Although the Stairmaster is widely praised as a great tool for warming up, like all forms of steady state cardio, working out on one can quickly become repetitive, which is why people are always looking for creative Stairmaster workouts to keep things interesting. But apart from looking like an adjustment nightmare, is there anything to gain from walking backwards? To find out if walking backwards on the stairs is a good or bad idea, we spoke with Stephanie Thomas, a certified personal trainer and health coach.
Why do people walk backwards from the top of the stairs?
The Stairmaster is an exercise machine that involves a rotating set of steps that you climb. It was designed to be used facing forward so you can climb stairs while facing the console. Thomas says the primary motivation for walking backwards up the stairs is to burn more calories and use different muscles.
“Walking backwards in general uses more energy in the body,” she says. “This variation of the stairmaster can raise the heart rate and strengthen your endurance.” Thomas also notes that forward walking and stair climbing primarily use your hamstrings, glutes, and calves, while backward climbing targets the quads.
“Walking backwards is also a great way to improve your balance and mobility,” she explains. “You’re moving your body in ways you wouldn’t normally, so it can help work different muscles and increase balance and proprioception.” This last word means being able to understand where your body is in space.
So, should you jump on the trend and start climbing the ladder backwards?
Thomas said necessarily. “Walking backwards on a flight of stairs intensifies the movement and should not be done by people with sensitive knees or physical conditions like arthritis,” says Thomas, who instead recommends these people walk backwards on a flat surface because it puts less stress on the knees. .
If you’re in generally good health without the above conditions, you can proceed with caution—and a few best practices.
Tips for walking backwards on Stairmaster
1. Hold the handrail
While Thomas says it’s good practice not to hold the handles when walking forward because it makes for a more vigorous workout, it’s not safe when walking backward.
“It’s easier to control the movement of the exercise and feel more balanced when you’re using the stairs the traditional way, but walking backwards makes it much more challenging, so it’s a good idea to always hold the handles,” she advises.
2. Go slow
Thomas also suggests slowing down. “Don’t rush it,” she cautions. “At first, the goal would be to get more comfortable with the movement so you can approach it safely. Then gradually increase the speed.”
Can you get the same benefits of walking backwards on regular stairs?
If you don’t have access to a stair master, it’s possible to reap some of the same benefits if you regularly climb stairs backwards. However, your workout may not be as intense, so your heart rate and power output may be lower.
“Stair Master’s speed settings make it easy to keep at the chosen speed,” says Thomas. “If you want to exercise on the stairs regularly, you have to rely on yourself to maintain the intensity you want.”
What are the risks of walking backwards on a ladder?
“Because you’re using your quadriceps more when you’re walking backwards,” Thomas says, “you can put more stress on that area, causing potential sensitivity in your knees. Another risk is not feeling balanced. When we walk, we Normally we push off the balls of our feet and toes, but when you walk backwards up the stairs, your toes hang, so you don’t use them to push off the ground.”
That said, if walking backwards on the Stairmaster doesn’t seem like the right choice for you, there are some safer alternatives.
Backward walk option on Stairmaster
1. If your goal is cardio and endurance
Thomas recommends that you walk forward on the Stairmaster and gradually build up speed. Alternatively, he recommends interval running on the treadmill.
2. If your goal is to strengthen your leg muscles
He recommends strength training exercises such as leg extensions and using leg curl machines.
3. If your goal is to improve your balance
Thomas says you can walk backwards on a flat surface, practice yoga or do tai chi.
This 20-minute yoga flow is a great place to start:
Finally, Thomas says that if you’re new to exercise, walking backwards up the stairs is probably something you should avoid altogether. “It’s best to focus on safety first, and do exercises that you find enjoyable,” she advises.
Otherwise, barring knee problems or joint pain, walking backwards up the stairs can help you break up the monotony of working out on these exercise machines, improving your endurance and balance, so it’s worth a try as long as you proceed with caution.