Mini Steppers vs. Cardio Climbers - What's the Difference?

Get back to cardio routine with a mini stepper or cardio climber in your home gym.

8 min read


Mini Steppers vs. Cardio Climbers - What's the Difference?

Cardiovascular exercise is so important for overall health - it helps you burn calories to maintain a healthy weight and increase your fitness to keep your heart, lungs, and body in top condition!

As a fitness professional, it’s easy to feel like a broken record when it comes to promoting cardio. Of course, we all know cardio is important, but many people find traditional forms of cardio boring. When enjoyment is lacking and motivation low, cardio is easier said than done.

That’s where having fun with your cardio routine comes in! Who said cardio has to be boring? Mini steppers and cardio climbers are both a great way to mix up your regular cardio routine, challenge your lower body fitness, increase the intensity of your workout, and reinvigorate your love for cardio!

If you’re ready to get back to looking forward to your cardio routine, I’d highly recommend adding a mini stepper or cardio climber to your home gym! In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about mini steppers and cardio climbers and help you decide which of these machines is a better fit for you.

The Benefits of Mini Steppers

1. Low Impact Lower Body-Focused Cardio Workout

Mini steppers are an incredibly compact way to get a workout very similar to stair stepping. If you’re familiar with a stair stepper machine, typically, you push off each step, and your foot leaves the ground to reach for the step above it.

Stair stepping is a popular workout for those interested in toning the posterior chain muscles like the hamstrings and glutes as we see the engagement of these muscles increase when working at an incline or climbing stairs.

Mini steppers are like stair stepping in they are designed to mimic a stair stepping motion; however, the movement differs in that your foot does not leave the footplate, which makes mini stepping lower impact.

Although a mini stepper is considered low impact exercise, the resistance on these compact machines is high, which means you’ll still get an incredible lower body workout and increase your heart rate quickly.


2. Work Your Upper Body & Core with Optional Resistance Bands

If you’re looking for an incredible lower body workout, you won’t be disappointed by a mini stepper; however, many of our mini steppers also come equipped with resistance bands for upper body and core exercises. This is a great way to break up your mini-stepping routine with focused upper body work or challenge a variety of muscles while simultaneously working on your cardio.


3. Compact, Space-Saving Size

One of the best things about mini steppers is how compact they are; they’re designed to fit in virtually any space and are easy to store away in a closet or under your bed when not in use. If you have limited space for a home gym but still want to get an incredible workout at home, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better workout for a mini stepper’s size and price.


The Benefits of Cardio Climbers

1. Low Impact Full Body Cardio Workout

Cardio climbers are very similar to an elliptical machine in that you’ll complete a striding motion on your machine; however, with a cardio climber, you’ll have the added challenge of a set incline. Similar to stair stepping, adding incline into the equation presents an additional challenge to lower body muscles during your workout.

This makes cardio climbers a great option for those looking both for a low-impact cardio workout and more of a challenge on the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves than a standard elliptical trainer can provide.

Like an elliptical, a cardio climber comes equipped with full motion handlebars, which means your upper body will also help take on some of the work during your workout - helping you maintain balance as you climb and burn more calories while working even more muscles to complete each step.


2. Great for High Intensity Workouts

The added incline, paired with the smooth striding motion, makes cardio climbers great for high intensity, high speed workouts. If you’re interested in really challenging your fitness from home, a cardio climber makes it easy to get your heart rate up quickly and push your pace during all-out interval workouts.

High intensity interval training (or HIIT) style workouts are an incredible way to burn more calories in a shorter period of time while building a stronger cardiovascular system. HIIT training involves alternating short periods of high intensity exercise, with low intensity recovery.

While HIIT training may not be right for everyone, it’s an incredibly effective way to train if you’re up for the challenge, and a cardio climber is a great companion to have for these fun sessions!


3. Sturdy & Durable Design

Cardio climbers are more similar to the machines you’ll find at the gym, as they’ll take up a larger footprint than a mini stepper. However, one of the added benefits of investing in a larger piece of at-home fitness equipment is the quality of materials used to make these machines exceptionally sturdy and durable.

If you do have the space in your home gym to accommodate a cardio climber, the experience is going to be much more similar to what you may be used to using if you frequent a regular gym. These machines are designed to become a staple in your fitness journey and last for years and years to come.


Is a Mini Stepper or Cardio Climber a Better Fit for You?


Mini Steppers

Cardio Climbers

Muscle Engagement

Full Body Workout

Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves & core work as you push down on each step. Mini steppers including optional resistance bands will also allow for focused upper body strength work

Full Body Workout

Increased stride means increased engagement of glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, and core with full motion handlebars to involve the upper body and increase calorie burn



Medium-Large Size

Workout Capability

Short 15–20-minute workouts

No time limitations


1) Mini Stepper vs. Cardio Climber Muscle Engagement

The biggest difference you’ll find between the movement completed on a cardio climber in comparison to a mini stepper is that with a mini stepper, the act of lifting your leg is relatively inactive - as the pedal is lifted by pushing down on the opposite pedal, so the movement is very downward focused.

Whereas with a cardio climber, your legs are working double duty, both on the upswing and the downward push of your step. On a cardio climber, you have to actively pull your leg uphill, which involves more quad, hip flexor, and core work, as well as push your leg downhill which is where the hamstring and glute work comes in.

When it comes to your upper body, both a mini stepper and cardio climber require your core, both for balance and to bring each leg upward with each step. With the cardio climber, you’ll have the option to use the full motion handlebars, which incorporate your arms into your cardio workout.

If you decide to purchase a mini stepper with resistance bands, you may also have the option to perform more structured upper body exercises to build strength.


2) Mini Stepper vs. Cardio Climber Footprint

When determining if a piece of equipment is appropriate for you, it’s always important to be sure it fits in your home first. Mini steppers are compact in design and meant to save space. Their small footprint ensures they’ll be a good fit for virtually any space, whether you live in a studio apartment or a spacious home. Because of their compact size, they can easily be stored away in a closet or corner when not in use.

Cardio climbers, on the other hand, range from medium to large. This larger-scale equipment may be desirable for some, while not the best for those living in smaller spaces. Be sure to measure your space before purchasing a cardio climber to ensure it’ll be a good fit for your home.


3) Mini Stepper vs. Cardio Climber Workout Capability

Finally, mini steppers and cardio climbers are going to be better suited to different styles of workouts based on their capability.

When it comes to mini steppers, the hydraulic resistance system provides a significant amount of resistance, making even shorter workouts on this machine a challenge. However, the hydraulic system does have limitations and is designed to withstand 15 to 20 minutes of exercise max before the hydraulic system will need to rest to avoid overheating and decreased resistance.

That’s why mini steppers are great for short, high intensity sessions like this 10 Minute Power Step HIIT Workout, or circuit style training where you’re alternating time spent on your mini stepper, with exercises off your mini stepper to give your mini stepper time to rest like this 20 Minute High Intensity Cardio & Core Mini Stepper Workout.


When it comes to a cardio climber, there is no limitation on the length of time your machine can be used. So, if you’re interested in longer, endurance-based cardio sessions upwards of 30, 45, and even 60 minutes like this Cardio Climber Max Cardio Burnout Workout, as well as the option of shorter high-intensity sessions like this All-Out 15 Minute Cardio Climber HIIT Workout, a cardio climber is going to be your best choice!


Closing Thoughts

Both these machines are great options for getting a regular cardiovascular routine. Whether you decide to choose a mini stepper, or a cardio climber should depend on your current space and your long-term fitness goals. Think about not just where you are now, but where you want to be several years from now, and how your new fitness equipment will help to get you there!



Recommended Products:

Leave a comment

* indicating required fields

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

1 comment


Thank you