In recent years the bodybuilding community has celebrated the step mill as the key to striated and well shaped glutes. Bodybuilders, physique competitors, and bikini athletes alike fight over the step mill at their local gyms, and often spend over an hour on them at a time.
While I believe that the step mill provides a great fat burning workout, some of the arguments put forth about this contraption are largely based on myth. On the bodybuilding side, I consistently hear over and over again how the step mill is the only way to bring the glute/ hamstring tie-in out. From the bikini and figure competitors I hear, “my coach will only let me do the step mill because it makes my butt pop.”
Let’s separate fact from fiction people.
The first main fact that we have to talk about is that there is no such thing as sight removal of fat without liposuction. This means that we cannot target any one area, like the glute/ hamstring tie-in, for fat loss. To make any area on your body leaner, you would need to become leaner overall. So, to suggest that the stepmill “targets the glute/hamstring tie-in for fat loss better than any other machine” defies the logic of what we know about fat loss.
Second, muscles do not pop simply by becoming lean. An underdeveloped muscle that is lean is still underdeveloped. We know that muscle fibers grow after they are torn down through resistance training, and then replaced and fortified through a process called muscle hypertrophy. The muscle fibers primarily affected by this process are Type II or fast twitch muscle fibers. These fibers put out a large degree of power in a short period of time, but tire out quickly. Walking stairs, doing step ups, and doing walking lunges are all great ways to build the glute/hamstring tie-in, but only if they are weighted enough to cause the proper stimulus to the Type II muscle fibers. On the other hand, after walking on a step mill for more than a few minutes, the Type II muscle fibers quickly tire out to allow the Type I muscle fibers to take over. These muscle fibers are smaller and tighter than the Type II fibers, and they have a lot more endurance. While the repetitive motion of the step mill could certainly harden these muscles, it is not going to make them “pop” any more than they normally would because the Type II muscle fibers are not stimulated enough during this endurance exercise. If you’re glutes are under developed, then you probably want to try some weighted lunges, squats, or step ups.
The step mill burns a lot of calories and it does have the added benefit of being able to vary your foot position to work different muscles. As such, it is a great exercise for fat burning, but it is no replacement for proper nutrition and correctly performed resistance training.
To lean more about how you can use nutrition and training to get toned glutes, check out Getting to Shredded for the most comprehensive do it yourself fat burning program you will find on the web.