Climbing is a natural movement of the human body. It’s how we’ve evolved and lived since the caveman era. We’re built to climb, move and explore. Today, climbing is proving to be effective when it comes to exercise too.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
A workout on a vertical climber mimics the movement of climbing a mountain. It combines both cardio and aerobic activity with strength training.
“The vertical climber is totally different than a bike or treadmill because you’re engaging your entire body,” explains exercise physiologist Christopher Travers, MS. “The movement can be challenging, but it’s very effective. It’ll probably kick your butt.”
The vertical climber (with the VersaClimber and MaxiClimber being the leading brands) isn’t a new exercise machine. It has been around since the 1980s and is starting to gain a new following of people who swear by its effectiveness.
So if you’re looking to get off the treadmill or elliptical, cut your workout time in half and give your joints a break — join the climbing movement.
The machine is 7-feet tall and puts users at a 75 degree angle in a climbing position. But don’t be intimidated! Gym goers put their feet in the straps and push up on the handle bar at the same time they push down with their leg. Think: opposite hand, opposite foot. When you push up with your right hand, your left leg is also moving upwards.
The movement varies between 1 inch and 20 inch climbing motions, engaging both your lower and upper body plus your core. And the best part? You’re in control of your pace and effort the entire time.
“Higher resistance makes the climb a strength-building workout, while minimal resistance makes it more cardio focused,” says Travers. “Moving the body vertically also uses muscles that might otherwise not be used as frequently.”
Benefits of the vertical climber
Time efficient: You won’t be on the vertical climber for hours at a time. It’s a quick, total-body workout designed for maximum efficiency. And since it’s manually-powered, the machine only goes as fast or slow as you allow. The idea is to do a mix of short and long strokes and vary your range, speed and resistance. Most workouts on the vertical climber are between 20 and 45 minutes.
High calorie burn: The vertical climber is a high calorie output machine. It also heightens your VO2 max, which is a fancy way of tracking how fast your body consumes oxygen and how that translates into calories burned and energy used. It’s estimated to burn between 300 and 800 calories in one 30-minute session.
Low impact: You set the tone of your workout and can go at your own pace and intensity. You can also stop climbing at any moment and stand neutral on the pedals with your arms at shoulder height. The vertical climber is safe for people with joint or back issues and is extremely low impact.
Total body workout: You can go between cardio focused movements to strength training in a matter of seconds just by changing the resistance. It’s going to work your back, shoulders, arms, legs, butt and core. Most workouts also include some sort of leg only interval to better target the quads and glutes. The idea of doing both cardio and strength training on one machine not only saves time, but it’ll also help you continue to burn calories and fat long after you’ve cooled down.