The Difference Between a Stair Climber and Elliptical

When incorporating cardio machines into a home gym or commercial space, chances are that you’ll come across stair climbers and ellipticals. As two of the most used pieces of cardio equipment, stair climbers and ellipticals can offer intense workouts that promote weight loss and conditioning.

But despite the similarities in caloric burning, these machines focus on two different movements to help achieve it. So what’s the difference between a stair climber and an elliptical? Continue reading to discover what sets each piece of fitness equipment apart from one another!

What Is a Stair Climber?

A stair climber is a stationary cardio machine that incorporates a revolving staircase mechanism that simulates walking up a set of stairs. This equipment targets your lower body; each step activates your quadricep and glute muscles, providing an intense burn throughout a workout.

What Is an Elliptical?

An elliptical is another well-known cardio machine that operates with two suspended pedals and handlebars. The pedals act as surfaces to plant your feet during the activity, while the handlebars act as supports to maintain balance as your weight shifts from one leg to another. The momentum you achieve while in motion can feel similar to walking or running.

What Are Their Differences?

There are several differences between ellipticals and stair climbers. Here are some to note.

Muscles Worked

It’s true that stair climbers primarily focus on the lower body muscle groups while providing some core and stability work. As you increase the intensity of your workout, you’ll notice that stair climbing will target your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Surprisingly, ellipticals engage a significant range of muscles! Some muscles may activate more than others depending on the angle of your pedals, stride, and intensity. Stepping on the mechanism will also require stability within your core to efficiently perform the movement.

Apart from working your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, expect to engage your rhomboids, pectorals, biceps, and deltoids as you push and pull the handlebars.


Stair climbers can provide intense sessions that put more stress on the lower body, specifically the knees. Those with limited mobility and joint concerns should opt for using an elliptical since it’s a safer low-impact cardio activity that engages your entire body without damaging your joints.

While they both focus on improving cardiovascular endurance and stamina, the differences between a stair climber and an elliptical are their movements and targeted muscle groups. It helps to know their key elements and features so that you can decide which piece of equipment is best for you, your goals, and your home gym.

When searching for a stair climber for home gym use, consider Treadmill Planet as your primary source of equipment! Our machines are top-of-the-line and make perfect additions to your space.