Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
17 Jun

The Greatest Piece of Exercise Equipment Ever Invented

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 9.40.24 AMNot the barbell. Not the bicycle. Not the rower, the Airdyne, not the pullup bar. I’m talking about the Smith Machine, of course, specifically the squats and curls you can do within its elite confines.

Just kidding. It’s the Versaclimber, folks: the most brutally effective piece of fitness equipment you’ll ever use (but probably haven’t).

Most people don’t know about it because no one talks about it, few use it, and gyms don’t stock more than one if you’re lucky. Is this because it’s a useless piece of machinery? No. The Versaclimber is almost too good, too effective, too intense an experience for most people. The few that have used it almost invariably quit because it’s so hard. And gyms don’t have many because they can’t convince people to use it, to actually go all out like they’ve never gone all out before.

The Versaclimber and I go way back. Back in 1992, I actually set the (unofficial) world record for the mile climb on one, doing 5,280 feet in 22:40, a 232 feet per minute average. The craziest thing about that mile was that I wore a heart rate monitor and held 186 beats per minute for the entire ride. To put that into perspective, by then I was in my late thirties and had already had a full career as an elite endurance athlete (both marathons and triathlons), yet I’d never held my heart rate that high for that long. Nor since.

And in the last year, I’ve rediscovered it after a (too) long absence. Man, have I been missing out.

I’ve always said it’s the greatest piece of cardio equipment ever devised. I can think of nothing that gets your heart rate higher quicker. And it does so with very little unneeded stress or pounding on the joints. You are using both lower and upper body and since you’re upright, the heart is having to pump a bit more uphill to feed the arms. It’s a true total body workout — arms, trunk muscles, legs, glutes, and cardiovascular system are all called upon. Best of all, the work is spread out over the body, so you’re able to tax your entire system to a greater extent than if you were generating all the power with, say, just the legs (on a bike or treadmill).

You can adjust the stride length to make it so that you torch your glutes or, if you prefer, focus on the quads and calves. You can focus on the upper body, really stretching it out so every stride is like a single-armed supported pullup. In my opinion, that makes this the premium full-body glycogen depletion tool. Anyone interested in really emptying their reserves (say, a cyclic ketogenic dieter preparing for a refeed) should hop on the Versaclimber for a depletion workout; no muscle group gets passed over on these things.

How do you use a Versaclimber?

It’s one of the more intuitive cardio machines. Step with the left leg as you pull with the left arm, then switch. (Or do “cross crawl” climbing pattern depending on which model you have access to and which pattern you prefer.) Like the stationary bike, it’s hard to mess up on the Versaclimber.

Today I primarily use it for intense intervals, doing a minute hard with a two minute rest for six rounds – or doing 1,000 feet hard with a four minute rest for three or four rounds. On the tougher ones, I’m getting my heart rate up to 170 and holding it there, well beyond my 61 year old theoretical max of 159. Occasionally, I will just get on and hold a steady pace for 3-4,000 feet as a time-trial or “tempo” workout.

There are some other options, too:

Reverse tabatas: 10 second all-out sprint, 20 second active rest for 8 rounds.

Tabatas (if you’re game): 20 second all-out sprint, 10 second rest for 8 rounds.

Sprint snacks: 5 seconds on, 5 seconds off for as long as you can.

Is it just a Stairmaster?

No, emphatically. Stairmasters are cool, but the steps move on their own and you have to keep up. With the Versaclimber, you move the steps; they wait for you to initiate the movement. You have to be motivated, then, to train on this machine. You can’t just go through the motions because you are creating the motion.

My Versaclimber is fixed resistance, but models with adjustable resistance exist. I find the fixed resistance to be plenty hard, and I’m using it mostly for the cardiovascular benefits/sprinting, so I’m not looking for a strength session. Your mileage may vary. You could always wear a weight vest, I suppose.

This is such a ball-buster that I don’t do it more than once a week, sometimes once every two weeks. I still sprint, but the Versaclimber has replaced some of them. It’s just too “gentle” on the joints while being absolute hell on the muscles (all of them) and cardiovascular system to ignore. If you’re at all leery about running all-out sprints, or you have confirmed injuries that sprinting exacerbates, this might be the thing for you. Like any piece of cardio equipment, it’s a tool in your arsenal that can be used to increase fitness when deployed appropriately — but can also be abused in a chronic cardio sort of way, which I have seen happen. I still wear a heart monitor when I use a Versaclimber and can sometimes scare myself at how hard I can work when I choose to. I think that’s a good thing, provided I am attuned to my level of fitness and recovery. I’d recommend that anyone who pushes the limit on the Versaclimber also wear a heart rate monitor if they aren’t completely in tune with their body’s limits and recovery needs, just to be safe.

I so believe in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Versaclimber — when used appropriately, not to excess — that I invested in a gym in L.A. called Sirens and Titans that offers group workouts using the Versaclimber that put other group cardio classes to shame. I’ve gone through a couple of them and, well, I try to find excuses not to go back.

If you can find a Versaclimber at your gym, give it a go. If you find one cheap on Craigslist, or you have the money to spend on a brand new one, pick one up. I have one in my home, which the good folks at Heart Rate Inc who make the machines were kind enough to give me. Since it’s vertical, it actually doesn’t take up much space — about four feet by four feet. You can easily stick one in a corner without it sticking out too badly. Just make sure you use it to train, not hang clothes!

So let’s hear from all of you. Anyone used a Versaclimber? If you haven’t you really should. I’d love to hear all about your experiences with the machine.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I climb wind turbines for a living, and the free workout is one of the best parts of the job. 250 ft. straight up and my fastest time is 2:59…..any other climbers out there think that the versaclimber might be a little generous in it’s distance tracking?

    Dan wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • mark i agree with you 98 percent of the time , my age is 60 i own and opperat a gym your wrong this time the gratest exercise equipment , is a leg press machine that is well designed. i would give brand names but i dont know if that is alowed. in other words strength , training equipment thats been enginered corectly is no dought the numer one peice of equipment , and leg strength traing is the most inportant!

      darcy cook wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • mark your eating knowlage is asume, but not so much on exercise equipment , i have 35 years in that knowage, cardo. exercise is highly over raided. food the what a person eats and strenght traing aka muscle all you need , and o a gym membership. peace

        darcy cook wrote on June 17th, 2015
        • If you’ve read a lot of mark’s exercise articles, I think you’ll find he’s pretty big on strength training. I’m pretty sure he puts walking, sprinting, and lifting heavy things ahead of cardio. It’s just that there is a place for cardio (in this example, once or twice a week?).

          Jay wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • Mark,
        I’m curious as to which leg press machines you recommend and why.
        Thank you,

        Bill Jurgens wrote on February 29th, 2016
    • For SM and CM models the error in distance measurement indicated on the display equals plus 2.401 inches per 1000′ (binary to decimal conversion in the software) and plus-or-minus 10 inches per 1000′ due to hysteresis in the sensor. The sensor error tends to balance out to zero over time as it is totally up to chance when the stroke reversal gets tallied. Generally speaking the actual measurable error over a 10,000 foot climb is less than two feet.

      Gary Packman
      Electronics Engineer

      Gary Packman wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • Hey Gary, thanks for the reply. Let me ask you a question. Lets assume someone in decent shape, (30 years old, 185 lbs, 18 minute 5k row, and a regular versa climber user) does a 250 ft. sprint. What do you think their time would be?

        That same guy, being a regular ladder climber, (straight up, 12 inch rung spacing, hitting every other rung, left hand right foot & vice versa, kinda like the versaclimber) would be hitting between 2 and 3 minutes on a good day. Based on Mark’s one mile time, I’m guessing the sprint time on the versaclimber would be about half that, though I’ve never used one.

        So that’s where I’m coming from. Equal parts of awe, at Mr. Sisson’s incredible endurance, and disbelief, at the thought of anyone being able to climb a mile straight up in 22 minutes. Just saying the mile on a vc might not be representative of a mile on a ladder. Not that your software’s calculations are inaccurate.

        Your thoughts?

        Dan wrote on June 18th, 2015
        • Dan, to answer your question somewhat.
          I have a vc with variable resistance. On the easiest setting, which is what the non variable models are set at, it is nothing like climbing a ladder. First it is at about 70 degree angle, and it has virtually no resistance. As you put your foot down, the step just slides down with almost no resistance so you are not lifting your weight. Not sure why people say they only last a minute or two the first time they try it. I never had any issues.
          If you crank up the resistance you can make it so that you can barely move the machine.this can turn it into a real strength workout. But it is a killer.
          I almost never use the easiest setting. To me it feels like you are just moving your arms and legs around in space.
          I do adjust the setting depending on the level of workout I want.
          An easier setting and go for an hour of easy movement at 80 to 100 vertical feet per minute.
          A slightly harder setting for a 15 minute workout.
          A easiercsetting for interval sprint or tabsta sessions.
          A hard setting for a strength session.
          Amy of these can leave you sore and drenched.
          I am disappointed in the electronics on it. Looks like 25 year old technology.
          You can adjust step height, step speed, foot position, and resistance to change up muscle groups and workouts.
          Great for use in sh**y weather but it can be hard to motivate youtself to get on it. It, like most machines, can be boring as well until you get into a routine.
          If anyone in calgary wants to try mine, just let me know.

          John wrote on June 19th, 2015
  2. Sure I’ve seen one. Julia Roberts’ husband used one in “Sleeping With the Enemy” right before he started hitting her!

    Not saying there’s a connection… 😛

    Jim wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Ha! That’s what I was thinking the whole time I was reading this article.

      Tonya wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Haha…Sleeping with the Enemy was the first image that came to mind when I first started reading this article.

      Jim M. wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Woo!! They come with a Julia Roberts??? Where can I get one??

      MarkyMark wrote on June 18th, 2015
  3. I haven’t seen one in over twenty five years, a gym I used to go to had one. I used it a few times…

    amy wrote on June 17th, 2015
  4. I remember using those things when I was in the Marines, in the 90’s and they are awesome. I have tried finding them in the various gyms I have gone to since, but have never been able to.

    Keith wrote on June 17th, 2015
  5. I’ll stick to using my stairs. They are inordinately cheaper!


    John wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • +1.

      I usually do better if I don’t rely on expensive equipment in order to get exercise.

      Shary wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Great upper body workout, right? Did you really read the article?

      OnTheBayou wrote on June 17th, 2015
  6. When I saw your teaser email I knew that it had to be the Versaclimber. Haven’t been on one since the mid-1990’s. Never seen one here in Europe. People are missing out. If the Airdyne can make a comeback, this is definitely worth reviving. Would love to see it updated with a bluetooth interface, power meter, HRM display, multiple configurable workouts, and competition software like Concept2 has for their rowers.

    Dane wrote on June 17th, 2015
  7. I used a Versaclimber back when I lived in So Cal in the late ’80’s. The gym I went to had three of them propped up against each other. I think I saw one other person using them – one time. People would talk to me about it, but no one would jump on it. My first time on it, I could only do three minutes, and then I was exhausted! Had to quit. From that point, I worked up to 45 minutes, changing the length and speed of my stride in order to do it. Your’re right Mark, it is the most amazing piece of equipment ever and I’ve never heard of anyone touting it.
    I ended up buying the home model – on cable – and hated it. It just didn’t work as smoothly as the chain model. When I moved to Indiana, I craved my old Versaclimber. They are based in Orange County, so I stopped by to see them while on vacation. They let me try one out and I purchased one on the spot.
    Love it again. I can even do sprints on it during the winter. Tough stuff, but awesome too.

    Lynn wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Lynn, which model did you purchase please?

      Dave Gay wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • I believe it was the 108LXP. It has the adjustable tension and heart rate monitor. And it was not cheap!! But I do love it, even for a quick 5 minutes.

        Lynn wrote on June 17th, 2015
  8. I thought the answer was “my own body”. It’s incredibly versatile, and I bring it along everywhere I go.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • My body was my first thought too.

      Jeroen wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • My thought, too!

      Joelle wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • My original thought was the same!

      Lynn wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Right on. There is no exercise with out the only machine you’ll ever need!!

      Mike k wrote on June 17th, 2015
  9. Completely agree. Best gym equipment ever! I love it…and hate it in equal measure.

    Lois wrote on June 17th, 2015
  10. Wow, just watched a YouTube video. Looks amazing.

    PattB wrote on June 17th, 2015
  11. Hi Mark,
    How cool that you “exposed” this fantastic piece of equipment. I totally agree that it is The best piece of fitness equipment.
    I was involved in some of the initial testing at a huge gym in OC in the 80’s, where a small group of us we’re put through tests before & after a 6-8 week program. The results were very impressive.
    I used one to train for a par-course-type competition in Dallas which I did very well on.
    There’s so much variability on this thing, as you mentioned, and once a person establishes a smooth technique, in becomes almost hypnotic, (at least for me).
    You can put more or less emphasis on upper or lower body, as well as adjust the resistance, (if on a model that has this feature).

    Too bad the ones around seem to be getting little use, (although I can understand, since the 1st time on one lets a person know immediately that this thing is going to work you hard).
    Now, maybe we can get Andrew & Muriel on one to beat their pr on that famous climb around Aspen, (where Lance holds a record)!

    Thanks for exposes this great machine!


    Scott 2 wrote on June 17th, 2015
  12. The Versaclimber! Isn’t that what Drago is shown using to train for his fight with Rocky Balboa in Rocky 3? Totally remember that…and if that’s what Dolph Lundgren used to get in his remarkable shape, then I’m all in. Great article Mark!

    Robert Stone wrote on June 17th, 2015
  13. You machine looks to be a standard crawl. Do you have any recommendations for standard crawl vs. cross crawl (as defined at the versa site - Cross crawl seems to be more the more natural movement.


    Becky wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Becky, either one is great. I prefer the standard because I can ascend faster on it. The cross crawl might be a more “natural” animal-like movement pattern, but I went with experience here and stuck with what I was used to.

      Mark Sisson wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Love the Versaclimber!! Used it regularly for years when I lived in SoCal. The gym in Seattle I belonged to had one, but it closed. Have not found another gym that has one. In fact, gym personnel give me a blank look when I ask about it. I have joint issues and I was able to get a great workout on the VC with no joint pain. Maybe time to buy one.

      Teri wrote on June 17th, 2015
  14. The poor man’s(woman’s) Versaclimber:

    — buy a 4-pack of furniture sliders for about $12
    — find a carpeted area about 8′ x 4′
    — get prone like a pushup
    — place a slider under each hand and foot
    — slide one hand above your head while bringing the alternate knee towards your chest
    — repeat with the opposite hand and knee
    — continue alternating hands and knees at an increasing pace
    — stop when your heart explodes (it won’t take long)

    Adam wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Awesome idea! The only reason I read the comments section was because I knew someone would have a DIY solution.

      Thanks!! (from another Adam)

      bcflyfisher wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Great idea! This sounds like a brilliant alternative.

      LindaG wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • My version is still cheaper: does not use the sliders
      Same movements, alternating facing sky/floor every 25 meters
      AKA crawls :-)

      wildgrok wrote on June 19th, 2015
  15. Is having tension control worth the extra money? Seems like almost a 2G difference to get to that option.

    Beau wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Yeah, most people I know (and most gyms) don’t really use the added tension.

      Mark Sisson wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • I used to work in a facility that had one and had 2different workouts: at the time I was 200 pounds at 6’2″
        1- I got this from Strength coach at Penn State-
        20 minutes full out no tension max distance- this one got heads turning cause of the foul noises I used to make from 15 minutes on- trying to keep 175 feet /minute- it was a b1tc4! I would try to match or beat it once a week- 4000feet was the goal- didn’t always make it:-(
        2- was how long it took to do a mile5250 feet- this wasa longer but more ” leisurely pace 30-40 minutes depending on my energy level –

        I do miss it!

        John wrote on May 7th, 2016
  16. There seems to be more and more emphasis on this site on unnatural exercise recently. There’s no purpose to this other than, well exercise! If you go out and get one, I bet it’ll be sitting in your garage this time next year with you only having used in once or twice …..

    Tracy wrote on June 17th, 2015
  17. Mark,

    I’ve been WAITING for this article from you! RE: Versaclimber. I know from post that you’ve used one for sometime and highly recommed! However, I am going to purchase one and would have after reading about them thank to you, but when I go to the Versaclimber website to order and am confused as to which model to purchase. Can recommendation, please? Thanks Dave G

    Dave Gay wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • The H or the ALX are great choices.

      Mark Sisson wrote on June 17th, 2015
  18. Soooooooo funny! Just goes to prove my contention that 99.9% of people will opt to fool themselves by invariably choosing the easiest way out. They’ll walk for hours on a TM while reading magazines or watching pointless reality TV like the ‘Biggest looser’ (while holding on), or mindlessly repeating ad nauseum those ridiculous chopped steps on the Stairmaster, (again holding on, and again riveted to mind-numbing reality TV [which has nothing to do with reality]).
    Having been a trainer in countless gyms in the late 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2K, I’ve seen the rise of all the kick-ass machines and their inevitable demise as the fat and out of shape masses migrate to something more tame worthy of their sordid work ethic. Of course, when the manufacturers realized this, they and Gyms also opted out because there’s no money in it (these hypocrites don’t want you to be fit, they want you to be fat, it’s great for business)!
    When I worked at Sports Club LA, I think they had 5-6 Versaclimbers, Sports Connection had 2, even Holiday Spa had 1.
    I used them extensively to get in shape for Hawaii Ironman 1981, (Mark, that was a great ? and answer session the next day with Dave Scott and company).
    America will get fatter, it’s inevitable I’m afraid!

    Claude wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Well, well, aren’t we judgmental!

      Helping the “fat and out of shape masses” has been an important theme of Mark’s blog for years. Treating people in a demeaning and dismissive manner has never been his approach, and I hope never is.

      Perhaps you *are* just a a studly specimen of male strength (and ego!) with an incredible work ethic which puts the rest of us to shame. Or… perhaps you were just fortunate in your genetics, your early life experiences, your education, environment and interests, and have reaped the benefits in your own pursuit of health. Or something in between.

      But knocking people for trying, as best they know how (e.g. hours on a treadmill reading magazines) is certainly not going to help anyone. Perhaps you could channel all that energy into actually helping people.

      John wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • +1 John, thank you for that! Compassion goes a whole lot farther than judgmental snarkery

        Jay930 wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • Thanks for this. I, too, have noticed that Mark is very non-judgmental, and I like that about this site.

        I also wanted to point out that the “lazy fatties” trope is kinda backward. I mean, I weighed ~270lbs at the start of the year, and I played contact sport and was active with it. I thought I was pretty strong – but it was a LOT of work to maintain any fitness at that weight.

        [In case anyone was curious, I’m 6’1, so it was a BMI of about 36 – morbidly obese, so yes, maintaining the ability to run 1.5 miles in 12.5 minutes, do 25 pushups and hold a 120 second plank was difficult]

        I’ve since lost ~90lbs, maintaining most of my muscle mass (though not all – I was a pretty strong girl, and even though I was about 35% fat to begin with, I didn’t have 90lbs of it to lose), and I now am even more active – but it’s so easy. It’s like taking off the weight vest. I *feel* much lazier, even though most people see an increase in activity at this weight – but which is harder? Doing 6 hours of exercise a week, or doing 4 hours while wearing a 90lb weight vest?

        Fatties trying to maintain fitness are NOT lazy. Srsly.

        Cthulhu's Mum wrote on June 17th, 2015
        • Cthulhu’s Mum – congrats on that weight loss!

          John wrote on June 17th, 2015
        • Cthulhu’s Mum: your is the coolest handle I have seen !

          wildgrok wrote on June 19th, 2015
    • “hours on a treadmill reading magazines”

      which would be much better for you than lying on a couch watching tv, or even reading or blogging. Actually, their low-level constant motion is better than working too hard. Their “laziness” is allowing them to move their bodies, at least. And I think you generalize about them “all” being fat. Being a little overweight is not the end of the world.

      Jed wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Elite athletes are only ‘elite’ because they are in a minority. They are in a minority because what they do is extremely painful. It’s totally logical ‘most’ people wouldn’t opt for the toughest gym machine – duh! But your point about America being fat is off – we all know 80% is what you eat. So I don’t see the point of your rant.

      Dan Hig wrote on December 25th, 2015
  19. Would you recommend Jacob’s Ladder as a potential option? They have one of these in my complex and all of the movement is determined by the user.

    Joey wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • I was going to say the same thing. The Jacob’s ladder has me gasping for air in a short amount of time. Very similar motion.

      Jim M. wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • I hear that. Time never moves so slowly as when I’m on Jacob’s Ladder. And it seems like I’m the only one that ever uses it.

        Dr. Mark wrote on June 17th, 2015
  20. so much for 5 essential moves, first one disappeared, now the remaining 4. Mark are you selling out? This piece of equipment will cause much stress, much like chronic cardio on a treadmill….I’m sad, Boo, Mark.

    Dick Dasbutch wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Like I said, I only use it once in a while. It’s a precision tool.

      Mark Sisson wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • Dear Mark,
        What are your sentiments on the “Helix Stair Climber”???

        Dee Jaye Stearns wrote on April 5th, 2016
  21. also featured in the move K2. The one guy had one in his law office. He’d take short breaks and just jump on it for a few. I think that would generate some stares where I work!

    pdiddy wrote on June 17th, 2015
  22. Hi Mark,

    Yeah, great piece of kit, but, available to most people, I suggest not ! Just googled this and the basic model is lots of £££. ! What about making a more realistic suggestion that most people can afford !! Dont think I’ll be buying myself one….unless of course you fancy shipping me your freebie !? Suggest that they might have given you this to promote…..!! I like the independent viewpoint on exercise equipment !! (Of course, if wrong, please correct me)



    Mark wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • I checked too. The higher quality versaclimbers retail for $2,000 to $3,000+ in the US. There are cheaper ones available for around $250, but they look too flimsy to be very stable.

      Shary wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • I think Mark was just sharing good information. It would be nice if everyone who wanted one could afford to buy one; however, just because I personally would not choose to purchase one, by no means should that stop Mark from letting us all know the benefits of this amazing machine. In fact, I may decide to buy one for my primal living, walking/sprinting/heavy thing lifting hubby! Some things are worth paying for.

      Here’s to good health no matter what avenue you choose!

      Karen wrote on June 17th, 2015
      • I bought a used Versaclimber SM model ($4695 retail price) for $1000, only used a few times, it is like new. Love it. I have been looking for a while and was really happy to find it.

        Julie Wyatt wrote on June 15th, 2016
  23. The shoes you are wearing do not look like zero drop. Have you changed your thinking on minimalist shoes?

    Diane wrote on June 17th, 2015
  24. In my opinion, the Concept 2 rowing ergometer is the finest piece of exercise equipment ever made. This in spite of the fact that I often see it used improperly at virtually any gym I have ever been to.

    How can I say this?

    Try some rehabilitation on the machine from the article vs the C2.

    Every muscle group, joint and the cardiovascular system is used on the C2. It may not be as hard or onerous overall, but that suggests the potential for a long term relationship with the benefits of using it.

    The description of the machine in the article seems to run slightly counter to the idea of making “exercise” fun, practical and desirable.

    tw wrote on June 17th, 2015
  25. First one I saw was in the movie K2. Tried one at my previous gym and loved it. Brutal. They didn’t maintain it. Haven’t seen one in years. They are pricey. Thanks for the article.

    Marc wrote on June 17th, 2015
  26. Wouldn’t a rope ladder attached to a tree or ceiling be a better option? Less expensive, more adaptable? I know that you couldn’t climb as high without a lot of ingenuity, really tall trees or ceilings, or climbing down first. But you would end up having to use your core to self stabilize going up and down the ladders and play with different hand and foot positions or not using your feet at all as you climb the ladder. It also allows both a standard or a cross “crawl” climb.

    To me climbing a rope ladder seems a little closer to the idea of working out so that you can play. Also, it becomes a form of play.

    (I now have plans for building an Ewok village in my back yard for my nephews and me to play in. So thanks for an article that gave me more ideas for ways to play!) :)

    Sarah Lynn wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • +1. Rope climbs are awesome!

      FWIW, I worked as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym in SD while in college. We had a couple of VersaClimbers there. I used it quite a bit and would pore sweat when using it.

      It is for people (like I was, and am still sometimes) who like to push their limits. Who like to suffer. There is a special place/feeling that you go to when you really suffer physically. It’s what IronMan athletes experience physically (there are other elements to IronMan, not slamming it). But, there is this really strong endorphin (and other stuff) high that you get when you go to the extreme physically. Some people are addicted to it.

      At some level, I think it brought back for Mark, the feelings he used to get when he did massive cardio work that drives one into this zone.

      Todd wrote on June 18th, 2015
  27. You should check out Rise Nation in West Hollywood. It is a studio that only has Versa Climber classes. I believe they are all 30 minutes long. I went once and had one of the hardest workouts ever.

    Sibyl wrote on June 17th, 2015
  28. One of the things I like most about the Paleo movement, and MDA in particular, is its emphasis on `simplify`. Natural & Easy over Machines & Complicated. This incredibly bulky and clunky contraption might as well be the very antithesis of that.

    It reminds me of those late-night infomercials selling you the perfect six-pack abs machine, which surely enough will be sitting in your garage accumulating dust in a few months, tops.

    IMHO, the best piece of equipment for workouts is called ‘ground`. It`s available wherever you are, and it costs zero. Virtually ALL the exercises you`ll ever perform require this ‘equipment’. Even if you swim in a pool or the ocean, it still needs ground underneath it.

    Stick to ground, and you can`t go wrong. IMHO.

    But of course, that hardly makes for a juicy blog post these days.

    Edie wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Amen! Mark needs to make a living! 😉

      Todd wrote on June 18th, 2015
    • Agreed. Except for the “…best piece of equipment for workouts is called ‘ground`.”
      “Best combination of equipment ‘body & ‘ground’. Always was, always will be”


      Tim wrote on June 19th, 2015
  29. A friend forwarded me a link to this article and asked me the differences between VersaClimber and CycleClimber. Here is my reply:

    The big difference between the VersaClimber and the CycleClimber. Aside from the dual-rotary action that CycleClimber uses, which provides for a greater and more natural range of motion, the dual-independent flywheels enables a user to work the upper and lower body not only simultaneously, but INDEPENDENTLY too.

    The latter is a huge benefit. Think about this. Your upper and lower body MOVE INDEPENDENT of one another, yes? Hence, they should have their own flywheel. With VersaClimber, they are interconnected. This means (because it is a weight-bearing action) the upper body is merely going for a ride. The legs are doing the majority of the work.

    Yet, in theory, dual-independent flywheels sounds difficult, but if the height-adjustment and the two resistance knobs are set correctly, the user can get into a pleasant and natural synergistic rhythm. The zen of synergy is why two flywheels are better than one.

    See comparison:

    Marko Hansen wrote on June 17th, 2015
  30. What about the cheaper climbers? Any difference between the versaclimber and different cheaper models?

    Animalcub wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • I’ve purchased an EverYoung 73500 (also known as an Infinity 73500 climber) second hand and although it’s a good climber it is very old and the original rubber wheels are falling apart. Finding replacement wheels is a real bummer – we found some wheels but they are flat surfaced and not rounded like the originals – and making them work has involved using washers and jerry rigging the wheels so that they sort of work. I am looking at purchasing a brand new Steel Climber
      I like how you can easily switch between cross-crawl and regular stride but It has to be wall mounted whereas the Versaclimber is freestanding
      It is about $1500. I haven’t purchased it yet but am seriously thinking of getting it instead of a Versaclimber.

      Cathy wrote on July 5th, 2015
  31. Wow, the old Versaclimber. Haven’t seen one in ages…and never outside of a gym. Kinda pricey, eh? Used it in the gym, when I used to go to gyms, and when they were working properly…but it bored the snizzle out of me. And I was using them when I used to rock climb so it was great for that…but like all repetitive equipment I grow bored after 20 -30 mins and thats me pushing it for that much time.

    Try running up a truly steep hill…on your hands and knees…more fun and fresh air too.

    tom wrote on June 17th, 2015
  32. Anyone else ever try a rom machine? Another killer low impact full body workout. Even more expensive than the versa though.

    Dan wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • I have a ROM machine and have used a versa climber as well…LOVE the ROM only 4 brutal mins and range is 36inches with resistance -legs sometimes can not take 4mins and very winded during like VC…the cons are the size and price but if u have the room and cash def get one…got mine used for less than half of $15k retail price

      Kim wrote on December 26th, 2015
  33. Mark, this seems like it would be a great option in the wintertime here in CT when we are snowbound, and it would fit well in my small-ish apartment, too. I’ll definitely keep it in mind, especially as a rock climber! I really hate the treadmill and the elliptical. Thanks for putting this recommendation out there.


    Kelly wrote on June 17th, 2015
  34. Love the Versa Climber… It’s been a while though & though I’m no record holder, I am a “mile high” member who’s beat 30 minutes for that distance. Thanks for the reminder… I have to get back to it!!

    Daryll Krivanos wrote on June 17th, 2015
  35. Received this VersaClimber sales agent Richard: The H and HP model VersaClimbers are the only units with the cable and pulley system. All other VersaClimbers, including the ALX have a steel chain and sprocket system.

    Dave Gay wrote on June 17th, 2015
  36. The very first gym I ever went to (between Kew and Richmond in West London, when I still lived in the UK) had – as Mark says – exactly one. I was always the only one to use it. I was given it as part of a routine by my first gym instructor who – unlike most staff instructors – listened, cared and explained. I never managed more than two minutes on it. Everything Mark says is true; it’s murder, but adding it to my workout got me fit and shedding weight in no time at all.

    Simon Pride wrote on June 17th, 2015
  37. Didn’t Drago use something like that in Rocky IV?? And therefore – if US, anti-communist propaganda is to be believed – everyone should just run up snowy mountains 1-2x weekly in order to get cut and eventually defeat your opponent!

    Alex wrote on June 17th, 2015
  38. for a tenth of the cost the schwinn airdyne can produce killer results as well.

    peter wrote on June 17th, 2015
  39. “The few that have used it almost invariably quit because it’s so hard.”

    Shouldn’t the best exercise equipment be like the best exercise–whatever exercise you can stick with?

    Ben wrote on June 17th, 2015
  40. I’d like to have one of these, and I can afford one, but I kind of resent the price in terms of what you get. I sense a huge markup.

    Rick wrote on June 17th, 2015
    • Here’s the quote i received from VersaClimber

      ALX VersaClimber, Commercial, Chain Drive,Fixed Resistance $3,095.00
      Floor Mat (Normally $79.95) Free
      10% Discount (309.50)
      Sub-Total $2,785.50
      My State Tax 0.00
      S/H $388.50
      Total $3,174.00
      50% Deposit
      NOTES: Set Up Is Customers Responsibility. Allow 2-3 Weeks Lead Time

      Dave Gay wrote on June 17th, 2015

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