Does Stairmaster Build Glutes?

January 7, 2023

It’s a hallmark of the fitness influencer on social media. The video filmed from the floor, pointing straight at their butt while “grinding” on the Stairmaster. But is the Stairmaster the reason for well-rounded glutes?

While the Stairmaster works the glutes, it is not a good exercise for building the glutes. It doesn’t satisfy the key mechanisms of muscle-building and signals the endurance molecular pathways.

But if the Stairmaster isn’t suitable for building the glutes, what is it good for? And doesn’t your bum burning while walking the endless staircase mean it’s working?

Does Stairmaster Build Glutes?

The Stairmaster should be one of your last choices if your goal is to get a bigger butt. It may seem counterintuitive as your glutes are on fire after a few minutes, and the step-up exercise elicits the highest glute activity among all glute exercises [1].

But there’s a few inherent problems with the Stairmaster for glute development. Firstly, the Stairmaster moves, so as you step to push up, the stairs descend, making the step up easier. Secondly, muscle growth is maximized when there are high levels of mechanical tension and, to some extent, metabolic stress [2].

This means lifting heavy loads through a full range of motion or light loads close to failure [3]. Along with high rep sets comes the inevitable burning sensation caused by a build-up of metabolites which also plays a small role in hypertrophy [4].

While you may feel the burn in your butt while working the Stairmaster, there’s little to no mechanical tension meaning little to no muscle growth. Then we have molecular signaling. This gets a little scientific, but I’m going to make this easy.

The AMPK pathway, in layman’s terms, is the molecular pathway activated during and after endurance training resulting in improved cardiovascular fitness [5]. The pathway we want to activate to build muscle is the mTOR pathway which, in layman’s terms, is the muscle-building pathway.

Free Shipping Booty

Unfortunately, stimulating the AMPK pathway and other molecular processes with cardio inhibits the signaling of the mTOR pathway [5][6].

This lasts up to 3 hours before returning to baseline, and the strength of the signal to the endurance pathway depends on the cardio exercise’s volume and intensity. That means the longer the duration and the higher the intensity, the greater activation of AMPK.

As spending an hour on the Stairmaster activates the AMPK pathway, you’re not getting a muscle-building response. Add the other factors of not hitting the underlying mechanisms of building muscle, and you have an exercise you should not be using to develop your glutes.

Is Stairmaster Or Treadmill Better For Glutes

Is Stairmaster Or Treadmill Better For Glutes?

Neither the Stairmaster nor the treadmill is good for building the glutes. They run into the same issues I’ve presented above. Being an endurance exercise and not producing high levels of mechanical tension. Instead, focus on lifting heavy and light weights for low to high reps.

For example, hip thrusts, glute bridges, deep squats, Romanian deadlifts, and lunges. Just these 5 exercises will build the upper glute shelf you’re dreaming of.


Ditch the Stairmaster and use the iron to sculpt your glutes. There’s no way around it, you need to dedicate hard work and sweat equity with the barbell. If you do use the Stairmaster, use it for general cardiovascular exercise instead of a muscle-building exercise.


1. Neto, W. K., Soares, E. G., Vieira, T. L., Aguiar, R., Chola, T. A., de Lima Sampaio, V., & Gama, E. F. (2020). Gluteus maximus activation during common strength and hypertrophy exercises: A systematic review. Journal of sports science & medicine19(1), 195.

2. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.

3. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading recommendations for muscle strength, hypertrophy, and local endurance: a re-examination of the repetition continuum. Sports9(2), 32.

4. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training. Sports medicine43(3), 179-194.

5. Methenitis, S. (2018). A brief review on concurrent training: from laboratory to the field. Sports6(4), 127.

6. Baar, K. (2014). Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Medicine44(2), 117-125

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

Want More Great Content?

Check Out These Articles