grow and strengthen the muscles above, it is generally smarter to turn to specific resistance training exercises instead.
Does the StairMaster burn fat or build muscle?
While workouts typically engage a few different fitness components, there is often one are that stands out.
When it comes to StairMasters, your cardiovascular system will typically give up before your muscles had a workout that was challenging enough to cause muscle growth.
One way to double-check this is doing a StairMaster workout.
If you are able to take more than 50 steps with each leg before your muscles fatigue, you are likely not really growing the muscles you work.
You could theoretically use the StairMaster with weights and skip a step to get in the challenge range above.
However, even then, this gym machine is not really optimal for muscle growth. Especially not compared to many resistance training exercises.
In short, StairMasters will typically be better for burning fat during the workout than building muscle.
Does the StairMaster build glutes?
The glutes are very strong muscles that you need to challenge with a lot of resistance to grow.
In turn, using the StairMaster is typically not enough to build glutes.
Even if you would make the StairMaster more challenging for your muscles with some of the tips above, your quadriceps may fatigue before your glutes had a good resistance training workout.
Primary muscles worked with the StairMaster
When doing an activity like using a StairMaster, there are a variety of muscles that have to work to some extent. Not only to move your legs but also to keep your body upright.
That being said, also a few of these will have to work the hardest.
Some of the primary muscles worked with the StairMaster include your quadriceps (front thighs), gluteus maximus (main butt muscle), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves.
If you actively use the handles of the StairMaster with your arms to pull yourself up, you will also work your biceps, latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and scapular muscles (around your shoulder blades).
In turn, the leg muscles above will help to work slightly less.
Quadriceps aka front thigh muscles
Your quadriceps are a group of four muscles in your front thighs.
Their main responsibility while using a StairMaster is knee extension aka stretching your leg.
Right after you put your feet on the next steps, the quadriceps start working to raise your weight up to the next stair.
Gluteus maximus aka main butt muscle
The gluteus maximus is the main butt muscle and is responsible for hip extension. This means bringing your thighs down and back from a flexed position.
Your gluteus maximus works together with your quadriceps to lift your weight. Additionally, it helps keep your body upright.
One thing to note is that if you take smaller steps on the StairMaster, your quadriceps will typically do most of the work.
On the flip side, skipping a step would make it so your glutes have to work harder while using the StairMaster.
Hamstrings aka back thigh muscles
You hamstrings are the three muscles in the back of your thighs. These have different functions including helping the gluteus maximus with hip extension.
That means the StairMaster also works your hamstrings to some extent. Especially if you skip a step each time.
Your calf muscles are responsible for plantar flexion aka bringing the front parts of your feets down and preventing them from going up.
If you only put the front parts of your feet on the next StairMaster step, your calf muscles will have to work a nice amount.
On the other hand, if you just put your entire foot flat on the steps, the StairMaster will only work your calf muscles to a relatively small extent.
Potentially a few upper body muscles
While it is not the standard way to use the StairMaster, you could theoretically really pull your weight up with your hands on the handles.
This pulling motion would also work your biceps, latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), and scapular muscles (around your shoulder blades) to a certain extent.
Secondary muscles worked with the StairMaster
One of the benefits of StairMasters is that you engage a variety of muscles at the same time.
Some of the secondary muscles you work with this machine include your hip flexors, hip abductors (outer thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), and core muscles like your abs, obliques, and erector spinae (lower back).
These are responsible for raising your thighs, balancing yourself, and keeping your upper body more or less straight up.
Does the StairMaster work abs?
Your abs are responsible for bringing your chest toward your hips (and the other way around) and preventing these body parts from going away from each other.
In turn, the StairMaster works your abs to a tiny extent to prevent your shoulders from falling back.
However, this is barely the case. Especially if you use the StairMaster with your upper body tilted forward slightly.
You should definitely not expect bigger abs from using the StairMaster in a normal way.
How to work your muscles harder on the StairMaster
Not all StairMaster workouts are the same. You can use certain techniques or tools to make these harder on the muscles you work.
For example, you can use the StairMaster while carrying extra weights as long as you don’t go over the weight limit of the machine.
The best example of a good weight is a weighted vest but you could also use dumbbells, kettlebells, or a heavy backpack.
Next, if you have the balancing skills, you can also skip steps on the StairMaster. This bigger range of motion will challenge your muscles harder.
Additionally, skipping a step changes in what ratio the StairMaster works your muscles to some extent. More specifically, you focus more on your glutes and hamstrings.
Does the StairMaster build muscle?
If you can do more than 50 steps at a time with each leg, the StairMaster likely does not build significant amounts of muscle.
How long should I use the StairMaster for abs?
You should use the StairMaster for 0 minutes if you want to get bigger abs. This machine does not really work these muscles hard enough to see muscle growth.