Elliptical Trainer

Elliptical Versus Stairmaster: Which Cardio Machine Should You Get?

A cardio machine offers users High-Intensity Interval Training, essential for weight loss, calorie burning, and muscle toning. It offers various cardio workouts from the comfort of your home.

As technology advances, various cardio equipment types have been manufactured and appear on the market, which often confuses consumers on which one to buy.

This article will help you explore the differences between two cardio machines, the Elliptical vs. Stairmaster, and choose the better option based on their offered cardio workout, how many calories they can burn, etc.

Elliptical Machine: An Overview

Elliptical Machine Overview


  • Adjustable Incline
  • Adjustable Resistance Levels
  • Smooth Motion
  • Ideal Stride Length

Elliptical Pros

  • Offers low-impact exercise
  • Effective for weight loss
  • Does not cause lower-body injury or joint problems
  • Burns more calories than other machines

Elliptical Cons

  • The machine movement may seem unnatural at first
  • The muscle groups will not develop as quickly as with high-impact exercise

The first elliptical machine was invented by the Precor Company and paved the way for the machine’s success in the fitness market in the 1990s.

The elliptical is used in both commercial (gym) and residential spaces. This workout equipment offers a cardio workout program similar to running without the risk of injuries.

I love this cardio machine because its smooth motion keeps your feet planted on the foot pedals as they move forward and backward. This makes it much easier on the joints!

The elliptical trainer has interconnected foot pedals and handlebars, meaning you can do both lower and upper-body workouts at the same time!

Based on my experience with the elliptical, it is an EXCELLENT CHOICE for full-body cardio workouts, improving your endurance and boosting your overall cardiovascular health.

However, like any other gym equipment, elliptical machines have flaws, such as unnatural movement.

If you want a full-body workout that burns fat quickly without wrecking your joints, the elliptical may be the best machine to achieve it.

Stairmaster Machine: An Overview

Stairmaster Machine Overview


  • Rotating steps
  • Adjustable resistance
  • Electronic console
  • Foldable design

Stairmaster Pros

  • The Stair climber can strengthen core muscles via natural movement
  • Best equipment for muscle toning
  • It can target different muscle groups with its unique workout modes (can easily make the workout easier or harder)
  • It can be used for aerobic exercise

Stairmaster Cons

  • Limited upper body workout
  • High prices
  • Not made for all users

Another cardio machine that resembles stair climbing is the Stairmaster! It has become one of the most popular pieces of home gym equipment because it can build muscle in the lower body.

From my experience with this machine, it dramatically supports my body weight. It allows me to burn calories faster than usual, providing a stair-climbing cardiovascular workout from the comfort of my home gym.

Like elliptical trainers, it is an effective cardio workout machine because it offers a complete upper and lower-body workout.

A stair climber machine also offers different fitness levels (moderate intensity to high intensity), which you can adjust depending on your ability!

The Stairmaster is designed with rotating steps so climbers can climb its stairs while remaining in place. They can easily alter the difficulty to their preferred fitness level.

Thus, the stair climber is the best home gym machine because it can do whole-body workouts, offers leg muscle toning, and is effective in burning fat. It also mimics an everyday activity while dialing it up.

However, it is NOT made for everyone! A certified personal trainer is recommended to find alternative stair climber strength exercises if you cannot handle that level of physical activity.

Elliptical vs. Stairmaster: Side-by-Side Comparison

Elliptical and Stairmaster Comparison

If you are still confused about what equipment to use for home workouts, this section is for you!

Let’s compare the Stairmaster and elliptical exercise machines and see which offers more cardiovascular benefits!

Calories Burned/Weight Loss

Your potential for weight loss can be measured by how many calories are burned during your workout session.

If you use a stair climber for 30 minutes, you are expected to burn 200 calories. On the other hand, if you use elliptical machines for 30 minutes, you will burn 350+ calories.

With the data on calories burned listed above, it is undeniable that elliptical machines burn more calories than stair climbers! In this round of Stairmaster vs. elliptical, the elliptical wins!

Also, it would be best to be on a calorie deficit if you want to hasten your weight-loss process. You can determine the right deficit by checking your own body weight and setting a particular weight as a goal.

TIP: The more calories burned, the higher the weight loss will be.


Cardio Workout Offered

Popular cardio machines, such as the elliptical or Stairmaster, offer different workout exercises from the convenience of your home.

However, comparing the workouts offered by an elliptical to a Stairmaster will help you choose the best home equipment!

To help you choose the right elliptical for your needs, below are some of the workout exercises and target areas each machine covers:

For Elliptical Machines:

  • Booty workout
  • Core workout
  • Treadmill workout
  • Beginner cardio workout
  • Short-interval workout
  • Varying-speed workouts

For Stairmaster:

  • Single step-up
  • Skip-a-step
  • Sidestep
  • Backward climb
  • Alternating kickbacks
  • Endurance climbing
  • Racing up the stairs

The elliptical is the best option if you are insecure about your body weight and want a more exceptional amount of calories burned.

On the other hand, if you want a cardiovascular exercise that burns fewer calories and works better for lower-body muscle toning, the Stairmaster is the best equipment!

Hence, there is NO clear winner for Stairmaster vs. elliptical in this regard, as both pieces of equipments are used for different workout purposes.


Bodybuilding Applications

Bodybuilders also need to improve their cardio for heavy lifting and strength training; that’s why most are using cardio machines.

An elliptical machine with moderate intensity can effectively help in improving their cardio, but Stairmasters offer more benefits!

Because Stairmasters mimic the act of climbing stairs, they can strengthen and tone your lower body muscles, which is highly necessary for bodybuilding!

Thus, the Stairmaster is the go-to option for most bodybuilders because it burns the right amount of calories while building their quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.



Workout enthusiasts have debated the ergonomics between the elliptical vs. the Stairmaster for years. Let me help put this debate to rest by offering honest reviews on both products!

When I tried the elliptical, the handlebars were firm, allowing me to finish my workout session safely and push with my arms when my legs were giving out!

The handling of the Stairmaster is also firm, just like the elliptical. Because you climb stairs and steps with the Stairmaster, I love how the handlebars can support my weight!

I can thus say both pieces of equipment have good ergonomics/handling!


Muscle Groups Developed (Upper Body, Leg Muscles, etc.)

Choosing exercise equipment (Stairmaster vs. Elliptical) for building muscle groups can be confusing. However, from my experience, Stairmaster helps me develop more muscle groups!

Even though the elliptical offers both upper and lower-body workouts, the Stairmaster provides a more intense workout that is effective for muscle building.

This is because, with a Stairmaster, you are walking uphill on a stair climber, and your upper and lower body and leg muscles end up more toned, thus developing more muscle groups.


Joint Pain Management

As mentioned, you will have to climb stairs with a Stairmaster, which is more likely to cause pain and injuries in your joints if you constantly use it.

The elliptical wins this round because it offers good joint pain management. After all, it’s designed to offer low-impact exercises, which typically put less pressure on your joints.

I love the elliptical because it is a safer choice, especially if you have musculoskeletal conditions like knee or hip pain, arthritis, or osteoporosis.

However, when the elliptical is not used properly, it can also cause joint problems, which means you put yourself at risk of decreasing bone density.


Full Body Workout

Both pieces of equipment offer full-body workouts! With Stairmasters, you will simulate climbing stairs and will thus use your full body and skeletal muscles to improve your physical fitness.

On the other hand, the elliptical also uses the upper and lower body to strengthen your circulatory system and, thus, improve your cardiovascular fitness.

In this round of elliptical vs. Stairmaster, both are winners regarding full-body workouts! You need to figure out your fitness goal and choose the appropriate machine!

After all, both are effective in building muscles and burning calories.



The typical elliptical size is 6 feet tall by 2.5 feet wide, but the lengths range from 50 to 84 inches, depending on the brand and model.

On the contrary, the Stairmaster size is 5 feet long by 2.5 feet wide, and you will need 8 to 10 feet of ceiling clearance.

I love both pieces of equipment in this regard because they are compact and space-saving and, thus, do not require or take up too much space in your home!

However, I would pick the elliptical when choosing between the two because this equipment does not require extra ceiling clearance, which can be a problem for some.

So if you have a small space, I suggest using compact elliptical equipment to achieve your fitness goals.



Both pieces of equipment are made of steel or a combination of aluminum and steel when constructed.

We will have a tie regarding the elliptical vs. Stairmaster matchup on this factor! However, the longevity (life span) of both pieces of equipment will only depend on how it is maintained.

This means that even if the equipment is made of steel, it runs the risk of being damaged if not well-maintained, thus becoming non-functional.


Stride Length

An elliptical typically has a step length of 20 inches. This is the standard length for gym machines and is designed to fit users with a height of 5’3″ – 6′.

On the other hand, the Stairmaster has a length of 18 inches, but this is adjustable. With the matchup of Stairmaster vs. elliptical, we have another tie for this round!

The stride length is subjective and must be based on your reach and height. So if you are short, the Stairmaster is the best option!

If you have a height of 5’3″ – 6′, the elliptical may fit you! Always remember your fitness goals when choosing the best machine.



A stair climber is MUCH more expensive than an elliptical, which makes it not the best go-to-option if you have a limited budget.

The price of Stairmasters can range from $1,397 to $3,799, depending on its brand, model, and advanced features.

On the other hand, an elliptical machine only ranges from $150 to $500. Considering the cost, it is fair to say that the elliptical machine is the most cost-effective!

However, these machines are not as effective for muscle toning, even though they are great for calorie burning.

But if the Stairmaster is way out of your budget, the best option you can get is the elliptical machine.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are the commonly asked questions about the Stairmaster vs. elliptical regarding workouts and their benefits. Read more to learn.

Does an Elliptical or Stairmaster Offer a Better Workout for Weight Loss?

In terms of weight loss, the elliptical offers a better workout than Stairmaster. This is because an elliptical is used for lower and upper-body exercises, thus leading to more-significant calorie burn.

On the other hand, a Stairmaster is focused on toning your muscles, and as a result, it will burn fewer calories than the elliptical.

So if you exercise to decrease your weight (weight loss), the elliptical is the best machine for you!

How Many Calories Can You Burn on an Elliptical or Stairmaster?

As an avid user of both machines, if you use a Stairclimber for 30 minutes, you will burn 200 calories! On the other hand, if you use the elliptical for 30 minutes, your body will burn 350+ calories.

An elliptical thus helps a LOT when it comes to calorie burn. Even though it is made to deliver a low-impact workout, it burns calories like no other machine.

How Long Should You Use Both Machines in Your Workout Program?

There is no definite answer on how long you should use both machines for your workout program. The best answer I can give you is “until you reach your limit and goals.”

If you use workout machines, such as an elliptical, rowing machine, Stairmaster, or treadmill, only you can tell how long you should use it.

However, from what I’ve been told, half an hour to two hours is usually plenty of time.

Always remember not to overdo it and have a rest day to avoid injuries! Having an injury is never a great experience and hinders you from doing many things. Take it from me!

Can I Lose Fat With a Stairmaster?

YES! The Stairmaster is an effective machine for burning excess fat in your body.

I’ve tried a 30-minute workout on a Stairmaster, and it burned around 180 to 200 calories, depending on how hard I went.

From my experience, a faster climb stair session burns more calories than a slower session.

Are 30 Minutes of Exercise Enough to Lose Weight Using an Elliptical Machine?

YES! A 30-minute workout with an elliptical can help you lose weight! The American Heart Association recommends having 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week.

Also, if you opt for high-intensity cardio, you can do 75 minutes per week. I suggest following these recommended minutes of workout sessions to avoid sprains and other injuries.

Final Verdict: Which Should You Choose?

And now, we are on to my favorite part! If you are one of the people that are still confused about which one to use, the information listed below will surely help you!

Also, you can use the Stairmaster vs. elliptical comparison below as your buying guide.

Choose an Elliptical If:

  • If you want to burn more calories or excess fat in your body
  • If you want a machine that engages more in aerobic exercises
  • If you want an exercise machine that does not cause joint problems
  • If you have limited space in your home
  • If you want an affordable exercise machine

Choose a Stairmaster If:

  • If you want to focus on toning your muscles rather than burning calories
  • If you are a bodybuilder and want to improve your cardiovascular health and fitness
  • If your main fitness goal is to have improved quads and glutes
  • If you want to develop more muscle groups

Final Thoughts

An exercise machine is the best equipment for muscle toning, burning calories, and body shaping.

As technology advances, various workout machines will continue to be invented. However, two often pique the interest of home gym enthusiasts, the elliptical and Stairmaster.

Whatever equipment you choose, make sure you can benefit from it and ensure that it offers extreme convenience while giving you safe, effective, and quality workouts!