Though you may not see vertical climbers scattered across home gyms as much as other popular fitness equipment like ellipticals, exercise bikes and treadmills, fitness experts told us working out on a vertical climber can be an excellent way to achieve an effective full-body workout and burn hundreds of calories per session.
Vertical climbers are typically seven- to eight-foot-tall exercise machines that are equipped with foot pedals and height-adjustable handlebars. These exercise machines help you pull up and down against measured resistance with the ultimate purpose of engaging your core, "as if you were climbing or scaling something," explained Kyle Gonzalez, integrative health and wellness professional and head of content at a nutrition and supplement company Momentous. This type of exercise tool is also used to improve fitness levels in both the lower and upper body, and “it’s best used for cardio, endurance and high intensity workouts,” added Andrew Schillaci, a personal trainer at Casa Cipriani in New York City and boxing instructor at Equinox.
To help you determine whether a vertical climber is a good fit for your home gym, we spoke to fitness experts and trainers about how to best use these machines and what to look for when shopping for one. They also shared their personal recommendations with us, too.
How to shop for a vertical climber
If you’re in the market for a vertical climber, our experts recommend keeping in mind a few features when shopping, including durability, size adjustability and size.
- Build quality and durability: The vertical climber needs to be able to support a person “moving with intensity and moderate frequency,” said Ryan Hopkins, a strength coach at personalized coaching company Team Wilpers and the personal training manager at SoHo Strength Lab. He noted that some of the more affordable models tend to not be as durable as those with a higher price tag — “from a gym owner and coach standpoint, quality of the build and whether I can use it a lot for a long time without worry is my ultimate barometer,” he noted.
- Adjustable sizing and resistance: Some vertical climbers will let you adjust the height and resistance, which can be beneficial for those who want a greater intensity to their workout. “Be on the lookout for foot pedal size when shopping for vertical climbers as different brands vary,” added Jordan Rowe, certified personal trainer and founder of NOEX Fitness in Richmond, Virginia.
- Size and storage: “While they are tall, [vertical climbers] don't take up much floor space in comparison to a rower or stair climber,” Rowe said. However, she advised shoppers to consider how the machine can fit in their home and the ability for it to be stored away when needed — some vertical climbers may fold or come with wheels to better store and move it around.
- Connectivity: Some vertical climbers let you sync the machine to your smartphone or other devices using Bluetooth or an app, which will typically allow you to access on-demand classes, track your progress and more.
- Price: You can find some vertical climbers for less than $200, but most higher quality machines can cost upwards of $2,000. “These machines can be pretty expensive for the everyday home gym goer, although simpler versions can be found on Amazon,” Rowe said.
Depending on your budget, how often you’ll incorporate a vertical climber into your routine and your specific fitness goals, our experts told us some higher-end features may be worth considering. These can include trackers that display your distance, heart rate and calories burned, as well as different workout modes and guided training programs (although most will require you to pay for a subscription service to access them).
Best vertical climbers to shop
Our experts recommended vertical climbers for those who are hoping to add some variety to their strength and conditioning workout routine — these machines can mimic a climbing movement and combine both cardio and strength training. Vertical climbers are safe for everyday use, but our experts noted you'll want to mix up any fitness routine with other forms of exercise, too. Each of the vertical climbers we list below were recommended by our fitness experts, many of which include key features like adjustable height, a built-in display, preset programs and more.
Gonzalez called the MaxiClimber a great option that’s affordable, easy to assemble and comfortable to use. “It’s the best option for a beginner or someone looking to switch things up but not break the bank,” he said. This ergonomically-designed model boasts non-stick handle grips, an adjustable height and it can accommodate users up to 240 pounds, according to the brand. The vertical climber also boasts a step counter to track your metrics and works with a companion app to get access on-demand classes and progress tracking, MaxiClimber says.
If you're willing to invest in a vertical climber, Gonzalez recommended the VersaClimber because it "allows you to create or prescribe specialized workouts." The residential VersaClimber boasts 16 preset programs and a screen that displays your metrics like distance and time, according to the brand. It is also height-adjustable and can accommodate users who are up to 6-foot-5-inches tall and who weigh up to 350 pounds. Schillaci noted that, while the VersaClimber is on the pricier side of the fitness equipment market, the machine itself is durable, easy to use and worth the investment.
Gonzalez told us the CLMBR is a more "high-tech option" since it's equipped with a built-in touchscreen display and has a smartphone app you can access for on-demand classes. He called the brand's home model "expensive" but noted the "unique design" and access to instructor-led fitness classes gives it a Peloton-like appeal. The CLMBR can accommodate people who are up to 7 feet tall and has a max user weight of 350 pounds, according to the brand.
Athayde said he likes this RELIFE vertical climber because it’s “affordable, adjustable and lightweight, so you can move it around to different areas if you change your home gym layout.” However, Gonzalez noted that the machine’s more affordable price tag means it doesn’t come with a few key features, including adjustable resistance, reliable support and straps for your feet (which could also be a hazard). But he added that the vertical climber is “very compact and can fold away” to make it easier for home gym users.
Another affordable option, the Zelus was recommended by Rhys Athayde, co-founder and head trainer at PHANTOM Fitness. The vertical climber offers five different height levels, padded handlebars, anti-skid pedals and a mounted digital display that can track your time, step count and estimated calories burnt, according to the brand. The machine can support up to 290 pounds and folds for easy storage, Zelus says.
Sole’s vertical climber can be a great option for those in a tight space since it combines a vertical climber and elliptical machine. The brand says it can support up to 400 pounds and offers access to 10 fitness programs, including two custom programs. While Gonzalez noted the machine is “big and clunky” compared to other models, the adjustable resistance and handlebars "help to challenge different parts of the body.” It also comes with a built-in tablet holder, allowing you to watch your shows and participate in online fitness classes while working out, according to Sole.
What are the benefits of vertical climbers?
Vertical climbers combine both strength and cardio exercise, and can offer some variety to a strength and conditioning routine or work as a standalone piece, said the experts we spoke to. The machines work by having users mimic the movement of climbing: “Using your upper and lower body muscles the entire time, it is a low impact movement for many people with a high return on calories burned,” said Rowe.
One of the main benefits of adding a vertical climber to your training routine is that it works the sides of the body individually, explained Hopkins. “When used properly, the vertical climber addresses single-side vertical reaching and pulling, which works well with the natural movement of the body and strengthens critical areas of the shoulder girdle,” he added.
Hopkins recommended using a vertical climber two or three times per week for the best results. “You can have a high intensity and a low intensity day for endurance protocols, and you could even add a high resistance day to push the individual leg strength, upper body strength and core function — it’s pretty well rounded,” he said.
However, there are a few limitations to keep in mind: “Besides the immediate risks of falling or injury if you are not in touch with how your body moves, it requires a decent amount of space which could be an issue for some people,” Athayde said. Gonzalez doesn’t recommend this type of machine for people with balance or coordination issues due to falling hazards, and added that those with metabolic or heart issues should use vertical climbers with extreme caution and seek guidance from a coach before using one.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Kyle Gonzalez is an integrative health and wellness professional and currently serves as the head of content at a human performance company Momentous. He is also the founder of The Vitality System, a platform to help people take control of their health and wellness.
- Andrew Schillaci is a personal trainer at downtown Manhattan’s Casa Cipriani and a boxing instructor at Equinox in New York City.
- Ryan Hopkins is a strength coach at personalized coaching company Team Wilpers and the personal training manager at SoHo Strength Lab.
- Jordan Rowe is a certified personal trainer and founder of NOEX Fitness in Richmond, Virginia.
- Rhys Athayde is the co-founder and head trainer at PHANTOM Fitness.