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Three Steps to Heavenly Thighs?
Member Name: BizzyB
Date: 04/09/01, updated on 04/09/01 (8658 review reads)
Advantages: Cardiovascular workout, Firms bums and legs
Disadvantages: Needs willpower - but what doesn't?!, Doesn't work the upper body
Ah the step machine. From the humble stairs to the hi-tech step machine, stair climbing has long been hailed as one of the most effective exercises to firm and tone bums and thighs. From the simplistic first hydraulic step machines to the new fangled, positively sci-fi creations many of us will either come across one of these instruments of torture at a gym or bring the contraption into our own home.
I have done both, I've climbed in a gym and climbed at home, in fact put together the distances I've climbed over the years and I'd be well on my way to the clouds by now, though some may argue that's where I already reside.
With all this climbing you might suspect I had achieved the lifelong ambition of firm shapely legs but I must confess that they are far more heaven help me than heavenly. And for this I cannot lay the blame at the foot of the stairs. Whichever machine I have tried there has always been one vital piece of the machinery malfunctioning and that piece is me. I have never reached the level of exercise endorphin junkie even in my days of avid gym going when parts did firm up and trim down. It is not that I dislike exercise per se, I just lack a great deal of motivation. My conscious mind is fully aware of the benefits, I can even testify to feeling better when fitter but if I knew the exact reason that willpower failed I wouldn't be here, I'd have written a book and be a millionaire guru in L.A so apologises if you were hoping I had the answer.
Stepping provides you with two main exercise objectives. The exercise is aerobic, cardiovascular - in my words it makes you sweat and sweaty exercise means burning fat which was my major objective. But at the same time the action of ste
pping tones, firms and strengthens the leg and bottom muscles so hopefully as the fat slips off you are left with beautifully defined muscles underneath. In fairness when I was a gym go-er this did happen though obviously stepping was just part of my exercise routine which include other aerobic workouts and light weight training. I lost weight without changing my diet. Hang on? Why did I let all this good work go to waste?! Bum...literally. The promise of shaping up one's lower extremities is a particularly attractive to women, as it is one of the areas we moan about most isn't it?
My first step experience was at a gym I attended every other day in my teens and early twenties. The step machines there were hi-tech pieces of wonderment that came with that great seal of approval - it was the very step machine that Oprah used in one of her successful slim down . The step machine was a sturdy piece of engineering with a large rail frame to help with balance, but not to lean on (on tried that one, and got told off - "You won't burn fat by leaning Rebecca" was the cry of the taskmaster). The foot pedals were large, sturdy pads who's resistance was controlled by the computer, electric clever bits inside the big box. And this is the great advantage of the technical gym level stairclimbers with their fancy computer consoles. You can program the machine to deliver different work outs of time and intensity as it controls the resistance. So whether you want a fairly fast, cardiovascular work out or a climb that simulates toughened hill walking, the choice is yours. The great off-putter for me was seeing my progress on the computer screen and forever think 'please just end'. To get over this I would place a hand towel over the screen and concentrate on the other great feature that our gym step machine had - a magazine stand. I would try and lose myself in the Woman's Own problem page and forget about the muscles I nev
er knew I had before.
As the stairmaster was one of the pieces of aerobic equipment I enjoyed the most I decided to invest in a stepper for home. Now I couldn't stretch to a gym spec stepper myself, having neither the money or the space and so many moons ago I set about looking at step machines, many of the variations of which still available today.
The cheapest on the market is the simple mini-stepper - nothing more than a set of foot pedals on hydraulic cylinders. They are available from £15-£40 and I've tried friend's and have to say they are not worth the money. The range of movement you can achieve is very minimal and therefore so is the effect which I can see to be little more effective than if you mimicked the movement on the floor. They require the utmost balance and whilst they may be space saving I believe in the long run you would get very little benefit from them and little benefit equals little use which is why you see so many for sale at car boot sales.
The mini-stepper has been increased to address the one area of the body step exercise doesn't concentrate on - the upper body. So now we have the advent of mini-steppers with rowing arms for around the £40+ price range. The problem remains, whilst you may be getting some upper body work, and the arms aide balance if nothing else, the foot action remains limited.
This leads us on to solid frame steppers and this was the design I bought. On the whole, these steppers have solid frames which support hydraulic powered foot pedals raised off the ground allowing for a full step motion - this is the motion that really gets those thigh and buttock muscles working. The hydraulic cylinders can be adjusted to produce more resistance depending on whether you want to concentrate on making your muscles work hard to firm and tone or lessen resistance if you want an easier, faster step for a more cardiovascular workout. The solid frame design makes a much
more secure workout and can be bought for around £100.
As I said, this was the type I bought about 8 years ago. I bought a Tunturi tri stepper 400 which cost £110 back then - quite an outlay but believe me the frame of this monster is secure and amazingly sturdy. The frame is made of hollow steel, tubular design - 18cm in diameter. The foot pedals, perched on the end of the supporting arms are 30cmx12.5cm so even those with large feet can get a comfortable stance. The supporting legs come out at an angle and take up a floor space of around 90cmx90cm, approximately 150cm tall. So as the dimensions show you it isn't small, this is one piece of equipment you can't hide under the bed. So if space is at a premium this isn't the piece for you. However, with some creative furniture rearranging I have managed to squeeze it in the corner of a bedroom and it is surprisingly unobtrusive. And if nothing else it makes a great clothes horse. The hand supports for this make come up in front of your chest in a devil's horn shape and here's a tip - you know those mini breakfast TVs you see advertised in Sunday supplements? Well I have one and it fits in-between the hands rests perfectly! It is upstairs but makes little noise. Do try to place it near a window (but not directly infront of) or fan as you will get very sweaty - so look for a draught and no direct sunlight or they'll be carting you away dehydrated.
The 'computer' readout on my stepper is archaic to say the least and has never worked properly. It is meant to record time, number of steps taken, height climbed and calories burnt. I have fiddled with it for England and still it cuts out and resets itself after 2 minutes. I've given up on and in honesty wasn't too fussed with what it had to say anyway, I was quite content with the alarm clock set for whatever time I dared brave that day. The newer variations of these machines are no doubt much more sophi
sticated and if stats are you thing I'm sure you will find one to fill your needs.
Out of interest if you are climbing heights:
The Eiffel Tower is 984ft
The Empire State Building is 1250ft
The Eiger is 13042 ft
Mount Everest is 29028 ft
I once climbed the height of the Empire State Building on a monkey climber (that's like a stepper off the ground with arm pumps as well) in under 10mins - and all I got was a lousy t-shirt?
If you are buying a second hand stepper, especially a solid frame model have a good look first. Try it out and if the pedals are attached by rope ask to take off the cover to see the condition of the rope.
Now as with any piece of exercise equipment get medical advice and don't jump on and expect to climb Everest in the first afternoon! Take it slowly and surely, remembering to take breaks - your body needs a rest though currently I am taking this to its limit! Before stepping warm up - a brisk walk, some stretching, slow skipping or dance round the living room - but don't jump on cold. Wear comfortable and flexible clothing and for a stepper I recommend a good, supportive pair of trainers. Don't be tempted to jump on barefoot as it puts an undue strain on the foot and ankles. Drink plenty of water and listen to your body. No pain, no gain is a great rhyme but rubbish advice!.
Now I've written this I feel dreadfully guilty about the layer of dust on the stepper. It is a great piece of equipment from which I've seen real results when my willpower is working. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is particularly keen to get both an aerobic and lower body workout. Stay away though if you have damaged knees or back problems - far better you talk to a professional before going on such a piece of equipment that is fair but not faultless to the joints.
I promise to use my stepper good people, and who knows I may eventually turn
this body that's a building site into a temple!
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