What do you get when you cross a stair stepper with a pull-up bar and add a couple skateboards? The answer is a high-intensity, sweat-inducing workout on The Stair Stomper. The first of its kind, Stomp Studios in the Marina is the brainchild of Matthew Michaels— serial inventor, longtime fitness enthusiast and certified personal trainer.
Situated on a quiet street in the Marina, the newly opened Stomp Studios is small and modern, complete with trendy air plants. Twelve wall-mounted Stair Stomper machines flank three of four walls, each with its own full-length mirror. The machine itself looks like a stair stepper on steroids—made in Santa Cruz, the adjustable foot pedals are made from Santa Cruz Skateboards and above the steps is a handle bar, suspended from bungee cords.
I'm not a cardio or strength training expert by any means, so the machines looked a little intimidating at first. Then Michaels told me that his 73-year-old mom and 11-year-old daughter both enjoy getting their stomp on—so you'll be fine. Currently, Stomp Studio only offers one style of class, good for all fitness levels, and even those with injuries can join. Since the workout is high intensity without being high impact, you can get a tough workout without compromising your joint health.
Before the 30-minute guided workout, you'll get a Silent Storm Sound Systems receiver to plug headphones into—the pager-shaped device clips onto clothing so each participant can hear music and the instructor clearly, yet the room stays otherwise silent. When class begins, blackout shades (one prefers privacy when smashing this high-sweat workout) darken the room and the studio transforms into more of a nightclub vibe— Michaels uses an application on his phone to change the lighting in the room to a blue-periwinkle black light hue, before the upbeat hip-hop and top 40 jams start playing. After a warm up that includes using various parts of the machine to stretch, such as bending our knees, grabbing hold of the bungee-bound pull-up bar and twisting right and left, we learn the basics of the machine. As the workout continues, short one-to-three-minute bursts of high intensity cardiovascular movements like high knees and assisted tricep dips keep your heart rate up throughout the entire class, but because you continuously switch up the muscle groups being used, no one part of the body burns out too quickly.
"The Stomp is a magical workout because you're using your lower body, upper body and vertical core muscles all at once," Michaels says. "After 30 minutes everyone is surprised how much he or she sweats because all the 'pistons' of their bodies are firing synergistically."
During some exercises, like when we turned around on the machine and sprinted backwards, I worked muscles that I didn't realize I had and it felt like I was walking uphill in quicksand. As someone who doesn't have much upper body strength, I liked the support of the step pedals and how I could use them to assist me in more advanced moves like a pull-up. We alternated working out arms, legs and abs, switching it up to incorporate different muscle groups. We were encouraged to continue moving between intervals, even just slow steps, to keep our muscles warm. After a short cool down, slowly tapering down our movements, I felt pretty tried, accomplished and definitely ready for a big breakfast burrito. Michaels offers 30-minute guided classes, and encourages participants to stay 15 minutes after class for a freestyle stomp, to work out on the machine as they see fit.
For now Michaels is the only instructor, teaching all classes offered at Stomp Studio. He gave modifications for different levels, so the workout is appropriate for fitness newbies or gym rats. Having just launched in June, class size varies (capped at 12), but on my particular visit I was the only person in attendance. Once you try Stomp Studio, a regular old stair stepper at the gym just won't do.
- Wear comfortable clothes that you can move and sweat in. Fitted pants or capris recommended so the fabric doesn't get in the way of your steps.
- Shoes are required for this workout.
- Don't forget headphones to use with Silent Storm Sound System device.
- Bring a water bottle and make sure to hydrate before, during and after class. Water provided at the studio.