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Squats Vs. Stair Stepper

by Eric Brown

About Eric Brown

Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Squats and stair steppers both work your legs but in a vastly different manner. The barbell squat is possibly the best exercise for building strength and power in your lower body, and a stair stepper burns calories and builds your endurance. Using both will help you achieve better health, lower body fat, and stronger muscles and bones. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.

Squatting

The barbell squat works the quadriceps and hamstrings, or the muscles on the front and back of your thighs. Squatting also works the hips, lower back and abdominals. To squat properly, place a barbell on your shoulders, not your neck, and hold it firmly in place. Squat down by bending at the hips, knees and ankles while keeping your torso upright. Descend as deeply as you can without pain or rounding your back and stand back up by pushing your head back to ensure that you maintain proper posture.

Stair Steppers

Stair steppers are machines on which you step up and down in place. There are varieties of machines, many with different programs that are preset for you to follow. This exercise does work your legs, but you cannot build significant muscle in this manner. You can burn a great many calories in a short period of time depending on your fitness and energy levels. When using a stair stepper, only hold onto the rails for balance when necessary. Do not lean on the rails, which would turn it into an upper-body exercise.

Squatting for Endurance

Squatting can be used to improve your muscular endurance, but this requires you to have good technique first. When you are comfortable with the exercise, you can perform sets of 20 repetition squats using as heavy of a weight you can tolerate. This is extremely taxing and might be unpleasant the first few times you try it. If you find it easy, you are not using enough weight. When doing this, care must be taken to ensure that you maintain proper posture, as there can be a tendency to lean forward as you fatigue.

Comparing the Two Directly

Squats and stair steppers are incredibly different forms of exercise. If you want a well-rounded program, do both exercises. Do not do one right after the other. If you do your cardiovascular work first, you will be fatigued when you squat, and this can increase your risk of injury. If you squat first and perform other exercises for balanced leg development, you have been in the gym long enough. There is no point of extended training unless you are training for a marathon, and if this is the case you should not be using a stair-stepper.

Resources (2)

  • Starting Strength (2nd edition); Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore
  • Strength Training Anatomy - 3rd Edition (Sports Anatomy); Frederic Delavier

Photo Credits:

  • Photodisc/Valueline/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.