I like to think of the Versa Climber as the Regina George of cardio equipment. She's fabulous but she's evil. Just ask my clients Trish, Dub, Jason, Sarah or Tom. In all seriousness, the Versa Climber is one of the best and often most underused assets in the gym. It's an amazing tool for low impact, total body high intensity intervals that help burn fat, build strength and improve movement patterns. It's scalable to your fitness level, can be appropriate even for those with many common joint problems/injuries and is extremely efficient. So if the Versa Climber in your gym is collecting dust, give it a shot and get your quadruped swagger on.
Here's the quick and dirty. At this point we've all likely heard that in order to burn fat, build athletic performance and for general health, it's important to include both traditional aerobic cardio as well as anaerobic (such as high intensity interval training or HIIT) in our weekly fitness programs. The Versa Climber can be used for both, but I prefer it for HIIT (short, high effort bursts of work followed by rest and then repeated). This is a highly effective and efficient way of burning fat and, based on the resistance level you choose, building strength and muscle in your legs, back, arms and core. In fact, this "quadruped" movement (i.e. crawling) is extremely beneficial for building core strength and improving/restoring movements patterns, so it can help you with your squats, deadlifts and other big lifts. And because lifting heavy things also uses your anaerobic energy systems it's a solid choice for those looking to improve either their cardio or their lifting abilities.
As I mentioned, I prefer the Versa Climber for short bursts of HARD work. This can be done on it's own or as part of a circuit of other exercises. For instance, I will often have clients perform an interval (usually for a distance of 50-200 feet as fast as possible) to spike the heart rate and then while the heart rate is coming down we'll work on mobility, core or some other exercise(s) based on their goals like a goblet squat, plank, row, etc. Or I may also have them perform an interval and either have them recover by timing their rest or reducing their effort/stride to low intensity for a period of time. Some folks do use the Versa Climber for a longer, more aerobic (long, low duration) workout for several minutes up to half an hour. That's fine too.
This is a quick and simple video for how to set yourself up on the Versa Climber and for basic tips on how to set your stride. And here is a longer (but slightly more dated) video from the makers of the Versa Climber. This gets into some additional functionalities/programming possibilities and is especially good for those recovering from injuries.
- If you aren't sure if the Versa Climber is right for you, ask your doctor, physical therapist or priest (just kidding; your priest can't save you from the Versa!).
- Start slow and get comfortable before going all out.
- If something doesn't feel right (pain in knees, back, shoulders, etc) STOP and ask a trainer or physical therapist for help/guidance. Everyone's body is slightly different and sometimes there are simple tweaks to your posture that need to be made.
- If you feel nauseated in the beginning, that's pretty normal. About 30% of my clients, depending on their base fitness level, experience this the first 1-3 times we use the Versa. All those who stuck with it past that initial yucky period quickly got better at it and it ceased. Now they're Versa Climbing gods/goddesses and actually like it (for the most part). If nausea/dizziness continues stop and consult a medical professional.
- Once you become good at your standard Versa Climb goal (say 200 feet in 60s-90s) and it becomes easier, it's important to change things up to avoid a plateau of results. So if you're doing 5 sets of 100 feet with 1m rest in between and that becomes "easy", consider trying 120 feet of the same program or shortening your rest to 45s to see if that increases difficulty.
- Change your grip from overhand to underhand to target different muscles.
Have fun and work hard!