Throwback cardio machines have a way of coming back into style years after they’ve fallen out of fashion, and the VersaClimber is no exception. The popular-in-the-‘80s machine replicates a climbing motion, with hands and feet on levers that move up and down, with either a little or a lot of resistance.
With VersaClimber-focused boutique studios popping up across the country and more gyms reintroducing them to their floor setups, chances are, you’re probably going to encounter this machine if you’re hitting the gym regularly.
Here’s what you need to know about the VersaClimber, its benefits and how to use it effectively before you try it:
“The VersaClimber essentially is taking us back to one of our most basic movements from early in life: crawling,” says Menachem Brodie, a certified strength and conditioning coach and expert cycling coach.
Unlike a stationary bike, elliptical or other popular cardio machines, the crawling or climbing movement the VersaClimber requires recruits your entire body to get in on the action. “Going back to this pattern in a more upright position allows us to activate and use many different muscles including glutes, transverse abdominis, obliques, lats, delts, triceps, biceps, quads, calves and many more.” In other words, this machine is working everything>.
The VersaClimber provides strengthening and conditioning in one exercise, according to Robert DeVito, owner and performance coach at Innovation Fitness Solutions.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should skip your weight training day in favor of the VersaClimber, but it’s a super convenient way to get both conditioning and added strength work done simultaneously. “The VersaClimber is a great ‘cardio day’ choice because you can get an efficient workout,” DeVito adds.
Plus, there are a ton of ways to incorporate it into your workout.“This machine’s versatility also allows it to be used as a warmup, a station in your HIIT circuit or strength-training regimen or even as a finisher or cool down,” says Brian Nguyen, CEO of Elementally Strong.
If you’re actively trying to increase the number of calories you burn through exercise, the VersaClimber is a great way to amp things up. “The usage of the muscles in the upper body and lower body simultaneously, in addition to having a vertical position supported by the body, will require a higher oxygen demand in all those muscles involved in the movement,” explains Victor Lonchuk, a certified strength and conditioning coach and performance analyst at the New York Sports Science Lab. “The higher the demand, the more calories you will burn.”
“I love the VersaClimber because it combats slouching in a huge way!” Nguyen says. “The screen forces you to look up for a change, and that already creates a core shift.” By putting your body into an anti-screen-slouch position and doing hard work at the same time, you’re getting it more comfortable being in that position of good posture.
“Posture is a staple of proper training no matter what your goal, be it athletic performance, fat loss, injury recovery or just plain stress relief, you can be sure the better your posture, the better your results,” Nguyen explains.
Because the VersaClimber provides such an intense workout and can feel a little strange at first, it’s best to start slow. “Begin on the lowest resistance for 1 minute,” DeVito advises. “Step off and determine how you feel. Take your time getting used to the motion. This is a machine that has the ability to humble you quickly. Progress at a low intensity first by adding time. As you improve, increase the intensity by adding more resistance.”
In terms of how to keep your form solid, DeVito recommends keeping your body as upright as possible, as well as keeping your core tight. “A natural breathing rhythm should take place, but, if not, remembering to breathe every 2–3 strokes should be helpful.”
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You don’t need much time on this thing to get a quality workout in. “Those who have been running, cycling, using the elliptical or swimming for 8–12 months consistently should be able to manage about 15–20 minutes at an endurance pace on the VersaClimber,” Brodie says. That means not all-out sprinting, but keeping your heart rate within a manageable zone. “Just remember to use the foam roller and/or stretch after your session, and expect to find ‘new’ muscles that may be sore (but not too much) the next day or two.”
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of the VersaClimber is how safe it is for a variety of types of exercisers. “Seriously, this thing is low impact, safe for people with joint issues and back pain, and has always torched fat away for my clients,” Nguyen says. And though it has a reputation for being incredibly challenging, it’s also easy to change up how hard you’re working. “You are always in control of the intensity as you can easily adjust on the fly.”