20 Minute StairMaster HIIT Workout

Work up a sweat with this quick and effective 20 minute StairMaster HIIT workout! Your legs will be burning and your heart will be pumping.

I have a love/hate relationship with the StairMaster. It’s HARD and takes a lot of energy, but it’s also one of my favorite machines at the gym because you can work your backside while getting your cardio in and you don’t have to stay on the machine forever in order to work up a good sweat. I usually only do like 20-30 mins on the stairmaster before I’m in need a serious water break… especially if I’m doing intervals like the ones in this workout.

And don’t let the short time fool you. 20 minutes on the StairMaster is no joke, I don’t care what level you’re using! I should note that this is an advanced HIIT workout. You can easily modify the workout to meet your fitness level.

I know it’s holiday weekend, but here’s a quick stairmaster workout — just in case you have time to pop in to the gym for a quickie. If you do end up trying this workout, let me know in the comment section or on social media. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

20 Minute Stair Master HIIT Workout

Level refers to the level on the stairmaster machine, which goes from 1-20.

Work up a sweat with this quick and effective 20 minute StairMaster HIIT workout! Your legs will be burning and your heart will be pumping.

Benefits of the StairMaster

Climbing stairs is known to be one of the most effective cardio (and strength building workouts) you can do for several reasons:

  1. Stair climbing engages the body’s largest muscle groups to lift your body weight up, step after step, so you burn more calories than you would exercising on a flat surface.
  2. Stair climbing raises your heart rate immediately so with a 20 minute workout you’ll likely spend 19 minutes with an elevated heart rate. Perfect for maximizing your cardio benefits.
  3. Stair climbing requires more balance and strength than other cardio modalities. The act of maintaining your balance while stair-stepping engages core muscles and increases core muscle strength.
  4. You’re toning and sculpting your lower body (glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves) while getting a cardio workout at the same time. More bang for your workout buck!
  5. Using the stairmaster is better on your knees, because with “real” stairs you have to go up to the top and then back down. Descending stairs is considerably harder on your knees than climbing up because your muscles and connective tissues are being used as “brakes” to fight the effect of gravity, and you are hitting each step with more impact. With the stairmaster machine, you get all the benefits of climbing while avoiding the negative elements of descending.



Question for you – Do you love or hate the stairmaster?

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  1. Hi,

    Can somebody tell me please how many steps per minute corresponds for every level in the stair master machine?

    Thank you

  2. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this superb blog!
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  3. That intensity level on isn’t really HIT. It’s too low. It’s just IT (Interval Training). If you’re really doing HIT, you would have to rest after about 20 seconds or so, you wouldn’t be able to continue at such a high level of intensity for more than 20 seconds. It’s supposed to be flat out!

  4. Just so you know- beans/legumes are pretty high in carbs, but they also have a lot of fiber – because of that fiber content, beans have a slower impact on your blood sugar than other high carb foods. This means they satisfy you and can help stabilize your blood sugar.

    (they also have phytonutrients, in addition to protein)

    I’m sure you already know all that- I just had to point out that beans can be a good part of diets too 🙂

    • I switch up what I do for strength training. At the time I wrote this post I was following the Body For Life training program. Now I am doing an outdoor bootcamp and using the Tone It Up workouts for my strength training.

    • That’s the same stairmaster that I have at my gym and I haven’t found a way to program it so I just change the levels myself. I do think there is a interval setting though – maybe you could try that out.

  5. I could not agree more with HIIT. I have been doing this for years and and I ONLY do cardio for 20 minutes (unless I am teaching Zumba which is 60 minutes, but even then I try to vary up the routines from slow(er) to fast) and I get the best results from 20 minutes of intense interval training. Not many of my friends who are newly on the fitness bandwagon can understand how I stay in shape with only 20 minutes of cardio that I have been doing for years. Even on days I do Zumba, which like I said are 60 minutes, I will weigh more the next few days. But the second I do 20 minute intervals, I see a drop in the scale. I love teaching Zumba so I won’t give that up, but just to further emphasize and encourage you that this works! Thanks for posting this and best of luck! Ps – your meals look fantastic!

  6. I haven’t tried HIIT (or know much about it), so I’m interested to see how you like it! I have such a “tried & true” eating routine, that I usually don’t like to switch things up – I’m a creature of habit, but I’ve been wanting to work on strength – and maybe I’ll need to mix things up to see any progress! Can’t wait to hear more!

  7. I love HIIT! I have a few videos featuring different ways to do / use them. Let me know if you ever have any questions. Also, my favorite book for dieting of ALL time is the eat clean recharged with Tosca Reno – although I think she just issues another new version but still the Eat Clean Diet is what I follow typically.

  8. I would love to see some of your meals that you make that follow BFL. Only because you don’t eat a lot of meat and it would be interesting to see how you eat enough protein. I tried doing BFL before but eating chicken/beef so much didn’t interest me and I ran out of ideas pretty quickly 🙂 Do you think you would do this ?

  9. I actually purchased the BFL book not too long ago, and was toying with the idea of following just the workout part and upping the protein just like you, but decided to hold off for a bit until all my vacations this month were over. I’m not sure if I’ll actually do it, but I really do love the program’s balance when it comes to exercise- some cardio is absolutely necessary to maintain a healthy heart, but strength training pays off way more in the long run! I’m interested to hear what you think of the plan as you continue doing it!

  10. I think that it’s great you’re trying a new type of workout and adjusting your diet in different ways (although, as you mentioned, you already eat quite healthy!). I myself have been on the look out for new workout moves as well as cutting back on my carbs a bit.. while it’s slightly challenging, I also feel better 🙂

  11. I’m kinda in the midst of BFL right now. I posted about it a while back on my blog. You can find the post under “BFL” in the word cloud if you are interested.

    Anway, I am into it more for the strength training as you mentioned, I’ve never been good at that. The eats have kinda gone by the waste-side. Hmm. Although I’ll say my diet pre-BFL was not much different than the BFL diet. I am trying to drink more water though, that has been the other big change for me since BFL.

    I WANT ABS TOO! I think they are starting to make an appearance 😉

  12. If you are interested in HIIT then you should check out BodyRockTV.com. Zuzanna will walk you through a HIIT workout that will leave your muscles burning and your lungs gasping for air. The best part is she posts a video of the workout so you don’t have to wonder what exercise she is talking about as well as a photo break down of the whole workout.

  13. I do enjoy HIIT training, but never do it enough!! I like to incorporate it with muscular training, like switching leg lunge jumps, or squat jumps, stair jumps, etc. I’m glad you’re feeling the burn. I haven’t had a good burn since last Monday, so I think I, too, need to step it up a notch!

  14. I love BFL, so far. I am on week 4 day 4 and it has been going great. I actually really enjoy HIIT and have been doing my HIIT sessions on the elliptical.

  15. Hubby and i tried it like 10 years ago.
    It was okay. Just be careful with it…not
    sure if it has changed its routines but
    I got a persistent shoulder problem
    that began with it.

  16. I’ve had this realization lately too — that cardio isn’t the end-all be-all of working out. I dearly love my cardio, but due to a persistent foot injury, I’ve had to do more low-impact exercises. Including the Core Fusion workouts that you mentioned a while back. I’m glad I picked that up, and I’ve definitely noticed changes in my body. The injury has “forced” me to be more creative about working out, and to focus more on strength training. And I’m realizing it feels just as good as 45 minutes of hard cardio.

    Before my injury, I did HIIT — with a rowing machine and a spinning bike. I think with HIIT and strength training that you can’t go wrong!

  17. i’m so excited to hear how you like it! I’ve been thinking of looking into it, too, but doing it similar to how you are (really focusing on the workouts/schedule and just cleaning up my diet a bit without getting obsessive about it).

    We love BFD! 🙂

  18. I think its great you are trying BLF. I’ve always wanted to try it but I need to do more research on it. I definitely agree that the amount of protein needed is justifiable if you are strength training that much and I’m constantly looking for ways to add more protein.

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see your thoughts and progress.

  19. Body For Life sounds awesome! I can’t wait to read more about it.. Hope you will also share some of the strength training routines with us!

  20. I try to incorporate HIIT into my fitness routine at least once a week. I tend to make up my workouts as I go along, so I don’t have favorite workout.

    I also LOVE breakfast for dinner, though I can only pull it off when the fiancé is away. He hates it and always puts up a fight. I’m a breakfast lover and can eat it any time of the day.

    Good luck with Body for Life. I’m interested to hear your experience and see your results.

  21. I’ve never tried BFL but have kept up with Janetha’s blog and it seems like a wonderful program. I too fell into the cardio only trap for years…I always feared weights would make me bulk up too much…especially after I was happy having lost a few lbs due to clean eating! I’ve recently given strenght training and weights another go and I have fallen in love with it! I haven’t bulked up but feel strong and more balanced and it’s really helped my running…why did I wait this long to get into it 😉 Hope it goes well for you too, good job uppin’ the protein!

  22. I love HIIT! It’s one of the only ways I’ll actually do cardio. I like to go to the track and sprint down one way, then lunge back the other. My legs burn like crazy the next day. I also do this in the pool- freestyle sprint down one way, then casual freestyle back.

  23. Love frittata for dinner and make it several times a month! Whenever my veggies look “mature”. 🙂

    I’ve considered BFL but am too much of a cardio junkie… I think I’d have to tweak the program so much that I’d have to change the name! BFL, but with a different exercise and eating plan… er, not so much! 🙂

  24. You and Isaac SPLIT a 3 egg omelet??? My boyfriend eats 6 egg omelets on his own (plus 4 slices of bacon) and is still starving. I would kill for a boyfriend who didn’t cost a
    Fortune to feed!!!! Everything looks great though!

    • Oh wow! That would definitely get expensive. Isaac eats a lot too but he usually snacks when he gets home from work around 4:00, eats dinner and then has another snack after dinner.

  25. I’d love to hear more as it goes along! I love my cardio, but I know I should do more strength training. I do HIIT occasionally, and my favorite is running intervals (fast 1 min, jog 1 min) or increasing my speed each minute to a peak.

  26. Let’s talk about Body For Life! I’ve had the book on my shelf for 2 years, and have seriously thought about doing it lately! I want to hear more on your thoughts 🙂

  27. I JUST had a TJ’s veggie sausage patty for the first time the other night. I thought it was well spiced and pretty good. I haven’t tried any other brands, though! I’ll have to try Morningstar.

    Breakfast for dinner is always a winner! It’s so easy to make and easily customizable to each person, too!

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