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. Melanie Sakowski
      November 14, 2020 AT 7:51 pm

      Ok dayyyymnn level 16 that’s no joke 💪🏻

    2. Alexis Trujillo
      May 6, 2020 AT 11:48 am


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

      Thank you

    3. C.J. Mosley Jersey
      October 10, 2016 AT 10:52 pm

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    4. Chris Mosely
      February 4, 2013 AT 6:27 am

      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!

    5. H
      December 8, 2012 AT 10:21 pm

      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 🙂

    6. Shannon
      April 17, 2012 AT 9:46 am

      What do you do for your strength training?

      1. Eating Bird Food
        April 17, 2012 AT 11:55 pm

        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.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        September 22, 2011 AT 8:10 am

        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.

    7. Linz
      August 9, 2011 AT 8:53 am

      Do you think you can do this HIIT work-out on the stairmill, too? I love the stairmill, not the stair stepper…

      1. Eating Bird Food
        August 9, 2011 AT 10:09 am

        Oh yea, this workout is actually for the stairmill. At my gym it’s called the Stair Master. 🙂

    8. Eva
      June 2, 2011 AT 12:48 pm

      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!

    9. janetha @ meals & moves
      May 27, 2011 AT 6:02 pm

      If there is one thing I love, it is acronyms. You go, lady!

    10. LauraJayne
      May 26, 2011 AT 8:41 pm

      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!

    11. natalie (the sweets life)
      May 26, 2011 AT 4:03 pm

      i’ve been doing more HIIT via insanity workout videos and LOVE it!
      ….just like I love BFD 🙂

    12. Sarah
      May 26, 2011 AT 3:41 pm

      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.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        May 26, 2011 AT 8:36 pm

        I’ll have to check out your videos Sarah. I like Tosca’s Eat Clean plan as well – I think I have at least 3 of her books. 🙂

    13. Danielle
      May 26, 2011 AT 2:57 pm

      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 ?

      1. Danielle
        May 26, 2011 AT 3:13 pm

        i think lunches are the most difficult for me. I am always left feeling so famished if I don’t stuff my face 😉

        1. Eating Bird Food
          May 26, 2011 AT 8:41 pm

          If I come up with any BFL appropriate meals I’ll be sure to post them.

    14. Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
      May 26, 2011 AT 2:34 pm

      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!

      1. Eating Bird Food
        May 26, 2011 AT 8:40 pm

        I’ll definitely let you know how it goes for me Gabriela! Let me know if you decide to give it a try.

    15. Clare @ Fitting It All In
      May 26, 2011 AT 2:12 pm

      I’m so excited to hear how BFL is for you. I did just the weights part a few summers ago and definitely got stronger.

      As for HIIT, how is it different than just regular intervals? I run intervals all the time!

      1. Eating Bird Food
        May 26, 2011 AT 8:32 pm

        The only difference is the intensity in which they are performed. HIIT you go at your maximum pace/exertion.

    16. Steph @ StephSnacks
      May 26, 2011 AT 2:08 pm

      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 🙂

    17. Heather @ girlyeverafter
      May 26, 2011 AT 12:13 pm

      I did HIIT when I had a gym member ship and it was rally intense. Great workout, but I hit a wall so I started mixing up my cardio/weights and got better results that way.

    18. Holly @ Rust Belt Runner
      May 26, 2011 AT 11:41 am

      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 😉

      1. Mary
        May 26, 2011 AT 6:54 pm

        Holly- I tried finding the BFL post but couldn’t….help! 😉 I’d love to read it!

    19. lisa @ early morning run
      May 26, 2011 AT 11:21 am

      I love having breakfast for dinner. Actually, breakfast for lunch, too! It’s good any time!

    20. Jennifer
      May 26, 2011 AT 11:12 am

      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.

      1. Eating Bird Food
        May 26, 2011 AT 8:10 pm

        YES!! I have tried a workout from BodyRockTV before. Zuzanna is awesome and super intense.

    21. char @ char on a mission
      May 26, 2011 AT 11:09 am

      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!

    22. Valerie
      May 26, 2011 AT 10:56 am

      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.

    23. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers
      May 26, 2011 AT 10:32 am

      Good luck with the new plan! I agree, Morning Star patties are the best – I love spicy black bean!

    24. Alayna @ Thyme Bombe
      May 26, 2011 AT 9:43 am

      I’m really interested to see hao you like BFL. I’ve been wanting to start it too for the same reason, abs!

      1. Eating Bird Food
        May 26, 2011 AT 7:53 pm

        I know! I really want abs and after seeing Janetha’s and Sarah’s progress with ab definition after following the program, I knew BFL would help.

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