7 Ways To Use A StairMaster With Weights

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StairMaster workouts can already be challenging with you can go to the next level by adding weights. Make sure you choose the good ones for safety and convenience.

One thing to note first is that even the good StairMasters have a weight limit. You want to make sure you stay under this number when adding relatively heavy weights.

The commercial models typically have a weight limit of 350 pounds (158 kg). When in doubt you likely want to play it safe and/or ask a gym employee about this.

1. StairMaster with a weighted vest

A weighted vest is as the name implies, a vest you can wear with extra weights attached to it. In terms of the workout itself, most people will prefer this option for a few reasons.

First of all, weighted vests apply weight in a relatively natural-feeling way. This is relevant becomes it interferes less with balancing yourself on the StairMaster.

Additionally, your hands are still free which means you can still hold the rails for extra balance if needed.

At the same time, weighted vests can still offer a lot of extra resistance. This is useful if you want a really good StairMaster workout for your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

Lastly, there are a variety of other weighted vest exercises which means this one piece of fitness equipment can positively influence a variety of muscles and fitness components.

One downside you do want to keep in mind is that many gyms won’t have a weighted vest lying around. This means you have to make an extra investment yourself.

Check our list of the best weighted vests

2. StairMaster with dumbbells

Dumbbells are basically handles with a weight on each side. They are a popular choice for using a StairMaster with weights because most, if not all, gyms have dumbbells.

Besides availability, you could also argue that a benefit of dumbbells is that you can do arm exercises while you are using the StairMaster (if you have good balance).

However, this last point is also a potential downside. Because you have to hold dumbbells, you are not able to hold the rails for balance. Additionally, your forearm grip muscles may fatigue before your cardiovascular system.

So you can use dumbbells to get some of the benefits of StairMasters to a larger extent. However, in terms of balance and in turn safety, you may prefer some of the other weights.

3. StairMaster with ankle weights

Ankle weights are ankle straps with added weights that can sometimes be adjusted. They are great for leg and ab isolation exercises but you can use them for different purposes too.

When it comes to StairMaster workouts, ankle weights are popular because they are relatively budget-friendly, easy to take with you to the gym, and easy to store at home.

By wearing ankle weights, you mainly make the stair steps harder for your hip flexors and to some extent your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Additionally, you burn some extra calories because having to move more weight up the StairMaster requires more energy.

On the flip side, ankle weights can be suboptimal because they require different coordination from your legs than usual.

This can lead to stumbling on the StairMaster at first or when you get used to the ankle weights, stumbling when you get off the machine.

Besides that, ankle weights are also relatively light. To really work your cardiovascular system and leg muscles more, you likely want more weight.

Check our list of the best ankle weights

4. StairMaster with a backpack

Fitness equipment options can be great for workouts since they are actually made for this purpose. However, some daily objects can also be helpful for creating more resistance in your StairMaster sessions.

More specifically, a sturdy backpack filled with weights, water bottles, or something like books, can make using the StairMaster more challenging for your cardiovascular system, leg muscles, and lower back muscles.

This option can be helpful if you don’t like/have the other options but don’t want to invest in a weighted vest.

One downside to keep in mind is that a heavy backpack can get uncomfortable on your shoulders and back. This can be inconvenient for longer StairMaster workouts.

Additionally, the backpack also has to be strong enough to hold the amount of weight you want to use.

5. StairMaster with a resistance band

While resistance bands are technically not weights, they do have the ability to add some extra resistance to your StairMaster sessions.

In turn, they can help you burn extra calories, improve cardiovascular health more, and work muscles like your hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings more.

To use this equipment option on a StairMaster, you will need loop resistance bands. Preferably the short ones. You then loop these around your upper legs right above your knees.

Initially, you may have to get used to the different feel so you likely want to set the StairMaster to a slow speed. If that goes well, you can consider increasing the steps per minute.

Some of the benefits of resistance bands include that they can be used in other workouts, are budget-friendly, are easy to take to the gym, and are easy to store at home.

One downside to keep in mind is that resistance bands are more sensitive to wear and tear than the metal weights on this list. You may need to replace them every once in a while.

Check our list of the best loop resistance bands

6. StairMaster with wrist weights

Wrist weights are very similar, often the same, as ankle weights but they tend to be somewhat smaller and as the name implies, used on your wrists.

The effects of this piece of equipment are similar to dumbbells but potentially better.

You still get the ability to do arm exercises with extra weights while using the StairMaster. Additionally, your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves have to move just a bit more weight.

On the flip side, you don’t have to hold wrist weights in your hands. This allows you to hold the StairMaster rails for balance and makes it so your forearm grip muscles can’t fatigue too soon.

At the same time, important to keep in mind is that wrist weights tend to be lighter than dumbbells.

Fitter individuals may need to choose dumbbells anyway to get in a good workout. Even though it will be harder in terms of balance and grip strength.

Check our list of the best wrist weights

7. StairMaster with workout chains

This last way to use the StairMaster with weights is not that well-known because not every gym has workout chains.

These are basically metal chains you can hang on weights or your body. Because the part of the chain that is on the ground does not create resistance it offers a relatively unique type of training.

That being said, when it comes to StairMaster workouts, the main benefits of workout chains are similar to weighted vests.

You add weight in a naturally-feeling way that does not mess too much with balance and your arms are still free to hold the rails and balance.

If you have a weighted vest instead, this is likely preferred since workout chains can be less comfortable and less convenient to wrap around your body.

That being said, if your gym has workout chains but not a weighted vest, you could consider trying them out to see whether you like them more than the other weight options.


Is using the StairMaster with weights good?

Using the StairMaster with weights can be good in the sense that it works your cardiovascular system and muscles to a larger extent. As long as you can do this safely, using weights at a certain StairMaster speed can offer more health benefits than the same speed without weights.

Can you build muscle with StairMaster?

In theory, it is possible to build muscle with a StairMaster. In practice, this cardio machine won’t be challenging enough for the strong quadricep, glute, and hamstring muscles to grow and strengthen them.

Should I do StairMaster after weights?

If you want to use a StairMaster and lift weights on the same day, it is typically smarter to use the StairMaster after weights. This way you make sure you can push yourself enough during the resistance training.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.