How to Use the Stairs for Exercise

How to Use the Stairs for Exercise

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Stairs are a versatile piece of workout equipment.

Kane Skennar/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Stairs are a great tool to use for a circuit-style workout. According to American Council on Exercise, circuit training consists of completing several repetitions of a low-resistance exercise, improving both muscle definition and cardiovascular fitness. The workout alternates between cardiovascular and strength exercises. You can do this circuit two to three times a week on non-consecutive days. The intensity level should be 40 to 70 percent of your maximum effort with each round lasting 30, 45 or 60 seconds.

The Warm-Up


Walk up and down the stairs three to five times. Start by walking your normal pace and gradually increase speed. You should be starting to sweat and breathing heavier by the last lap.


Find an adjacent wall and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall in line with your chest. Take a step back from the wall to allow your arms to be fully extended out in front of you. Complete 20 standing pushups against the wall.


Extend your arms out on either side of you. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Make several small circles forward and backward. Then make several larger circles forward and backward.

The Workout


Start at the bottom of the stairs with your right foot elevated and your toes touching the first step. Pushing through your left foot, transition your right foot onto the ground and your left toes to the step. Do the same thing again, this time pushing through your right foot. Continue this pattern throughout your timed round.


Facing away from the stairs, take a step away and place your right foot on the bottom stair. Squat with your left leg, bending your knee until it is parallel to the ground. Push through your heel and return to the standing position. Keep your knee aligned with your ankle and the majority of weight on your left heel throughout the entire squat and double-stair step-up motions. You can modify the split squats by going halfway to parallel with the ground. Complete a full round on your left leg. Rest and repeat on your right leg.


Climb the steps two at a time by pushing off the leading heel. Squeeze your glutes at the top of each step. Once at the top, jog back down the stairs to begin again.


Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the bottom step. Extend your legs straight back assuming the pushup position, resting on your toes. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees; then extend back up to starting position. Keep your midsection aligned with the rest of your body by bracing your abs throughout the entire motion. You can modify this exercise by resting on your knees instead of toes. Repeat as many as possible.


Jog the stairs continuously for a whole round. Run the steps up and down, keeping a steady rhythm throughout.


With your back to the staircase, sit on the bottom step and put your palms on the edge of the stair with fingers pointing away. Slide off the step while keeping your hands on the step and elbows close to your body. Lower your body by bending at the elbows about 90 degrees. Push your body back up to starting position and repeat for a round.


Complete another round of jogging the stairs continuously. Remember to keep a steady pace throughout.


Perform a plank by first getting into pushup position. Lower your forearms to the ground, making sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Keep your midsection aligned with the rest of your body by bracing your abs. Maintain this position for the entire round. You can modify plank by resting on your knees instead of toes.

The Cooldown


Walk the perimeter of the stairs, gradually slowing your walking speed down over the course of three to five minutes. Stretch your upper body while you walk by holding your right arm over your chest with your left arm and then alternate arms.


Stretch your legs by bringing one knee at a time up to your chest. Hold each for several seconds before switching legs. Place your right heel on the ground with your toes pointed up and your leg straight. Hinge at the hips to stretch your hamstrings and calves. Repeat with your left leg.


Clasp your hands behind your back and open your chest toward the sky. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Bring your hands together extended in front of you and curl your back away from your hands like a cat, allowing your shoulder blades to move away from your spine.

Things Needed

  • Athletic shoes
  • Stopwatch
  • Water


  • Do two to five sets of the entire circuit. The time and intensity will depend on your current fitness and endurance level and how much time you have to work out. Rest after every round for half the time of the round.
  • Complete as many repetitions of the exercise as you can during each round. Breathe and maintain proper form on every repetition.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout.


  • Always check with a doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • If you feel any pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or other abnormal physical symptoms, stop your workout immediately and see a doctor.
  • Do not hold your breath during any exercise.