Generally speaking, a step machine is easy to use. However, to maximize your workouts and derive the most benefits from using one, you must use correct posture.

For most routines, you’ll want to stand up straight, feet flat on the foot pads, and only lightly hold onto the side rails or front handles. As you get used to stepping, you will want to work toward not holding on at all if you can. Concentrate on pulling in your stomach muscles thus tightening your abdominal core.

There are three basic variables that can affect your posture when using a step machine:

Speed

Most step machines have adjustable speed controls. Many also have interval routines already programmed into them so all you have to do is select the interval you want and the speed will change automatically throughout the program. When first starting out, be careful how fast you go. You should be able to answer a question comfortably, but not carry on a conversation.

If you feel you have to hang on to the side rails or front handles to keep up with the machine, you are going too fast. Holding too tight onto the handles jeopardizes your posture and actually increases your chances for injury.

Resistance

Resistance is the amount of effort you have to exert downward in order to get the foot pad to go down. If your step machine has adjustable resistance settings, start with a low resistance and gradually increase it over time until you have to exert moderate effort to get the foot pad to go down.

Try to only hold onto the side rails or front handles lightly for balance, if you need to. As your body gets used to the motion, you will most likely not need them at all. As the resistance increases, there is a natural tendency to lean forward; don’t do it. Focus on standing up straight.

Foot Pad Position

For most stepping actions, you’ll want your foot flat on the foot pad; this is the best foot posture to work your buttocks. However, if you want to work your thighs more, then move your foot back so your heel is off the foot pad. Now as you go down, this will push you up on your toes more than having your feet flat on the foot pad, thus working your hamstrings to a greater degree.

In a balanced routine, you will want to do both – some time with your foot flat on the foot pad and time with your heel off, thus working different muscle groups for a more balanced routine. Stepping is a great workout when maintaining the proper posture.