Health

How to Master the Hardest Machine at the Gym: The Versa Climber


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Turns out the best machine in the gym is the one you're not using, but we've got handy tips and a short session that will get you torching calories in no time.

You probably know it already: It's the tall, slim machine tucked away in the corner of the club. Maybe you've seen someone on it (probably with his personal trainer in tow) but chances are, it's available right now. It's called the Versa Climber—a vertical climbing machine that mimics hauling up an extremely steep mountain or scaling a (very) tall wall. And spending just a few minutes on it burns major calories (between 10 and 20 per minute depending on intensity), significantly increases your aerobic capacity, and pretty much tones you from head to toe. So why do we all avoid it? Because it's really hard.

"The Versa Climber challenges even the 'fittest' people in the gym," says Ben Hart, a Tier 3 personal trainer at Equinox in New York City. Our daily cardio is usually limited to walking, running, and cycling—things that move us forward. Though they certainly have their benefits, only moving this way means you're neglecting some major muscle groups. "On the Versa Climber, you're moving vertically, so when you're pushing and pulling, your arms, back ,and shoulders have to try to match the power of your legs," says Hart. "That's extremely taxing to the aerobic system, which not only elevates your fitness level, but also burns a huge amount of calories."

The Versa Climber is also somewhat of a mental challenge. "It activates the neurological system differently than most other machines and exercises," Hart says. "It requires you to move your body in a reciprocal motion with your limbs." Learning to move your right arm up with your left leg (and vice versa) in one smooth motion builds coordination, so you get stronger, gain power, and learn to move more efficiently in all activities. "The motion can be uncomfortable at first, and I think that's why people don't like it," says Hart. "But fitness is about stepping outside of your comfort zone. That's what initiates change in your body."

Try this six-minute (plus three-minute warm-up) interval routine at the end of your next strength session or solo for a quick metabolic boost. The intensity of the intervals means you'll continue to blast calories hours later.

Before You Jump On:
1. Keep your hips back while climbing to more efficiently target your glutes and help you avoid knee pain and potential injury.

2. Don't bounce side to side. Engage your legs and core to keep hips stationary—just as you would when riding out of the saddle in a cycling class. Not only will your movement be more efficient, but you'll also target your abs.

3. Think "push and pull." As you push up with the right arm, pull down with the left so each is assisting the other.

4. Move through a full range of motion. It's common (and much easier) to try and move just a few inches up and down, but going bigger with your arms and legs means your muscle groups are working harder and burning more.

• • •


Also on Q by Equinox:
How to Get Back in the Game After an Injury
Yoga Your Way Young
Marathon Strength Training: Week 12

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Also on Details.com:
The 7-Minute Total Body Workout
The Planks You Should Be Doing (but Probably Aren't)
5 Indoor Cycling Tips from Double-Gold Olympian Geraint Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jorg Badura / Trunk Archive.
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