If you’re looking to instantly boost your home gym game, investing in a stair climber machine is one of the quickest ways to do just that.
Stair climbers provide some of the best cardiovascular/lower body strengthening workouts you can get from a fitness machine- there’s really no denying it.
And with more and more brands offering home models, there are plenty of options to choose from for your home gym.
Having a lot of options can be a good thing, because it gives you variety to choose from, but it can also be a burden when it comes time to narrowing the field down to the best choice.
Luckily, I’m here to help.
In this guide, I’ll go over some of the top specs and features you should consider when looking for the best stair climbing machine to meet your needs.
I’ll also present my top picks, based on the criteria we discuss.
After reading, you’ll know everything you need to in order to find the right fit for your home gym – or you’ll discover that a stair climber machine isn’t what you want after all.
Either way, I hope you find this guide helpful.
Off we go.
|StairMaster Step Mill 3||Revolving stair||25 built-in workouts|
Up to 162 steps/min
Polar chest strap
|10 year frame|
3 year parts
3 year labor
|StairMaster 8 Series FreeClimber||Stepper||10 built-in workouts|
1-14" step height
|10 year frame|
10 year parts
3 year labor
|Spirit XS895||Stepper||Adjustable stride|
23 lb flywheel
10 year parts
2 year labor
|Jacobs Ladder The Stairway GTL||Revolving stair||Self-powered|
Up to 160 steps/min
|4 year parts|
1 year labor
|Spirit CS800||Stepper||9 built-in workouts|
10 year parts
2 year labor
|StairMaster 8 Series Gauntlet||Revolving stair||Large steps|
14+ built-in workouts
|10 year frame|
10 year parts
3 year labor
Finding The Right Step Climber Machine
When looking for a step climber, there are a few specs/features you should consider. Doing this will not only help you decide what you’re looking for, but it’ll also help you compare one machine to another.
You know, apples to apples and all that.
If nothing else, I recommend you at least think about the following when looking for a step climber…
I don’t think this is written in stone anywhere, but I like to group stair climbers based on the style of the machine.
And the way I see it, there are 2 main styles: those with revolving stairs and those without (let’s call these “steppers”).
One isn’t necessarily better than the other and both styles can provide awesome workouts, but each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.
Stair climbers that use actual revolving stairs (like the ones you see at the gym) are the closest thing you can get to mimic the feel of climbing a flight of stairs- because that’s what you’re literally doing.
These machines use 8″ stairs, which are roughly the same height as most American steps.
So, if you’re looking to train on real stairs, these machines are the way to go.
On the downside, these machines are usually a little bigger and a little more expensive than the stepper variety.
Stepper machines don’t use revolving stairs, instead they mimic the feel of going up steps through the use of 2 pedals. The pedals operate in a vertical motion, mimicking the motor pattern of ascending a flight of stairs.
You can a great workout on these machines too, but without the fear of falling off.
Steppers are usually a little smaller and more affordable when compared to the revolving stair style.
The amount of floor space you have available might be a key consideration when deciding on which style is right for you. That, plus cost and safety- the steppers are safer for people who feel they could be prone to losing their balance on the rotating stairs.
I’ve used both styles back in the days when I was still going to a commercial gym and they both work great, bit if I had the room and budget, I’d go with the revolving stair style because I think it’s a little more challenging.
It’s always a smart idea to consider the features any exercise machine comes with and stair climbers are no different.
And since there aren’t really as many performance specs to consider on these machines (like running surfaces, flywheel weights, etc), it might be the features that really set one model apart from another.
Common features to look for include:
- Workout programs
- Wireless heart rate monitoring
- USB charging ports
If stuck between similar models, I’d suggest comparing the above features and see which model has the most to offer.
With steppers, you might also want to see how many levels of resistance they offer and even take a look at the max and min step heights- most are about the same, but not a bad idea to consider these specs as well.
And with revolving stair machines, you can compare max stair climbing speeds- most are in the 160-170 steps/min range (which is way too fast for me).
Oh, one last thing with rotating stair machines- they will likely come with a minimum user weight as well as the max weight limits we’re used to.
I guess it takes a certain amount of weight for the machine to know there’s a person using it.
Most will come with minimum weights in the 100-125 lb range, so if you’re under that you won’t be able to use safely.
It’s always a good idea to compare warranties when shopping for fitness equipment. As you’d expect, longer warranties are always preferred.
Seeing a generous warranty not only gives you a little more peace of mind about your investment, but it’s also a good indicator of the quality of the product.
After all, manufacturers don’t provide extended warranties on products they don’t think are gonna last.
Stair climber warranties are often include the following guarantees: frame, parts, and labor.
The frame warranty should be the longest and quality machines will usually offer somewhere between 10 years to lifetime. The parts warranty will often be anywhere from a few years to 10 years.
Labor guarantees are always the shortest, expect a year or 2 even for the commercial grade machines.
Speaking of commercial grade, a lot of the top stair climbing machines will come with both residential and commercial warranties (if you’re purchasing for home use, make sure you’re looking at the residential guarantee when deciding).
The 6 Best Stair Climber Machines For Home Use
#1 StairMaster StepMill 3
You shouldn’t be too surprised to see a StairMaster in the top spot here. I mean come on, these guys started the game and they still specialize in creating killer workout equipment.
Plus, you have to give ’em kudos for the brand name, it says it all.
There’s no denying that StairMaster and their stair climbing machines are legendary, but they’ve historically been found only in commercial gyms.
Their size and cost just hasn’t made them a good choice for most home gyms.
Well, that all changes with their StepMill 3 (SM3).
The SM3 is a smaller, significantly more affordable model designed specifically for home use. And taking up a floorspace of only 46″ L x 29″ W, the SM3 is one of the most compact revolving stair climbers on the market.
This stair climber comes with 6 6″ high steps that are 9″ deep. These are a little lower than most steps you’d find in your home, making them more comfortable for folks with achy knees.
The SM3 comes with a powder coated steel frame that can handle users weighing up to 350 lb (minimum weight 125 lb). The machine weighs a little over 200 lb assembled, but comes with transport wheels for increased portability.
Features include 25 built-in workout programs, a max step rate of 162 steps/min, and an included Polar chest strap.
StairMaster also backs this model with a very solid warranty: 10 year frame, 3 year parts, and 3 year labor.
Overall, if you’re looking for the best home stair climber machine around, the SM3 is it. And with a sales price under $4000, it’s priced to move.
#2 StairMaster 8 Series FreeClimber
Yup, StairMaster takes the top 2 spots on this list- hey, I told ya, they’re still the number one name in the stair climbing game.
Unlike the SM3, the 8 Series FreeClimber is of the stepper variety though. So, if you like the idea of going with StairMaster, but would prefer a stepper, the FreeClimber might be a good fit.
The FreeClimber is a little more compact than the SM3, taking up a footprint of only 43″ x 27″ (L x W), making it a good option for smaller workout areas.
This machine comes with StairMaster’s patented pedal technology that keeps the pedals level and smooth acting with each step. And being a stepper with independent pedals, you can choose your step height anywhere between 1 – 14″.
The power coated steel frame can hold users weighing up to 350 lb, allowing the FreeClimber to accommodate most folks safely.
Additional features include 10 built-in workout programs, telemetry heart rate monitoring, bluetooth, and USB charging. It also comes with a max step rate of 174 steps/min.
The residential warranty on the FreeClimber is quite generous as well: 10 year frame, 10 year parts, and 3 year labor.
Overall, if you’re looking a commercial grade stepper that can fit comfortably in most home gyms, the 8 Series FreeClimber is a smart choice.
#3 Spirit XS895 Adjustable Incline Stepper
Ok, let’s take a break from StairMaster for a minute and take a look at a great stepper from one of my favorite home fitness brands.
I love Spirit in general because they provide heavy-duty products and then back them with amazing warranties (they’re also priced very well too, which never hurts).
Their XS895 is a little different from the straight up stepper we just saw above. This one is more like what you’d get if a stepper and an elliptical got it on.
The stepping pattern on this machine is still mostly vertical, although you can adjust the incline angle anywhere between 43° and 60° to change the step height between 10″ and 14″.
The XS895 also gives you the option of using your arms, much like an elliptical.
This stepper comes with a 23 lb flywheel that can provide a smooth, yet intense, full body workout. It also comes with 20 levels of resistance, giving you a lot of control over how difficult your workouts are.
Its commercial grade steel frame comes with a weight limit of 400 lb.
Additional features include a 7.5″ backlit display, multi-grip handles, bluetooth, and telemetry heart rate monitoring compatibility.
And this being Spirit, the XS895 is backed by an amazing warranty: lifetime frame, 10 year parts, 1 year labor.
Overall, even though this machine is technically a HIIT Trainer, it can still function as a great home step machine (just with the option of using your arms too). See full review.
#4 Jacobs Ladder The Stairway GTL
The Jacobs Ladder brand is known for their ladder climbing systems (go figure), but with The Stairway GTL, they’ve entered the realm of good ol’ fashioned stair climbing.
The Stairway GTL is another revolving stair system, but unlike most, it’s priced effectively for home use.
The stairs on the GTL are 8″ high and 9″ deep, closely resembling the stairs you’d see in your own home. The frame is heavy-duty, powder coated steel (as are the steps) which allow this machine to hold folks weighing up to 350 lb.
Unlike the original Stairway by Jacobs Ladder that used a waist belt and your position on the stairs to adjust your speed automatically, the GTL can be controlled by you from the console using up/down buttons.
I like this system better- something about having to wear a little belt while stepping seems a little off to me.
Anyway, this stair climber has a max speed of 160 steps/min, which will be more than enough for most of us.
The console on this climber is very simple, so if you’re looking for bluetooth and other higher-tech features, this isn’t the right option for you.
The GTL is basically only packing a water bottle holder.
But, unlike most stair climbers, the GTL is self-powered, meaning you don’t have to worry about locating it near an outlet.
I think Jacobs Ladder could do a better job when it comes to the warranty, but they still back this climber with a 4 year parts and 1 year labor guarantee.
Overall, if you’re looking for a commercial grade stair climber that doesn’t have to be plugged in, the Jacobs Ladder GTL is worth checking out.
#5 Spirit CS800
Spirit’s CS800 is more of a traditional stepper- no adjustable incline angles or moving handles like those found on the XS895. But the CS800 also uses the same 23 lb flywheel to provide smooth stair climbing operation.
As a stepper, you get to choose your step height during operation. On this model, the max step height is 16″, giving you the option to mimic ascending stairs 2 at a time if ya like.
The CS800 also comes with 20 levels of resistance, allowing it to challenge users of all fitness levels.
This stepper is high-end from top to bottom. The powder coated steel frame comes with a 450 lb weight capacity, which is even more impressive considering this machine only weighs about 175 lb assembled.
Additional features include 9 built-in workout programs, bluetooth, USB charging port, and a cooling fan.
And of course it’s backed by Spirit’s very generous warranty: lifetime frame, 10 year parts, 2 years labor.
Overall, the CS800 has a lot going for it and it’s very reasonably priced. One could even make the argument that this is the best stepper under $2000.
#6 StairMaster 8 Series Gauntlet
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include the Gauntlet or not. Don’t get me wrong, this StairMaster is a beast and more than worthy to be on this list (it could easily be in the top spot), but it’s really more of a straight up commercial model.
But, what the hell, I figure I might as well mention it, just in case anyone is really looking for a commercial stair climber that can handle anything you can throw at it.
As the name implies, the 8 Series Gauntlet is a serious machine.
This thing is bigger and heavier than every other model on this list, but with the extra size comes strength and durability.
You also get larger steps on this model: 8″ high, 10″ deep.
The Gauntlet can handle users up to 350 lb, making it accessible to smaller and larger individuals alike.
Additional features include 14 built-in workout programs, bluetooth, USB charging, and a cooling fan (the LCD console comes standard, but you can also upgrade to a 15″ touchscreen display with a lot more available features).
This stair climber also comes with a great warranty: 10 year frame, 10 year parts, and 3 year labor.
Overall, if you have the room and the budget, the StairMaster 8 Series Gauntlet is truly a commercial grade stair climber. That said, this model is probably a lot more machine than most of us need in our home gyms.
Stair climbers, whether they’re revolving or of the stepper variety, can make great additions to a home gym.
These devices have earned a reputation for providing some of the hardest workouts you can get from a cardio machine and I’d have to agree with that sentiment.
I used to hop on the stair climber at my YMCA when I was looking for a solid cardio workout- 100 or so flights later and I’d have a serious case of jello legs.
Anyway, I hope this list shows that there are some awesome home models to choose from.
When deciding, first and foremost you have to think about your space and your budget. Then, I’d consider whether you want a revolving stair or stepper style.
From there, it’s all about comparing features and warranties.
Well, that about does it for stair climbers. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave ’em below and I’ll get back to ya soon.