training with aerobic step for mount kilimanjaro

Fundamental, humble and powerful: the aerobic step is an essential and oft overlooked tool when you’re training for Kilimanjaro. It helps you build your endurance muscles in preparation for the thousands and thousands of steps you’ll take in your quest for Uhuru Peak.

Our partners at Fit For Trips help us explain why this move matters and how you can incorporate it into your training program.


Why Add the Aerobic Step to You Kili Training?

The aerobic step is small but mighty: it trains endurance in your legs, upper body and core and prepares you for the ground reaction forces you’ll experience when you hike Kili. These forces are essentially the ground “pushing back” at you; the less GRFs, the more “cushion” you feel when you walk.

Proper implementation of this step will ensure you are prepared for these forces when you are ascending and descending the mountain, making it a well-rounded exercise for aspiring trekkers.


Can’t I Just Use a Stair-Stepper Machine?

Stair-steppers appear to accomplish the exact same thing that the aerobic step does, but there are a few key differences:

  • You can use the aerobic step to train specifically for the downhill portion of your hike. By doing slow step-down repetitions, you strengthen the muscles that support the knee on the descent. Stair-stepper machines can’t assist with this.
  • The stair-stepper provides some “cushion” when you step; it works your quads and calves, but the aerobic step does, too, while also working your hamstrings and glutes.
  • The aerobic step allows for a more versatile move set: A-steps, side-kicks and step-touches are all possible.
  • If you’re at home, the aerobic step is a much more affordable option than a stair-stepper machine. You can find a solid stepper bench at around $40, and the shorter ones can be easily stowed away when not in use.

Used properly, stair-stepper machines can still be an asset to your training program. But only the aerobic step builds endurance and strength at the same time while preparing you for those ground reaction forces mentioned earlier.


The following videos provide exercises and guidance you can add into your current workout, courtesy of our friends at Fit For Trips.

How to Train with the Aerobic Step

The aerobic step is easy to perform anywhere. Most gyms will have a dedicated stepper bench, but you can use any staircase for the basic motion.

Tip: Stepping to the beat of a song will help you keep a consistent pace during your workout. For Kili training, we recommend music with a tempo of 120 beats-per-minute (BPM), but feel free to adjust to whatever feels right to you.

Advanced Option: Grab some dumbbells or a weighted backpack and step more slowly to increase the intensity of your step.


Tip: As Leslie says, make sure you are regularly alternating which foot you use to step up with! Otherwise you risk overtraining one leg and undertraining the other.



Learn more at Fit For Trips, where Thomson guests
can receive a custom, fully-developed training program at a discount.