Step machines, simply referred to as steppers, are excellent for targeting and firming those calf muscles, glutes, and quadriceps.
The stepper will make you sweat like a pig! Just ask anyone who's used one, that's why you likely see them unoccupied at the gym. Steppers are an excellent way to give fat cells a kick in the behind literally. One downfall to using a stepper is that your upper body remains fairly stationary and doesn't get a good workout.
Since steppers don't provide a full body exercise, don't become dependant on one for all of your workout needs. Instead, shake your cardio routine up by mixing in machines that focus on a wide variety of muscle groups - like the Stairmaster, elliptical trainer and treadmill.
The number one thing that makes me want to slap people using the stepper is when I see them leaning on the handlebars. Steppers have handlebars so that you stay balanced, however if you lean too much weight on your arms you're actually working against all the effort your legs are making and cheating yourself. To get a maximum stepper workout, stand erect. Don't slouch over the display panel either, or you might injure your back.
When shopping for a stepper you have two options - a dependent stepper or an independent stepper.
With dependent steppers the steps are linked together. So when you push down on one step, the other raises upwards. These offer a much easier workout so they're good for beginners. Independent steppers are linked together. So you have to push each individual step down to make it move. This poses a more difficult workout.
Steppers also offer two different types of resistance cylinder-driven and computer-controlled
Cylinder-driven resistance behaves like a car's shocks. This type of resistance uses air or hydraulics. Typically the resistance altered by turning a knob. On the other hand, computer-controlled resistance is magnetic resistance; which offers a smoother movement.
A quality stepper will display your heart rate, the length of your work out, total distance climbed and calories burned. More expensive steppers come with pre-programmed workouts that mimic an interval course with hills and mountains.
Before using a stepper, give your lower body a good stretch out - especially your legs and calves. If you haven't stretched enough you could injure your hamstrings and Achilles tendon. Your feet will also go numb when you're riding the stepper.