You may think of the movie, "Rocky," when you approach a set of stairs for a workout, but anyone can incorporate this form of cardio into their routine. Stair running helps you create speed and agility, as well as train your heart. You don't need to be in great shape, either. All levels can train on the stairs.
Face your stair case and be prepared to work hard. The Centers for Disease Control advises you get at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity exercise per week—and stair running certainly qualifies. Do this simple routine 20 to 30 minutes at a time, three to four times per week. You'll burn calories and build stamina.
HOW TO DO IT: Select a set of stairs—the longer, the better. Start at the bottom and begin to climb at a quick, but sustainable, pace. Lean slightly forward, pump your arms and push off the balls of your feet. When you reach the top, turn around and come down. Keep your knees soft as you descend to protect your joints and use your glutes. Repeat for the duration of your workout.
Vary your at-home stair routine by using the stairs to complete an interval workout. Instead of pumping at a steady pace, ascend the staircase as fast as you can and take it easy as you come down. Intervals are a great way to turn on the fat-burning mechanisms in your body and challenge your heart in new ways.
Warm up before any stair interval workout by marching in place or climb the stairs up and down at a steady pace for three to five minutes. Then, plan to do 15 to 20 minutes of intervals at two to three workouts per week.
HOW TO DO IT: Start at the bottom of the staircase and run up as quickly as you possibly can. Turn around and mosey down. The intervals can follow a set pattern of rest to work ratio. Start out with three times as much rest as work, so if it takes you 20 seconds to ascend, take a minute to come down and rest before sprinting back up again. Overtime, you can shrink this ratio to 2:1 of rest to work.
Strength Training on the Steps
Stairs provide a tool to make bodyweight strength exercises more challenging. Incorporate these moves to build upper- and lower-body muscles that helps raise your metabolism and create a taut, lean look.
Work the back of your upper arms with this exercise.
HOW TO DO IT: Turn your back to the staircase and place your hands on the second step, fingers facing your behind. Plant your feet on the floor in front of the steps — your torso is parallel to the floor and legs straight. Bend your elbows to lower, or dip, your body down. Straighten your elbows to complete one rep. If it's too hard, bend your knees to support some of your body weight during the dip.
Do this classic upper-body strengthener at an angle on the stairs to put extra emphasis on the fronts of the shoulders and upper chest muscle fibers.
HOW TO DO IT: Place your hands shoulder-distance apart on the second step of a staircase and extend your legs behind you. Keep your body in a straight line from the tip of your head to your heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the step. Extend them to straighten back up to complete one repetition.
To target the lower fibers of your chest muscles and add variety to your routine, flip the push-up around to a decline with your feet on the second or third step and your hands on the floor.
Reverse lunges are easier on the knees than the forward variety. Pushing off onto the step of the staircase requires your legs to work just a little harder than they might if you did all the reps on the floor.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand on the first or second step of the staircase. Step your right leg back 3 to 4 feet, bending your left knee so the thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee joint stays behind the left toes. Step back up and tap the right toe on the step or lift the right knee for a balance challenge before going into a second rep. Do the desired number with the right leg, then switch.
This is a powerful plyometric, or jumping, move that builds quadricep and glute strength. For a real challenge, ascend the entire staircase using this move.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand at the bottom of the stairs, your feet a little wider than hip-distance apart. Bend your knees and send your hips back into a partial squat. Spring up and land on the first step, knees and hips slightly bent. Repeat for the desired number of reps.