Ask the Experts: How Can I Use Stairs to Work Out?

STACK describes ways that performance athletes can use stairs to create a solid workout that will improve their strength and endurance.

Running stairs

Q: How can I sue stairs to work out?

A: Simply walking up stairs is a good workout in its own right. Your legs will burn and your heart will pound. Many people choose to walk the stairs instead of using an elevator as an easy way to burn extra calories.

However, high-performance athletes need something more difficult than walking up stairs. They need to challenge their bodies like they do with other exercises in their training programs.

Here are two ways you can incorporate stair exercises into your training to build strength, speed and endurance.

Strength Exercises

Dumbbell Stair Climb

Benefits: Strengthens your core like a Farmer's Walk, but also works your legs.

How To: Stand at the bottom of the stairs holding dumbbells at your side. Walk up the stairs, keeping your core tight and chest up. Turn around and walk down to complete the set.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x10-15 stairs

Stair Lunges

Benefits: Increases the difficulty of a standard lunge by adding a vertical component.

How To: Stand at the bottom of the stairs. Step onto the second stair with your right foot and lower into a lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the ground. Drive up through your right leg and bring your left foot to the second step. Continue this pattern for the remainder of the set.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x10 each leg

Incline Push-Ups

Benefits: Decreases the difficulty of a Push-Up, so you can perform more reps and increase muscular endurance.

How To: Place your hands on a stair and position them slightly wider than your shoulders. Assume a push-up position with your body in a straight line. Perform a Push-Up.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x10-15

Tip: Place your hands on the first, second or third stair. The higher up you place your hands, the easier it will be.

Decline Push-Ups

Benefits: Places more weight on your hands, increasing the difficulty of a Push-Up, and builds your upper chest and shoulders.

How To: Position your feet on a stair. Assume a push-up position with your hands on the floor and your body in a straight line. Perform a Push-Up.

Sets/Reps: 3-4x10-15

Tip: Place your feet on the first, second or third stair. The higher your feet, the harder it will be and the more it will work your shoulders.

Cal Softball Stair Workout

Stair conditioning workouts look pretty simple—you run up and down the stairs. However, the University of California softball team has a plan that improves speed, footwork and conditioning. Here's how to do it.

Instructions: Walk back down the stairs after each set.


  • One step each stair – 2x40 stairs
  • One step every other stair – 2x40 stairs


  • Two steps each stair – 2x14 stairs leading with each foot
  • Four steps each stair – 2x8 stairs lead with each foot

Lateral Resistance

  • Carioca – 2x40 stairs each direction
  • Shuffle – 2x12 stairs each direction


  • Double leg, one-stair hop – 2x10 stairs
  • Double leg, two-stair hop – 2x20 stairs
  • Double leg, three-stair hop – 1x40 stairs
  • Double leg, four-stair hip – 1x40 stairs


  • Sprint – 2-5x40 stairs

Note: If you don't have access to a stadium or a full set of stairs, simply add more sets so you can climb the same number of total stairs.

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