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stairwell workout: woman triceps dips stairs home

Use This Stairwell Workout For A Full-Body Blast At Home

Hitting the gym or heading to the park are excellent ways to get (and stay) fit—but life happens and sometimes the weather keeps you cooped up indoors, or an international pandemic brings your gym routine to an abrupt halt (and keeps it there).

That said, being a homebody doesn’t mean you have to ditch your plans to break a sweat. And, if you happen to have a staircase at home, doing so is actually a whole lot easier than you may think. In fact, a stairwell can serve as a cardiovascular and strength-training tool, making it a perfect fitness solution. Here’s what you need to know about why climbing those stairs is so beneficial—and how to mix up your exercise routine in your house or apartment building with a full-body stairwell workout.

The Health Benefits of Climbing Stairs

“Stair climbing is such a great addition to your exercise program because the move builds strength, improves balance, and can also be cardio,” says Laura Flynn Endres, C.P.T., owner of online team training game Get Fit Done. “And being able to climb stairs has obvious practical relevance to everyday needs.” For instance, if you work on the fifth floor of your office building and the elevator is unreliable, you’ll be able to hike those five flights of stairs without huffing and puffing if you practice on your stairs at home. 

Read More: 6 Exercises That Double As Cardio And Strength Training

Daily living often requires that we walk up and down inclines, take the stairs when out shopping, and step up onto and down off of curbs. Life requires the navigation of changing terrain, and stair-climbing is a clear way to practice for everyday life. 

Not to mention, in addition to the cardio benefits of walking up an incline, it’s also quite the workout for the major muscle groups of your lower body. 

The health benefits don’t end there, either. One 2020 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that, in overweight or obese individuals, brief periods of stairclimbing throughout a nine-hour sedentary workday were associated with improvements in insulin levels after eating. Likewise, a 2021 International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study found that women who participated in home-based stair-climbing enjoyed improvements in aerobic fitness, body composition, cholesterol levels, and fasting blood glucose levels. 

Read More: There Are Two Types Of Cardio: Here’s Why They Both Matter

So, whether you stair-climb at home, at the gym, or out in ‘real life’, the time and effort you put in can have lasting impacts on your health and fitness. 

The Ultimate Stairwell Workout

“I train all of my clients in their homes, and we use steps and staircases for quite a few exercises,” Endres says. So for anyone thinking, “I don’t want to just walk up and down the stairs for 30 minutes,” you’re in luck—you don’t have to! The following workout, straight from Endres, keeps boredom at bay by including a wide range of cardio and strength-focused moves for your upper and lower body. 

Workout format: Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise, resting as needed between exercises. Once you’ve completed all of the moves, repeat the full circuit two to four more times for a total of three to five rounds. The workout should take just 15 to 25 minutes total—but since you’ll be performing cardio and strength moves, you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.

Exercise 1: Step-ups

Step-ups are a good way to warm up for more vigorous stair-climbing. This exercise targets all of the major muscle groups of your lower body and can be made more challenging by stepping up onto the second or third step (rather than the lowest one). 

Instructions:

  1. Start standing at the bottom of a staircase, facing the stairs.
  2. Place your right foot up onto the bottom step. 
  3. Press down through your right heel to step up onto the step and place your left foot next to your right. 
  4. Then, lower down your left foot with control and return to the starting position.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions on the right side, then repeat on the left.

Exercise 2: Incline pushups

Incline pushups are an excellent way to target your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core. Plus, if you struggle to perform pushups on the floor, incline pushups work all the same muscle groups but they require you to support less of your body weight, making them more accessible. 

Instructions:

  1. Start standing at the bottom of a staircase, facing the stairs.
  2. Lean forward to place your hands on the edge of the fourth or fifth step (or whichever allows you to enter into an inclined plank position).
  3. Bracing your core, inhale and bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the step.
  4. Exhale and press back up into the starting position.

Exercise 3: Offset squats

Offset squats work all the same muscles as a regular squat—think glutes, quads, hamstrings, core, and even the calves—but target each leg individually. If one of your legs tends to be stronger than the other (which is the case for most people), offset squats and other exercises that target each side individually can help minimize the imbalance, which could otherwise contribute to aches, pains, and injuries. 

Instructions:

  1. Start standing at the bottom of a staircase, facing sideways so that your right foot is parallel to the edges of the steps.
  2. Step your right foot up onto the bottom step, keeping the left on the floor.
  3. Brace your core, then sit back and down into a squat.
  4. Push through your feet to return to standing.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions on the right side, then repeat on the left.

Exercise 4: Triceps dips

To hit the muscles that run along the backs of your upper arms (the triceps), use your stairwell to perform triceps dips. 

Instructions:

  1. Start sitting on the second step of a staircase with your hands planted just outside your hips (fingers facing forward) and your feet planted on the ground.
  2. Scoot forward until you’re supporting your weight only on your hands. 
  3. Bend your elbows straight back to lower your torso and hips closer to the floor.
  4. When elbows form 90-degree angles, press yourself back to the starting position.

Exercise 5: Stair climb or run

After completing a cycle of strength training moves, it’s time for your bout of cardio. You set the pace here; you can walk slowly or at a more brisk clip, or, if you’re so inclined, you can take off at a run. Simply set a timer for one minute, then climb or run to the top, turn around, and come back down, Endres suggests. Of course, slow your pace on your descent to prevent possible slips or falls. Perform as many climbs as you can in the course of the minute.

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