The quest to build a better Stairmaster

[Eric Feldman] likes to use the Stairmaster in his exercise routine during the winter months. But apparently the exercisers that are designed for mere mortals don’t satisfy his need to climb stairs really, really, quickly. After mastering the upper speed limits of some top-of-the-line equipment he contacted the company asking if there was a way to unlock the software-imposed speed restriction. They laughed at him; a motivation that he used to build his own that is already five times faster. He calls it the Stairmonster, and after being tested at over 500 stairs per minute that name is quite fitting. It’s got a nice interface for choosing an exercise program and recording data from his routines. It uses an AT89C51RD2 along with a quadrature decoder and a heart rate monitor module that talks to a chest strap worn during each session. A 320×240 touchscreen gives feedback on the routine, which is altered to achieve targeted heat rates for optimum results. Nice job [Eric]!


  1. I had thought that he had hacked an existin unit, but no. He designed and built this thing from scratch. Impressive. Nearly as impressive as 500 steps a minutes?!?!!

  2. James says:

    Thought the point of steppers was to be a fairly sustained slow action, not a mad all-out sprint.

  3. Hirudinea says:

    Bulidn a machine that feeds me donuts then I’ll be impressed.

  4. m says:

    8.3 steps per one second… no sweat:

  5. vonskippy says:

    Nice build but meh – it’s not speed but weight. Just start carrying more and more weight at a reasonable pace is a WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY better workout then just sprints.

  6. o says:

    “heat rates”

    That would be “/heart/ rates,” Mike…

  7. Chris says:

    vonskippy > It depends on what you want to improve : cardio/strength
    I would like to see a video of him doing the 500 steps with the machine.

  8. pete says:

    The build is good the exercise isn’t. As vonskippy said add more weight not speed. Doing it at this speed means you don’t do the exercise properly similar to how people use too heavy free weights and throw their back in to let them curl it.

  9. pmac says:

    @vonskippy depends what you’re training for

  10. Spork says:

    Please let me know what you’re training for that requires this exercise. As long as it’s not “injury” I’m interested to know.

  11. Sariel says:

    training to run up the stairs as fast as you can from the zombie pandemic of 2012.

  12. Jason Knight says:

    Another of those exercise machines I’ll never understand — but then I actually will ride my bicycle in the dead of winter and live in the upstairs half of a duplex.

  13. JEDITALIAN says:

    i’m gonna need video evidence before i can believe that anybody can move each leg up and down 4 times in 1 second, which=8 steps. and the range of motion from down to up has to be ~1ft.
    but this thing looks like it doesnt really give you any exercise. i thought stairmasters were pneumatic in nature. maybe not nowadays, but if it is moving your feet for you, isnt that kindof like one of those japanese handjob machines, doing all the work for you, only likely result being human injury?

  14. JEDITALIAN says:

    ah, it all makes sense now. i clicked the link.. average steps/min: 51, and that’s an alternator not a motor! even i can do 51 steps/min. i was beginning to think this guy was ‘the flash’

  15. JEDITALIAN says:

    ok. last post for me. obviously these are not full-size steps he’s talking about, more like oscillations.. “Higher speed than the 4400CL (currently, I’ve run my unit past 500 steps per minute, which I cannot sustain for any real length of time. The 4400cl can run up to 100 similarly sized steps per minute. I estimate that this unit can safely work at a human-ly unachievable speed of 2000 steps per minute)”

  16. Chris says:

    Very impressive design and build.

    I too was ready to question his motives and the wisdom of such an exercise, until I noticed the creator competes in Stair Climbs for charity. And he places very well too!

  17. nutwiss says:

    Can I just mention he’s actually training for competitive stair climbing. Hence no need for extra weight etc.

    That is actually running up buildings for events such as this:

  18. Eric Feldman says:

    Hi all
    I had no idea this was going to get posted at all…

    To answer a few questions:
    1) the length of one of my “steps” is about 11 inches, depending on where in the stride it lands. It varies about half an inch upwards or downwards. (parabolic explanation on my site)

    2) my routine includes 10 lbs of ankle weights for part of my run at a more reasonable speed.

    3)the purpose of this is to make me more competitive in stair competitions and to get good exercise (and it was fun to build — I learned a LOT). I do a lot of cycling and this has definitely improved my cycling as well. In my opinion, this is harder than cycling, and I don’t have to watch out for cars.

    4)I did some wattage calculations with some multimeters, I’ve seen the resistors taking in ~45 amps at 14v. I plan on putting a wattage integrator in in the next few weeks so I can add up and get [k?]wH measurements.

    I plan on posting some video of it running later today.

  19. tim says:

    500 steps a minutes…that is a monster. I can only do about 100-110 right now

  20. pmac says:

    @Spork: how about speed and stamina. and what @Sariel said.

  21. Almost_There says:

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to hack the Speed Sensor and divide it’s output pulses in half with a small Micro Controller?

  22. Eric Feldman says:

    Easier? maybe. More fun? no. Much more expensive? yes.
    Also, their alternator and resistor packs are much smaller than mine. Would have had to replace those. I also wouldn’t have been able to write all the software I wanted for it, either.

    Indeed, it was the first thing i though to do before i found out the cost of one of these things…

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