If you’re looking for a high-intensity workout that doesn’t require a membership to the gym, you may want to give a stair workout a try. Running stairs helps build agility, speed and strength and provides a great cardiovascular workout. It also allows you to work out at varying intensity levels, depending on your fitness level and your goals.
All you need to perform a stair workout is a good pair of running shoes and a set of stairs. You can do the workout outdoors if you find a location that has enough successive stairs to perform an adequate workout or can instead opt for a few flights of stairs indoors – in your apartment building or at a high-rise office building.
In order to get the most out of your workout while also avoiding injury, aim to lean slightly forward on the way up the stairs, pushing off on the ball of your foot, extending your leg and pumping your arms. The more you push down on your foot as if you were going to jump up, the more you will utilize all the muscles in your legs to propel you up the stairs.
When you’re coming down, you want to absorb as much of the impact as you can with your glutes instead of letting your knees take the full impact of the downward force. If steps are steep, as is often the case at outdoor venues like stadiums, you may need to come down at a slight angle to minimize the impact.
Stair Workout Intensity Ratio
The key to maximizing your stair workout is running or walking the steps at a 1:3 work/rest ratio – meaning it should take three times as long for you to come down and rest before you head back up again. You can choose to define your sets by a specific distance, time parameter or number of steps covered. It is best to have a series of at least 30 stairs available when performing the workout (about three flights).
Beginner Stair Workout
If you are new to stair climbing or are not sure you’re ready to run, start by walking up and down the stairs instead of running. Warm up for 5 minutes first by walking around on a flat surface or in place and then walk up and down the steps for 15 minutes, shooting for 5 – 10 complete sets (a set is one trip up the steps and then back down). When you’re done, don’t forget to cool down for an additional 5 minutes.
Intermediate Stair Workout
Once you’re ready to start running the stairs, you can switch your 5 minute warm up to walking up and down the stairs. Then increase the intensity gradually as follows: run up 1 flight (10 steps) and walk down, then run up 2 flights (20 steps) and walk down, and finally run up 3 flights (30 steps) and walk down. Keep this routine going for 20 minutes, followed by a 5 minute cool down.
Advanced Stair Workout
If you’re looking to up your routine’s impact even more, you can switch to this higher-intensity workout. Again, start by walking up and down the stairs for 5 minutes to warm up. Then spend the next 25 minutes sprinting up the stairs and walking down according to a 1:3 work/rest ratio. So, for example, aim for 12 seconds sprinting up the steps, 36 seconds walking down and resting. After you’ve completed 8 – 10 sets like this, rest for a few minutes and then do a second round of the same thing, followed by a 5 minute cool down.
Increasing the Intensity
Any time you want to increase the intensity of your workout, you can do it in a few different ways. You can opt to increase the number of steps or the time you climb each time you head up, reduce the amount of rest between each set, or increase the number of sets you perform during your workout. Just be sure to gradually increase your workout intensity so you don’t injure yourself by doing too much, too soon.