How to Protect Your Knee on the Stairmaster

The Stairmaster is a type of exercise machine that involves stepping on piston-like steps or revolving pedals in a climbing motion.

Exercising on the Stairmaster provides a wide range of benefits. The Stairmaster is excellent for toning, sculpting the lower body and strengthening the legs. It also provides an exceptional cardio workout. It’s great for burning fat; in a 20-minute moderate session, you can burn up to 300 calories. By standing on your toes as you climb, you can sculpt your calves and tone and shape your glutes.

The Starmaster and the Knee

The Stairmaster is just about the perfect workout. So, what’s the downside? Stair climbing can be hard on your knees.

The knee is the largest joint in the body and is the easiest to injure. Knee injuries affect millions annually and the problem with a bad knee is that once it starts, it could plague you for the rest of your life.

Your leg bones are connected by a series of ligaments that keep your bones aligned and prevent your thighbone from jutting out and away from your shinbone when you move. The up-down motion of the Stairmaster can put extra stress on these ligaments.

Between the thighbone and the shinbone is a wedge of cartilage called the meniscus, which cushions the knee and acts as a shock absorber. Constant stress on the cartilage from repetitive motion can cause it to begin to wear away, resulting in pain and swelling, and as we age this condition worsens. Did you know that women have weaker knees than men? It’s true. Women are six times more likely to suffer knee injuries than men.

You can enjoy the benefits of the Stairmaster and protect your knees. Here’s how.

Using the Stairmaster Safely

As well as protecting your knee joints, using the Stairmaster safely will also improve the efficiency of your workout.

  • Posture is key. Stand straight with your shoulders back and make sure your torso is even with your hips. Pull in your stomach. This protects your spine and prevents your knees from taking on additional stress.
  • Place your feet pointing straight forward and at a comfortable distance apart. As you step, place the weight toward the front of the foot, avoiding rolling outward to the edge or inward to the instep. Try not to hit the step with the heel, which jars the knee.
  • Don’t use your knee to power yourself to the next step. Push your leg down smoothly working through the hip, letting your glutes provide the strength. Tightening the buttocks as you move will help keep your weight centered in your hip area.
  • Try not to lean over your knees as you step. Think of keeping your knees and your feet aligned vertically. You should never be able to look down and see only your knees. You should be able to see the front of your foot—or toes—as you step.
  • Start slowly, giving your knees time to warm up.
  • Always keep the knees relaxed. Never tighten them or lock them back (hyperextend) as you step up. Keep the knee of the extended leg just slightly loose, or bent, as the other leg comes up to take the next stair.
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