Following the rapid expansion of the fitness industry, it has become easier and cheaper than ever for people to undergo serious and convenient workouts right in the comfort of their own home. To that end, many different home exercise machines have sprung up, ranging from the ridiculous to the ingenious. One can scarcely turn on the TV without encountering a telemarketing campaign designed to sell some sort of device billed as life changing and revolutionary.
With that in mind, it is important to be able to distinguish between the machines which have a legitimate claim to help their users get fit and lose weight, and those that are just a gimmick endorsed by paid actors. The best way to make this distinction is to take a look at what the machine actually does, and how many different muscle groups it can exercise at once (as that gives you the most bang for your buck).
Considering all this, it is obvious that the best investment for someone with limited space in their home would be a machine with a proven track record of great results, and one that can offer a comprehensive and convenient workout which encapsulates the greatest number of muscle groups possible.
That is where vertical climbers come in, and these machines will be the focus of this guide. We will be taking a look at what vertical climbers are, how they work, which muscle groups they target, in addition to providing some advice on structuring your workout routine. We will also go over and review some of the most popular models of vertical climbers, providing a list of benefits and drawbacks for each. With that in mind, let us take a look at what exactly vertical climbers are first.
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Vertical climbers are home exercise machines that were designed to mimic the process and physical experience of climbing a mountain. This was considered a great fit for the home exercise market due to the fact that mountain climbing is a really demanding sport, one which engages pretty much all of the muscle groups in the human body at once.
The main selling point used by most of the companies which produce this sort of exercise machine is that by using vertical climbers, people can burn twice the number of calories per hour of exercise as compared to running on a treadmill. This is backed up by certain scientific studies, and it is generally not called into question.
There are now several companies that produce these machines, but the first vertical climber was invented and put on the market by Innovations International LLC, but it wasn’t long before competitors turned up.
The most popular of these machines is the Maxi Climber, which has almost become a synonym for vertical climbers in general, but there are other vertical climbers out there as well, such as the VersaClimber and the Sunny Folding Climber Stepper. We will be going over all of these in a bit more detail later.
Though various models of vertical climbers produced by various companies all work in slightly different ways, the basic mechanism is always the same. Let us briefly go over the exact way these workout machines are constructed, so that we can have a better understanding of the effect they have on our body going forward.
Vertical Climbers fall under the category of workout machines which rely on your own body weight to give you a hard time when exercising, as opposed to using weights. That is exactly what makes these climbers convenient for home use.
When you see a vertical climber for the first time, you may be under the impression that it is just a strange looking bicycle. That is because it has two pedals at the bottom, as well as two handles on the top. However, the mechanism is vastly different, and so is the set of motions used to operate it.
Basically, a vertical climber consists of two poles, one for each of your legs, which are supposed to be moved up and down alternately. In order to start exercising on your vertical climber, there are several steps you have to take (see what we did there?).
Firstly, before you even try to get on it, make sure that one pedal is raised up while the other is at the bottom, near the floor. Put your foot on the lower pedal, and your hands on the handles above. The handles are there to make sure you can keep your balance while exercising, as well as to take some of the load while you are just mounting the machine.
While holding the handles firmly, and with your leg firmly on the lower pedal, mount the upper pedal as well, and push yourself up using the handles. Once you are in an upright position on the machine, you can actually start exercising. This is done by pushing the upper pedal down, while the mechanism automatically pushes the lower pedal up, so that the process can be repeated.
It is very important to point out that the majority of first time users get the motions they are supposed to be making with their vertical climber completely wrong. People tend to make short and rapid movements up and down, as though they were riding a bicycle, or walking on one of those stepping machines.
In fact, the machine is designed to facilitate precisely the opposite movement. You should make big steps, as far up and as far down as you can go. That way, you are working all of your muscles more intensely, and in a more beneficial way. Slow but challenging movements are better for muscle health overall than short and rapid movements, especially with large muscles such as the quads.
Getting off these machines has been known to cause headaches for some users, as the machine is designed to keep running continuously, and it takes a bit of practice to make it stop on command. However, once you have stopped the machine, make sure to keep your balance while dismounting, and this is done by keeping your hands on the handles as you remove one foot at a time from the pedals below.
Though we have tried to provide the clearest possible description of how working out on a vertical climber looks, perhaps it would be beneficial to take a look at a video of a vertical climber in operation online, in order to get a better picture. In essence, a vertical climber is like a mountaineering treadmill, wherein you practice all of the motions of climbing, without actually going anywhere!
Naturally enough, if you are considering buying a product, you want to know how you stand to benefit from owning it. In this section we will be taking a look at some of the most important benefits of owning a vertical climber machine, ranging from the health benefits, to the more material benefits of a vertical climber as opposed to some of the other home exercise machines that are available on the market nowadays.
Let us take a look at some of the health benefits offered by vertical climbers first, as that is arguably the most important aspect of the entire machine.
As previously mentioned, vertical climbers are particularly useful because they can exercise your whole body at once. By pushing the pedals up, you are activating your quads, glutes, calves, and other leg and thigh muscles. However, the legs are not the only area that is getting exercised. Your abs are a crucial stabilizing factor in the operation of a vertical climber, and they are worked with every repetition.
Furthermore, the arms and shoulders are also being worked, since some of the weight is transferred to them during the process of stepping up and down. People think that these machines are only designed to work out the legs, but we can tell you from personal experience that the shoulder muscles will be just as sore as the quads after a vigorous workout with a vertical climber.
This is a fact touted by all of the companies which produce vertical climbers, and it has been tested several times, with the same results. When you think about it, this result isn’t surprising at all, especially when we consider the facts from the previous point.
The quads are the largest and strongest muscles in the human body, which also means that they require the greatest amount of calories to function. By exercising these muscles vigorously, more calories are spent than by simply running, since the motions you have to make on a vertical climber are much more difficult to pull off than the ones you need in order to run.
On top of that, as we have already seen, the whole body gets exercised, including the arms, shoulders, and abs, whereas with running, only the quads, calves and glutes are worked continuously.
Vertical climbers are known to be among a group of so-called low-impact workout machines, since they offer a great cardio session, without the associated pressure on the joints and ligaments.
In fact, it is precisely this sort of pressure that is the most serious risk posed by other popular home exercise machines. If we look at stationary bikes, for example, we see that many users have experienced a phenomenon referred to as the ‘biker’s knee’.
After a prolonged period of turning the pedals (and without doing a proper warm up routine beforehand), the knee and the ligaments around it can become sprained, and this effect lasts for a few weeks. It impedes walking, and especially going down stairs, for instance. Even worse, the knee pain will recur when you least expect it, even if you hadn’t ridden a bike in a while.
With vertical climbers, the risk of similar injuries is greatly decreased, due to the very nature of the movement required to work the machine. That is why we were sure to advise any prospective user not to make short rapid movements on it, but long and slow ones, because that prevents these issues from popping up.
In addition to the obvious health benefits of vertical climbers, there are also other benefits in terms of the mechanical structure and ease of use offered by these machines, as opposed to some of the others you may choose to buy. Let us take a look at some of these advantages.
Vertical climbers are a great choice of exercise machine for people who want a great cardio workout, but don’t have a lot of space to put cumbersome equipment like a treadmill or a stationary bicycle.
These machines take up pace mostly in on the vertical axis, which means they don’t take up a lot of floor surface area, instead making use of the space already left unoccupied in most households.
All you need in order to make full use of a vertical climber is a relatively high ceiling, especially if you yourself are tall. However, if floor space is your primary concern, as is the case with most people on the market for an exercise machine, a vertical climber takes care of the problem of space pretty handily.
People often complain about home exercise equipment as being too cumbersome, as well as too difficult to assemble. These usually come in boxes delivered to your doorstep, and you are required to put them together, like a particularly complex piece of IKEA furniture.
With vertical climbers, this is not an issue, since they come partially assembled in the box. All assembly you have to do is quite simple, as the machine itself uses a simple mechanism. There are no small parts to keep track of, no fitting, and no schematics to follow.
Naturally, the fact that vertical climbers are easy to assemble also means they are easy to disassemble as well, which complements the previous point well. Namely, this is not a machine you have to keep assembled in a fixed place at all times. While you will likely be using it every day, it is very easy to take apart and store in a more compact configuration when necessary.
Up until this point, we have purposefully been using the neutral term ‘vertical climbers’, as opposed to the name of the most common and famous exponent of this sort of exercise machine, the MaxiClimber.
That is because this section will showcase the trailblazing MaxiClimber, as well as some of its lesser known competitors, which we mentioned in passing previously. These all function in roughly the same way, but there are a few differences, as we will see in this section.
We will go over the basic characteristics of each, including the materials used, the various secondary options available on each of these models, as well as the pros and cons for each. Keeping this basic overview in mind, let us take a look at the famous MaxiClimber first.
The MaxiClimber is the original vertical climber made by Innovations International LLC, and it has remained the most popular model of vertical climber on the market, even as machines with more features have been introduced by competitors. There are several good reasons for this, as we will see.
The main differences between all of these models of vertical climbers is in the construction, and not in the movements the user performs, or the relative difficulty of the routine. With that in mind, let us take a look at the way in which the MaxiClimber is constructed.
The construction can be subdivided into three different categories: the stand, the frame, and the poles. The stand consists of two C-shaped metal pieces, which get attached to the bottom of the frame with a couple of screws. These provide stability to the whole machine, so they are also fitted with rubber ends, to provide more friction
The frame is made of two metal rods in an A-shape, and it holds up the the poles as well as the user. These are designed to shift the weight evenly onto the stand, so that the whole machine is stable while you are using it.
Finally, the poles are affixed to the frame, and these are the only moving parts of the whole machine, and the primary component. The poles are fitted with pedals for your feet, as well as handles for hour hands. There is also another pair of handles attached to the frame, so these are stationary.
All of these components are made of a cold-rolled steel, which provides a great degree of strength to the machine, while also keeping it light enough to be assembled and disassembled easily.
For those who consider the classic MaxiClimber too simple, and perhaps not luxurious enough, the VersaClimber is arguably the machine of choice. Though it is much more expensive than the MaxiClimber, it has certain benefits that can explain away the price difference, as we will see in this section.
As soon as you see the VersaClimber, you get the impression that this is a professional machine that would be more at home in an expensive gym than in the confines of a common living room. That impression is not without merit, since the VersaClimber is built in a slightly different way than the MaxiClimber.
Firstly, it has adjustable stability options on the stand, which is coated entirely in a rubber material designed to increase friction. The A frame used as support is also reduced and streamlined, consisting of a single pole which connects the upright part of the machine with the stand. The poles are concealed for the most part by an outer casing, and the handles peak through special openings on the sides.
It is important to point out at this stage that the VersaClimber is made of aircraft grade aluminum, which gives it extreme strength and durability while keeping the entire machine as light as possible. For the sake of comparison, the MaxiClimber is built out of rolled steel, which is great, but not nearly as impressive (or expensive).
Being a more high-end version of a vertical climber, the VersaClimber features a full color display on the case, right at eye level, so you can keep an eye on it during your entire workout. It features a wide variety of data you can visualize, and you can customize which data sets you want it to display.
The Sunny Folding Climber Stepper may be a mouthful to pronounce, but the concept behind it is pretty simple, This is actually the only vertical climber we’ve covered which makes drastic design changes to the mechanism used to operate it, as well as the movement the user must make in order to do so.
That is exactly the reason for its strange sounding name, since it is not only a vertical climber, but also incorporates elements of a stepping machine as well. In order to understand this concept better, let us briefly take a look at how this machine is constructed, as well as the mechanism which enables it to work.
The primary difference between the Sunny Folding Climber Stepper and the other vertical climbers we’ve already gone through is the fact that the Sunny (for short) uses pneumatic pistons to achieve the movement required to exercise on the machine, as opposed to the MaxiClimber and VersaClimber which both use cables.
This gives the movements an extra smooth feel, and it also means that the user can decide for themselves how hard they want their exercise to be. Simply put, the more you push the piston, the more it pushes back, so the more energy you will need to push down the pedals each time.
However, the differences don’t stop there. Since this is a hybrid climber/stepper, the movement employed by the user is somewhat different as well. The direction the user’s legs are moving is not as vertical as with the other two climbers, but also has a horizontal component as well.
This difference also means that the muscle groups that are impacted the most by a workout on the Sunny Folding Stepper Climber are also different. Namely, working out on this machine places particular strain on the glutes, due to the horizontal component, while it works the quads a bit less intensely. The impact on the abs and shoulders is indistinguishable from the other two climbers.
Now that we have taken a look at some of the details related to the most popular models of vertical climbers out there, let us also provide some brief advice as to how to go about using whichever model you settle on.
Naturally, your training regimen will depend on your fitness level, as well as your age, and your height. For beginners, it is a good idea to start off with periods of around 1-2 minutes of climbing consistently, before taking a 30 second rest. This should be repeated a few times, but don’t push yourself too much at this stage.
Once you have made some progress climbing the fitness mountain, you can increase the climbing duration to 2-4 minutes at a time, with at least 30 seconds of rest in between.
Finally, when you feel you are ready, you can feel free to push yourself for longer continuous periods, and longer cumulative periods of climbing, to the extent you feel comfortable with. These numbers should only serve as a baseline for the uninitiated to get a sense for the intensity of the training involved.
We hope that this comprehensive guide to vertical climbers has inspired you to set off on an expedition to conquer the Everest of fitness from the comfort of your own home!
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Liam is a 23-year old student. He has dedicated his time to compile these product reviews and product guides on DB Strength to help consumers determine their best purchasing options. Avidly involved with fitness, Liam spends much of his time working out and testing top health products to provide expert opinions available on this website.