Have you seen that machine in the gym that mimics climbing? If you haven’t tried it yet, you’ll want to if your goal is to increase the intensity of your workouts.
The piece of equipment is the VersaClimber, and many people are calling it one of the hardest— but most effective— machines to train with in the gym. In short, the VersaClimber is a vertical climbing machine— except no actual climbing takes place. It’s effective because it’s been shown to burn lots of calories in a short amount of time. And while you’re increasing your heart rate and cardio, you are also working your upper and lower body.
Why It Works
Trainer Nick Tumminello, the owner of Performance University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the author of the book Strength Training for Fat Loss, likes the VersaClimber so much that he works with the company as a fitness expert, providing information on VersaClimber machines and doing YouTube videos about them.
“[The VersaClimber is] just another way to do various work and conditioning,” said Nick. “What’s unique about it is you can immediately pick up the pace. … With a VersaClimber, it’s grab and go, so you can adjust the resistance, but I can just say ‘hey, go faster’ and you can immediately increase the pace without having to constantly hit buttons and adjust. It’s extremely low impact but extremely high intensity.”
The VersaClimber emphasizes your arms, stride, pushing and pulling on the upper body and also can put emphasis on your legs— driving down and also the catching on the upswing. Or, the movements can be neutral, where you have an equal focus on arms and legs.
The VersaClimber measures the amount of flights you are climbing. One way to use it in your workout is to go at a certain intensity for a certain time frame, for example, said Nick. Just one of the other options is to set a goal of 200 flights and cover that in as little time as possible, and try to beat that time. In other words, there are quite a few options for getting a good workout with the VersaClimber. Plus, it’s not difficult for beginners to get the hang of it.
“The learning curve is virtually zero,” said Nick. “And it’s back friendly.”
Although the VersaClimber has been around for 35 years, it’s become more popular lately because it allows users to challenge themselves, said Brett Collins, who does sales, marketing and advertising for VersaClimber.
“It’s unique,” said Brett. “[People] love to hate it. I think it’s becoming more popular now just because of the wave of … CrossFit and really pushing yourself [in the gym].”
Although 55 percent of purchases are by individuals for home use, there are now also gyms that cater almost entirely to the VersaClimber, like Rise Nation in West Hollywood, California, said Brett.
“It’s had a bad rap in health clubs. If you go to a health club, you will see two or none, and it has a preconceived notion of being so difficult,” said Brett. “But, it’s such an effective piece … It doesn’t do the work for you like the elliptical. It really combines upper and lower body against gravity.”
Here are some tips for getting the most out of the VersaClimber:
Foot Placement. The VersaClimber has straps, so you can choose how much control you want in the workout. With the VersaClimber, you have a few options when it comes to foot placement. If you strap the band around your shoe tightly, it will stay in place. If you keep it looser, you’ll be able to adjust your foot placement during the workout.
Foot placement variations:
• Center: This allows for equal distribution and targets the glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip flexors and calves.
• Ball of foot in center: Mostly targets the quads but also hits the glutes and hamstrings.
• Heel of foot in center: Targets the hamstrings and glutes.
Upper and Lower Body Position. If you are new to the VersaClimber, try shorter steps so that you get used to the machine. Deeper steps will use the entire leg, making it more challenging but effective. Target the calves more by using a looser strap on the footpad. For upper body, the higher you place the bars, the more intensively you will work your upper body.
Hand Positioning. An overhand grip hits the chest, delts lats, biceps and triceps. An underhand grip works the biceps much more.
Nick Tumminello shared a few of his favorite VersaClimber workouts:
30, 20, 10: This workout involves stride length. Go for 30 seconds with a neutral stride length, 20 seconds with an exaggerated stride, and then 10 seconds with a short-stride that’s an all-out sprint. After finishing, repeat again right away, starting with the 30-second neutral-stride length.
Climb Carry: This one can be done for time or distance. Go for one minute at a certain pace, or go for 100 to 200 flights. Then grab dumbbells that are fairly heavy for you to use (try around 30 pounds or so). Do a farmer’s walk with those dumbbells for 45 seconds to one minute. Then get back on the VersaClimber and repeat. Complete three to five rounds, depending on your fitness level.