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a row of stepmills at a Life Time club

The stepmill — that miniature escalator to nowhere — is a low-impact way to get a high-intensity workout combining cardio and strength training.   

“If you’re looking to incorporate more resistance training as part of your cardio workout, it’s one of the best modalities,” says California-based trainer Jill Coleman, creator of TreadLift, a high-intensity training program that blends cardio-machine exercises and resistance training.

To get the most from the stepmill, though, Coleman recommends limiting your workout to 30 minutes to make sure you can maintain the intensity.

Form is also important: Use the side rails for balance, but don’t lean on them to support your body weight, she advises. (See “Are You Making These Fitness Mistakes?” for more.)

Coleman designed this workout, which features a multiplanar warm-up to challenge different movement patterns, followed by a high-intensity interval circuit that will test leg strength and endurance with less joint impact than a comparable treadmill session. 

She offers suggested settings for intermediate exercisers, but it’s important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.

The Plan

Muscle activation warm-up: 10 minutes

Set the timer on the stepmill to count down from 30 minutes. Start the resistance at level 7 or 66 steps per minute (SPM) and begin the warm-up:

Timer (Min.) Level/SPM Duration Movement
30:00-28:00 7/66 2 min. Double steps with kickback*
28:00-26:00 8/73 2 min. Lateral steps: right side**
26:00-24:00 9/80 2 min. Single steps
24:00-22:00 8/73 2 min. Lateral steps: left side
22:00-20:00 7/66 2 min. Double steps with kickback

Download chart.

*Double steps with kickback: Take two steps at a time. As you place one foot on a step, extend your other hip and kick your leg backward, keeping your knee bent. Focus on engaging your core throughout.  

**Lateral steps: Face one side of the stepmill and hold on to the side rail with your outside arm (the one farthest from the screen). Step laterally, focusing on keeping your hips squared forward.

Interval workout: 20 minutes

Immediately after completing the warm-up, lower the resistance to the lowest setting (level 1 or 24 SPM) and begin the interval phase of the workout:

Timer (Min.) Level/SPM Duration Movement
20:00-19:30 1/24 30 sec. recovery Single steps
19:30-18:30 18/143 60 sec. interval Double steps
18:30-18:00 1/24 30 sec. recovery Single steps
18:00-16:45 17/136 75 sec. interval Double steps
16:45-16:15 1/24 30 sec. recovery Single steps
16:15-14:45 16/129 90 sec. interval Double steps
14:45-14:15 1/24 30 sec. recovery Single steps
14:15-12:30 15/122 105 sec. interval Double steps
12:30-12:00 1/24 30 sec. recovery Single steps
12:00-10:00 14/115 120 sec. interval Double steps

Download chart.

Repeat the interval work for 10 minutes more until you get to 0:00. 

This originally appeared as “Step By Step” in the December 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

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