Stair climbing might just be the best workout you’re not doing. It’s fun, free and massively effective. If gyms aren’t your thing or you don’t have access to a step machine, you can get just as good a workout outdoors – in fact better. Stair climbing is far more flexible and allows you to mix in all manner of training techniques that you just wouldn’t be able to do on a step machine.
Indeed, exercising on the step machine or stepper is the workout equivalent of bicycle training wheels compared to getting out and walking or running up real flights of stairs. On a scale of one to ten, stair climber machines and step-ups score an okay 6-7 whereas storming up the stairs at your local stadium will score a fat torching 10!
Whether you need a cross-training activity that will take your running to greater heights, want to lose weight on the cheap, are looking for an effective all-in-one workout, or are just searching for the next challenge – stair climbing yields incredible results. You’ll be hard pressed to find a workout that combines cardio, strength and calorie burning as awesomely as does stair climbing.STAIR CLIMBING: BENEFITS
Climbing stairs is a great way to strengthen and tone your legs – from your calves to your butt. The combination of simultaneous ankle, knee and hip extension against gravity means you work your legs naturally and without the impact commonly associated with jogging, running or sprinting.
Pushing your body up stair after stair against gravity is also a great cardiovascular exercise that burns lots of calories, while developing both strength and power. And as no staircase is never ending, once you get to the top and walk carefully back down, you end up interval training without even realizing it. And interval training is one of the best was to burn fat and take your fitness to a new level.
Beginners can get a good workout by walking up stairs one at a time while the more advanced will enjoy the challenge of running up the stairs taking two or even three steps at a time.
Stair climbing is free – all you need is access to a set of stairs in the public arena. Public stairs, apartment blocks, malls, bleachers and office blocks are all viable stair climbing venues and no special equipment is required – just some basic sneakers and comfortable clothes.
STAIR CLIMBING TIPS
- Start by warming up with exercises such as skipping or jogging, and cool down with stretching.
- When it comes to stair climbing, like any other type of exercise, practice good form. You’ll be able to workout harder and reduce the likelihood of injury.
- Don’t just use your calf muscles to power you up the stairs and avoid stepping just on your toes.
- Focus on using your larger leg muscles. With each step you take, make sure you lift your leg high, put your foot on the step and push off with your heel. This will help reduce strain on the knees and transfer the force to the hamstrings and glutes.
- When climbing down stairs, it’s safest to descend using each step. Also, ideally walk, don’t run down the stairs as this stresses the knees and ankles. You can also do like some stair climbing experts suggest and walk or run up but use an alternative means (e.g. elevator, sloping path) for your trip back down.
- Slow down and walk when you need to, or take a break. And remember to hydrate, especially in the summer.
- Look for long, straight, wide staircases for your workout. Some narrower staircases have many tight corners to negotiate and spiral staircases may be equally troublesome.
- Remember that stair climbing is a strenuous form of exercise so check with your healthcare professional before starting a new workout routine. Once your doc has given you the all clear, start off slow and easy and only increase the intensity and duration of your workouts gradually.
STAIR CLIMBING WORKOUT IDEAS
There are lot of ways you can use stairs to get an awesome workout. But to save you coming up with your own ideas – and help you find your inner Rocky – here are 11 stair climbing workout ideas to try. Each can be used as a standalone workout or combined with others to make a mega stair climbing program.
EASY DOES IT
Walk, jog or run up and then walk back down. Rest a moment (or don’t if you are very fit) and repeat. The number of repeats will depend on your fitness level and the length of the staircase you are climbing.
Strap on a back pack or weighted vest or grab and carry a pair of dumbbells to crank up the intensity. Take extra care on the descents though.
USE YOUR BODY
Do a set of push-ups, squats, burpees or sit-ups on each landing as you ascend. For a double effective workout, do the same on your descent too!
Run up to the first landing and then back down. Then, and without pausing, run up to the second landing and back down. Turn around and then run up to the third landing and back down. Keep on going up one landing at a time until you reach the top. Trot back down to ground level, take a brief breather and repeat.
WITH A FRIEND
With a partner, do push-ups, squats or any other bodyweight exercise while your buddy runs up to the top of the stairs and back down. Change over and repeat. Take it turns to select the exercise to be performed at the bottom of the stairs. Remember, the faster you run, the fewer reps your partner will have to do.
Instead of simply walking or running forward up the stairs, try walking backward or sideways. Changing the direction of you stair climbing will work different muscles. Practice caution and don’t rush. Keep it steady, hold onto the railing if you need to, and only pick up speed when you feel comfortable. For safety, walk down the stairs normally.
ON ALL FOURS
Bear-crawl up the stairs to get your upper body in on the action. If you are strong and brave enough, you can also bear crawl back down again although, for safety you’d be better off crab crawling instead. A bear crawl is performed with your belly facing the floor and traveling head first, whereas a crab crawl is performed with your belly facing the ceiling and traveling feet first.
Take a jump rope with you and do 50-100 rope turns at each landing. Make them double unders to really crank up the intensity.
BEAT THE CLOCK
See how many ascents and descents you can complete in a set time frame – e.g. 15 minutes. Work as hard as you can and try to beat your record each time you repeat this workout.
Climb the stairs with a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand and do a set of a strength training exercises on each landing. Unless the exercises you select require it, do not put the weights down once you have started the workout. Suitable exercises include kettlebell swings, dumbbell curl to press, thrusters, sumo squats and lunges.
Ascend as far up the stairs as you can in 30 seconds and then walk back down to the start. Repeat five more times while attempting to climb as high each time thereafter.
Don’t just stick to a dedicated stair climbing workout. Find and take stairs wherever you go. Avoiding the elevator at work or at the mall adds up and can go a long way to adding much needed exercise to your daily routine.