Meet The Family: The Extensive Range of VersaClimbers
Though not always at the front of people’s mind, the VersaClimber is effective, albeit expensive total body workout alternative that’s been around since the first prototype was built in a stateside garage in 1981. Since then the brand and its parent company Heart Rate Inc. has developed a host of other fitness products and technologies, but nothing that has seen the same level of commercial success as the VersaClimber. Its closest competition comes in the form of the Bowflex Max Trainer series of machines, which also delivers a high intensity full-body workout from a single and compact piece of equipment.
Unfortunately for VersaClimber, its biggest downfall always comes down to cost. To build a sturdy piece of fitness equipment with a freestanding design that users climb on, you can’t cut corners. On account of this, there’s no such thing as an “entry-level model” of VersaClimber in their catalog.
Sale Prices and Summaries
In total, five different VersaClimber models make up the brand’s product range on the consumer side, though there is some overlap between their consumer and club/commercial units. Given the hefty price tags associated with even the upper tier of their home use VersaClimbers, we’re going to focus on the home units for the time being.
VersaClimber H / HL Models
Starting at their point of entry, the H and HL VersaClimbers Start at $2,096, and are very light on overall features. Its display module is a small 9V battery powered LCD unit, showing time, distance, calorie burn rate, and a handful of other metrics. What’s most surprising with this model is that it does not offer varying resistance. Anything else it competes with (other than certain rowing machines) include at least some resistance adjustment, making it that much more crucial that you test out a VersaClimber first hand before considering spending your hard-earned dollars on it. Though the Bowflex Max Trainer M3 is relatively light on features, it still delivers way more bang-for-your-buck at $999.
Next in the food chain, and upping its entry price to between $3,095 and $4,595, the volume of features added for its additional price is relatively limited. The bare-bones ALX model also features fixed resistance, but is a plug-in powered machine with an optional seat upgrade, and the capability to be wall-mounted. It is also listed as a “commercial grade” unit, and is significantly more sturdy than the H. The weight of the machine is more than doubled—145lbs instead of 63. On the other end of the scale, the top-tier LXP CC adds variable resistance, heart rate monitoring, and cross-crawl training capability (more on that here). That said, you’re still not getting much else for that hefty price tag.
Moving up the the SM and SRM models—Sport Model and Sport Recovery Model being their full names—we’re now up to the $4,695 to $5,295 mark for these heavy-duty pieces of equipment. Both machines include Bluetooth connectivity that allows users to link up to VersaBlue, the brand’s sleek app for tracking/logging workouts and progress, as well as competing with fellow climbers. The key difference with the Sports Recovery Model is that it is geared towards physiotherapy and rehab. More likely to be found in a sports rehab clinic, the SRM allows for isolation of each limb, as well as the modification of both range and resistance in exercise motion. Moving bi-directionally on a single path, its rehab use is limited, so we wouldn’t recommend this model for anyone at home (especially for the money). If range of motion and mobility is more of a concern, things like the Nordictrack Fusion CST and other home gym rigs will be more effective and less expensive.
Take the features of the SM and SRM models, and add a touchscreen display—that is basically the only change that comes with the new TS (TouchScreen) VersaClimber. This upgrade adds $600 to the price of entry of the variable resistance model ($5,295), but only $400 to the fixed resistance model ($4,395). Once again a bit surprising that this level of equipment is limited to such a high price point, where even more affordable level treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes have now moved to touchscreen controls.
See how the VersaClimber works here in the brand’s introductory video
Why Are VersaClimbers So Effective?
So here’s the thing—with such steep prices, how have these guys been around for so long? The fact of the matter is, they are very effective at burning fat and building muscle. To a degree they’re also pioneers the machine-based high intensity interval training (though they don’t try and take credit for it) world, driving at the trend with their climbers before HIIT returned to modern fitness fame. Here’s a look at a number of other benefits of turning to the VersaClimber.
Zero Harsh Impact
First and foremost, you won’t get the harsh impact on your joints that comes with so many other machines. Since your feet and hands stay in contact with the pedals and grips at all times, your weight never comes down on your joints like it does when running on flat ground or a treadmill. Your joints will thank you for using a VersaClimber
This provides the obvious benefit of exercising pain free and reducing the risk of injuries. Less stress being placed on joints essentially means less risk for overuse injuries, osteoporosis, and even stress fractures over time. That’s is a huge plus for anyone who is serious about their workout sessions.
To break it down to the simplest of terms, when you aren’t in pain or discomfort, you can push your workout sessions longer and harder than you would otherwise. This means more calories burned and more fat loss.
As you’d experience on a stairmaster or Bowflex Max Trainer, the effort you’ll exert on a VersaClimber will be more more than that of walking or jogging on a treadmill. Walking uphill is significantly harder/more strenuous than walking on a flat surface, and at equal pacing will always give provide a better workout. This is where the VersaClimber is king, pushing a step beyond a stairmaster and replicating an action closer to climbing a ladder. This ensures that you not only experience a fantastic calorie burn, but also strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
If you want an intense workout, a VersaClimber can and will deliver.
One of the hottest methods of working out right now is interval training. This involves alternating between very high intensity bouts of exercise and active rest periods done at a lower intensity.
This type of training is ideal for those who are looking to boost their metabolic rate, leading to better fat loss results. It’s also good for those who are looking to save time in the gym. Since an interval training session only lasts 15-20 minutes, it’s far more time efficient than doing a moderate intensity cardio workout that’s 30-60 minutes long.
The issue faced with many other conventional fitness/cardio machines is that they don’t get to the pace of the high intensity interval fast enough. This is especially the case with treadmills and ellipticals. Because you’re immediately starting at a vertical climb, it’s easy to jump right into a high intensity interval without waiting for incline or resistance to ramp up.
Unlike other machines with more built-in programming, you’ll have to set your own pacing and intervals on a Versa Climber. On the plus side, this means a more free-flowing workout, however you’ll have to keep yourself motivated to push, as the machine won’t do it for you.
Miscellaneous VersaClimber Perks
If you opt for a VersaClimber, there are some additional perks that you’ll want to know about.
Older or lower spec models can be adapted into touchscreen-capable ones with relative ease. Rather than making their machines cheap and disposable, VersaClimbers are built for a lifetime, and thus can be upgraded along the way.
The footprint of a VersaClimber is tiny when compared to most other pieces of fitness equipment. They can stand in a space as small as four square feet. You need to ensure you have decent height though, as they tend to stand at roughly 7 feet and 10 inches tall.
Like most things in life, there are always a few drawbacks.
Here are the few to note.
- Expense: A VersaClimber is one of the most expensive pieces of equipment out there when you evaluate them from a price versus features standpoint. In trade, they’re certainly built to last, and not something you’ll have to expect to replace in the next 5-10 years.
- Cardio Challenge: Finally, these machines are challenging. Beginners or those who are not in very good shape may find them too difficult. Those with pre-existing heart issues will want to be careful as interval training can put quite a bit of stress on the heart. Be sure to speak with your doctor before embarking on interval training.
At the end of the day, this is a tough call, and unlike many other pieces of equipment it’s one we recommend you try out somewhere first to see how you feel about the experience. They’re a tough workout, and they’ll kick your butt real good if you’re ready to commit to it. On the other hand, if you’re used to training that has more programming to follow, and you need a little extra guidance and motivation, you’d be better served looking at things like a Max Trainer or other pieces of full-body training/cardio equipment.