Why you should elevate your exercise and try a stair workout

If you want to get more from your run or workout, take the stairs

Woman running up stairs
(Image credit: Getty)

If you want to ramp up your cardio and mix things up, then it’s time to do a sweaty stair workout. Using a set of steps in your home, park, or an apartment building is a great way to combine achieve a total body workout with the added bonus of improving balance and co-ordination. All you need is your body and a set of stairs and you’re good to go.

What makes a stair workout hard

Just walking up a flight of stairs can get your heart rate up fast. The reason is that compared to walking or running on level ground, going up stairs places more emphasis on the lower part of your body namely your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Your muscles have to work extra hard because gravity tries to pull you down as you climb stairs. It’s similar to hiking, running or cycling uphill which makes the effort intense by adding extra stress on the body.

What can you do on stairs?

Stairs are so versatile when it comes to doing a workout. You can do way more than just walk or run up them and even incorporate strength training into your workout. Using the bottom step to do moves like push-ups, dips, calf raise, mountain climbers and raised plank will give you an all-round workout. Explosive moves such as a squat jump will add power to your legs while climbing stairs sideways will challenge your coordination and work your muscles laterally. A stair workout will have a total different feeling and effect to your usual workout as you strengthen your inner and outer thigh muscles. 

How to do a stair workout

For a tough solid stair cardio workout divide your workout into three to five sets of solid continuous ascending and descending stirs followed by a minute of recovery. You can repeat the cycle as many times until you feel like you’ve had a sufficient workout. For an explosive workout, you could try sprinting up the stairs as fast as possible or even skip one or two steps to get the legs really fired up and turning it into a power workout.

To work on strength and endurance, why not add in some bodyweight strength-training moves? Include moves such as pushups, dips and planks as mentioned above and make them difficult by positioning your body on different steps. To crank the workout up a further notch, face away from the stairs and place your hands on the floor before the first step and raise your feet up a step or two higher behind you. 

Sabi Phagura
Freelance Writer

Sabi is a fitness enthusiast who’s been involved in some kind of sports since school. No sport is off-limits (apart from hockey after she was scarred for life when she lost a tooth) and she will try her hand at anything that involves moving. Sabi qualified as a fitness instructor 11 years ago and teaches kettlebells, spin, women’s weight lifting and cardio. As an NCTJ-trained journalist, she travels extensively to find fun ways to be fit and healthy around the globe. She is often found exploring new trails while listening to audiobooks, baking healthy treats and upcycling furniture in her spare time. She writes about general fitness, product reviews and offers her advice and tips on following a healthy lifestyle.