Welcome to SP!  -
Areas & RangesMountains & RocksRoutesImagesArticlesTrip ReportsGearOtherPeoplePlans & PartnersWhat's NewForum

The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Tips, tricks, workouts, injury advice.
 

The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby BigMitch » Thu Aug 29, 2013 3:17 am

I live in an area without very steep hills to do climbing repeats and don't have access to tall buildings with stairwells to do stair climbing repeats.

However, having an ultra-endurance background, I am not a guy who trains light.

i have hauled giant packs up the local ski hills, hauled giant packs on elevated treadmills, and hauled giant packs while dragging big tires on asphalt bike paths. This training is great for hauling giant packs up moderate snow slopes (e.g., Muir Snowfield), but not so good for hauling giant packs up really steep snowfields (e.g., Turtle Snowfield). The hiking muscles must be different than the stepping up muscles.

With a very steep winter climb on my schedule (Mt. Williamson North East Ridge), I have decided to try training on a stair stepper. I have picked up a used high quality machine with a 350 lb capacity, but have not started to use it.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to best to use this type of machine for really steep snow climbs? Thank you.
User Avatar
BigMitch

 
Posts: 306
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:17 pm
Location: Mendota Heights, Minnesota, United States
Thanked: 15 times in 15 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby Ze » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:30 am

Steep treadmill (like 25-30% grade) would best mimic the snow climb, stairclimber isn't bad but you should make sure you tax your calves by landing on the balls of your feet and/or leaning forward more than usual.
User Avatar
Ze

 
Posts: 335
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:50 am
Location: Bay Area, California, United States
Thanked: 60 times in 32 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby highlandvillager » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:47 am

Don't hold the rails or hunch over and "ride" the machine like so many people do at the gym. Keep your weight over your feet and balance on them just as you would when hiking up a mountain. Maybe wear ankle weights to match weight of boots, crampons, gaiters, etc.
User Avatar
highlandvillager

 
Posts: 61
Joined: Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:36 am
Location: Fort Worth, Texas, United States
Thanked: 1 time in 1 post

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby bscott » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:53 am

if you are talking about the kind with the revolving set of stairs, then try this:

twice a week, at a moderate fixed rate of speed, work your way up to one hour. anything beyond that is a waste. i do between 70 - 75 steps an hour. if you can, wear a backpack with weight in it. start with 5 lbs, add 5 every two weeks or so. that means that after three months you should have 30 pounds in your pack.

in addition, and most important, once a week, do custom intervals if you have that option. this is a pure cardio workout and should not be done with weight. do twice as long resting as working. for example, i do 2 minutes at 65 steps / hr, then 1 minute at 105 steps / hr. work up to being able to do that 12 times. this is a strenuous workout, and should only be done once a week. you want to push your body so that by the end of the workout, the rest period is almost not enough recovery to do the work period again.

and i second what ze said about landing on the balls of your feet and giving the calves a workout. you can also skip steps, which will help do the same thing. and obviously this is just the cardio portion of your workout, you should also mix in weights.
Don't try to argue with idiots. You aren't the dumbass whisperer.
User Avatar
bscott

 
Posts: 229
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:35 am
Location: huntington beach, California, United States
Thanked: 30 times in 25 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby ExcitableBoy » Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:51 pm

I found the best use for a stair stepper was for intervals, such as brichardson suggests. The other advices are good, stand on the balls of your feet, don't 'cheat' by over gripping or hanging on the rails.

I came up with an interval program using an old school Stair Master based loosely on Marc Twight's book. I did 90 seconds at full speed and maximum elevation then 3:30 recovery at a low speed. I repeated this for 6 -9 reps. With a 15 minute warm up and a 15 minute cool down this was a full workout and I could barely walk afterwards.
User Avatar
ExcitableBoy

 
Posts: 2841
Joined: Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:33 am
Location: Issaquah, Washington
Thanked: 408 times in 295 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby MoapaPk » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:24 pm

Talk on your cell phone while using it.
User Avatar
MoapaPk

 
Posts: 7577
Joined: Fri May 13, 2005 7:42 pm
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Thanked: 730 times in 470 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby BigMitch » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:53 pm

Thank you for all of your good responses.

My treadmill only goes to 15 degrees. I am also reluctant to jack the front of it up with 4 x 4s, as suggested numerous places on this forum, for fear that I might injure an achilles tendon walking up such a large angle.

I am using a stair stepper, (e.g., old school stair master) and not the new school revolving staircases.

I should have expressly written that I am interested in building very big stepping up endurance.

I do plenty of cardio on my treadmill, Tacx bike trainer, and rowing machine. However, I am intrigued by your interval workouts enough to give them a try.

If I could, I would take an 80 lb pack, put on my Koflach Actis Espes (the heaviest boots I own), go over to the parking ramp at Mall of America, and climb stairs for 5 hours. But, building security would probably chase me away. There are big signs everywhere stating that the facility is only for the parking use of mall patrons. Probably to keep the skateboarders away.

So I am looking to replicate that kind of workout using a stair master, if at all possible. I guess that I just try it.
User Avatar
BigMitch

 
Posts: 306
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:17 pm
Location: Mendota Heights, Minnesota, United States
Thanked: 15 times in 15 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby BigMitch » Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:45 pm

I tried my stepper out with a heavy pack last night and think it might do what I want.

To prevent extreme boredom and to keep my hiking muscles strong, I will use this stepper in conjunction with my treadmill.

For example, haul the giant pack on the treadmill with heavy boots for the first hour, move to the stair stepper the second hour, back to the treadmill for the third hour, etc., and build up to 5-6 hours.

At 9500 ft of climb in 5 miles, Mt. Williamson will be a good slog.

Thanks again for all of your input!
User Avatar
BigMitch

 
Posts: 306
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 6:17 pm
Location: Mendota Heights, Minnesota, United States
Thanked: 15 times in 15 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby rgg » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:55 pm

Living in a flat country, I have no hills anywhere nearby. However, when it comes to getting fit for the mountains, that doesn't pose serious problems at all.

General fitness
For general fitness, I find all sorts of cardio exercises suitable, including running, cycling and various machines like steppers or inclined treadmills. Different people simply like different things. My main goal is to keep my heart strong and fit. Over the years I've varied, but I haven't found much of a difference in the effects. First of all, it's just that I like some ways of exercising a bit more than others - but my preferences are not set in stone, and change over time. Secondly, I don't always have access to lots of different machines, so I have to adapt.
These days, I do mix of running and using the cross trainer. The latter is supposed to be easier on the joints, but the resistance I'm using makes it harder than running because my leg muscles have to work harder. On the cross trainer, I exercise with a higher heart rate and sweat a lot, but I can't keep it up for as long as when I go running.

Preparing to go uphill
However, all that is not specifically aimed at mountaineering or even hill walking. To be ready for that, I have found one particular exercise most useful: the calf raise. To be precise, I use a variation on this, but this example shows the exercise very well, and it's good too - but don't stop for a rest when your heels touch the ground. Mostly I do just one set three times a week, using quite a heavy weight. A typical set is 25 repetitions, giving me a bit of a burn in my calves, and it takes just a few minutes!
This is the exercise that means that, normally, I don't have any muscle ache in my calves when I head into the mountains. Only front pointing on steep ice for a long time will still make me feel something.
In fact, this exercise is so effective, that when I get back home from an extended visit to the mountains, I can't even do it with the same weight as before! I have to build it up again, starting with a lower weight.

Carrying a pack
Although I'm tall, I'm not big, so I really need to have very strong back muscles to be able to carry a pack. And so, as with the calf muscles, I do weight training exercises targeting my back as well as my shoulders. There are lots of good exercises available. Some that I use regularly are the dumbbell row, the pull up and chin up.

In the mountains
Unless I expect a shower at the end of the day, I try not to sweat too much when I'm in the mountains. Especially when it's cold outside, I don't want to get all wet, in order to avoid hypothermia when I pause or get tired and have to slow down. At the same time, the cold air itself helps to keep me cool without having to sweat, so I can keep up a good pace. Nevertheless, my heart rate is decidedly lower on such a day than when I'm running or using the cross trainer, and provided I eat and drink enough (which I'll admit, I do forget sometimes), I can keep going all day.
However, if I do expect a shower, or if it's warm enough outside that there is no hypothermia risk, I regularly decide to go faster for an hour or more, pushing myself and working up a good sweat. If I do that, I know I will feel the effects later in the day though, as I'll be more tired.

I try to avoid having to carry a big pack - in the Alps I usually stay in Alpine huts, in other areas I sometimes hire porters or mules. But sometimes I carry everything, and then I'm glad that my back is strong. It tends to get a bit sore, but I don't get back trouble; the main effect is that I'm a whole lot slower when I have to drag a lot of weight up a mountain.

Cheers, Rob
User Avatar
rgg

 
Posts: 366
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:15 pm
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thanked: 84 times in 65 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby Vitaliy M. » Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:33 pm

I usually run and use a stair stepper to train for mountains when I can't train by climbing other mountains. Intervals of 1 minute fast pace and 2 minutes of slower works well for stair stepper (for me).
Was it hard to find a partner for NE ridge of Williamson in Minnesota? :)
User Avatar
Vitaliy M.

 
Posts: 1008
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2011 1:23 am
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
Thanked: 287 times in 215 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby Ze » Sun Sep 01, 2013 8:23 pm

From a pure cardio aspect, the best routine is the one that you will make you the most likely to push yourself.

1 minute intervals are great for pushing yourself, but not the best for endurance development, and frankly the adaptations to intervals are done after like 3 weeks of them- basically they are best as a "top off" to your workouts and blocks before tapering a week before a big effort.

IMO the best routine (for all around endurance) is structured around tackling each endurance energy mechanism.

1 day: High intensity intervals (example, 3 x 6 min). These are great interval durations. Why? Because you will actually tax both anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis systems quite well. It takes 2 -3 minutes to shift away from anaerobic to more aerobic energy usage, so intervals < 3 minutes simply don't take the aerobic system that hard. 6 minutes is good as you'll get a few minutes at very high % of your VO2 max and HRmax. These are essentially VO2 max intervals.

After the effort, mix in some cross-training, either other moderate effort cardio or weights or other technical aspects you want to improve.

1 day: High intensity threshold workout (1 x 20 - 40 min). This is the best bang for your buck effort. This is a moderate duration effort that is really aimed at working just above your lactate threshold. The duration could be longer but it becomes really mentally and physically taxing to sustain the appropriate intensity for that long, so YMMV. This tends to be the most painful workout for me, (though final HR of 96% max is similar to workout #1). This is mostly about aerobic glycolysis though still a good amount of anaerobic initially. Your body is generating a decent (but not absurd) amount of lactate that ideally you want your muscles to better learn how to utilize to become more efficient.

1 day: Long duration ( multi hours). Now you will be below your lactate threshold and more reliant on the combination of aerobic carb and fat metabolism. This is obviously relevant for the long duration efforts in mountaineering.

You can add 1 minute intervals into any of these, or on additional days, but IMO these form the foundation of a plan that allows you to be quickly ready for any duration endurance effort.
User Avatar
Ze

 
Posts: 335
Joined: Tue Oct 21, 2008 2:50 am
Location: Bay Area, California, United States
Thanked: 60 times in 32 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby kevin trieu » Sun Sep 01, 2013 10:12 pm

Ze wrote:...
1 day: High intensity intervals (example, 3 x 6 min). These are great interval durations. Why? Because you will actually tax both anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis systems quite well. It takes 2 -3 minutes to shift away from anaerobic to more aerobic energy usage, so intervals < 3 minutes simply don't take the aerobic system that hard. 6 minutes is good as you'll get a few minutes at very high % of your VO2 max and HRmax. These are essentially VO2 max intervals.
...

jeeze... climbing mountains is supposed to be fun! the Western world's too focused on the training aspect of climbing. the Russians don't train. the Sherpas don't train. they just climb the mountains.

but yes, doing the stairmaster until you almost puke is a good way to train. doing physical activities until you almost puke is a good way to measure if you have done enough. puke or hallucination and sometimes both, simultaneously.
User Avatar
kevin trieu

 
Posts: 934
Joined: Mon Mar 21, 2005 5:59 pm
Location: Laguna Hills, California, United States
Thanked: 78 times in 55 posts

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby JohnP » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:07 pm

I've used a step climber (step mill is what it's called in my gym) a lot for preparation for climbing steep snow and can't really add much more than what has already been said. What I can recommend, and what I've followed, is to never train extensively with more than 25 lbs of weight in my pack. The reason is two fold: any more weight during training increases my recovery time significantly and, most importantly, reduces the "mileage" on my back, core, and knees. Trying to build muscle strength (heavy pack) and endurance at the same time day after day is a recipe, IMHO, for overtraining and ultimately, injury. If I know I will be carrying a heavy pack on a specific climb I will incorporate maybe a couple of heavy pack sessions (in my case it's hiking in the hills near my home) per week for 2 or 3 weeks prior in order to get accustomed to the feel of the extra weight but this is only for a brief length of time not as a part of my regular workouts for the reasons mentioned above.
User Avatar
JohnP

 
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 3:53 am
Location: palmdale, California, United States
Thanked: 0 time in 0 post

Re: The use of stair steppers for really steep snow climbs

Postby WyomingSummits » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:29 pm

kevin trieu wrote:
Ze wrote:...
1 day: High intensity intervals (example, 3 x 6 min). These are great interval durations. Why? Because you will actually tax both anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis systems quite well. It takes 2 -3 minutes to shift away from anaerobic to more aerobic energy usage, so intervals < 3 minutes simply don't take the aerobic system that hard. 6 minutes is good as you'll get a few minutes at very high % of your VO2 max and HRmax. These are essentially VO2 max intervals.
...

jeeze... climbing mountains is supposed to be fun! the Western world's too focused on the training aspect of climbing. the Russians don't train. the Sherpas don't train. they just climb the mountains.

but yes, doing the stairmaster until you almost puke is a good way to train. doing physical activities until you almost puke is a good way to measure if you have done enough. puke or hallucination and sometimes both, simultaneously.

The sherpas and the Russians are unemployed. I'd climb more if I were unemployed.
User Avatar
WyomingSummits

 
Posts: 365
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 7:03 am
Location: Wyoming, United States
Thanked: 54 times in 37 posts

Next

Return to Technique and Training

 


  • Related topics
    Replies
    Views
    Last post

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

© 2006-2013 SummitPost.org. All Rights Reserved.