Stairs workouts are among the quickest, most accessible, and straightforward ways to get in shape, fast. No, you don't need a gym's stair climber to do them. Find some stairs, run, jump, and step up them, come down, and repeat — that's all it takes to burn a ton of calories, and, if you keep it up, lose weight. It's an effective workout for a number of reasons: For one, it's a heart rate exercise that's equivalent to a sprint-style running session. Second, stair work adds up. Research has shown that taking just 200 steps a day, five days a week for 8 weeks, can improve cardio fitness by almost 20 percent. An added bonus: it's a leg day workout that puts a minimal impact on your joints.
The biggest downside to stair workouts is that they get, well, boring. The workout below aims to solve this. It features 10 moves to shake it up and is intended to be a 20-minute sweat session. The faster you do each sequence, the higher your heart rate and the more calories you will burn. But it's more important to practice good form than it is to be fast: Keeping your back straight, shoulders back, and knees over toes as you climb will build strength in the right muscles so you'll be stronger the next time you tackle a stairs routine.
1. Step ups
Stand at the base of the staircase. Raise your right leg and place your right foot one the second step (skipping the first step). Push off the floor with your left foot and shift your weight onto your right as you step up. Swing your left leg in front of you, bending your left knee, while swinging your right arm forward for counter balance. Step back down to start position. Perform 10 step-ups with your right leg, then switch sides. Do 3 sets total.
(Photo by Bruno Nascimento)
2. Mini box jumps
Stand at the base of the staircase. Bend your knees and swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as spring off the ground and propel yourself onto the second step. Land on both feet. Jump back down using both feet. Do 10 jumps x 2 sets.
3. Fast feet
Starting at the base of the staircase, sprint to the top as fast as you can, moving your feet rapidly like a football drill. Do the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs. That means if you only have a single flight to work with, you'll sprint to the top, sprint back down, and repeat 5 times.
4. Triceps dips
Sit on the second step, knees bent, keeping feet on the floor below the stairs. Place hands at either side of your hips on the edge of the second step, palms facing forward. (Note: If you are tall, sit on the third step instead.) Slide your hips forward until your butt is off the step, using your arms to support your weight. Bend and straighten your arms, feeling the burn in your triceps. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
5. Incline lunges
Stand at the base of the staircase. Work your way to the top taking three steps at a time. Pause in the lunge position between each step, allowing maximum load on your front quad with every step. Do the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs, jogging back down to the start and repeating if you only have one flight to work with.
(Photo by Gesina Kunkel)
6. Side jogger
Stand perpendicular to the staircase, right hip closest to the stairs. Bend right knee and step up onto the first step, bringing your left leg with you. Quickly step up onto the second step. Work your way to the top using your right side to propel you. At the top of the flight, work your way back down using your right side to lead you again. At the bottom, reverse and jog sideways up the stairs using your left side to lead the way. Jog back down left-side first. That's one set. Repeat 3 times.
7. Incline clapping push-ups
Stand at the base of the staircase. Place hands on the third step, arms straight. Keeping your back straight and in line with your legs, bend elbows and lower chest to the stairs. Hold for a second, then explosively push off the stairs and clap your hands together before landing in the extended push up position. Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
8. Backwards jog
Stand with your back to the base of the staircase. Using caution, walk up the stairs backward, engaging your glutes and hamstrings with every step. Note: This moves requires a bit of balance and coordination (more than you might think!). Use the side wall for support with one hand if needed. For those more advanced, try this exercise at a slow-jog pace. Complete the equivalent of 5 flights of stairs.
(Photo by Gesina Kunkel)
9. Single-leg jumps
Stand at the base of the staircase. Shift weight onto your right leg, lifting left foot off the floor. Bend right knee, swing arms behind you, then swing them forward as you push off the floor and jump onto the first step with the right leg. Hop back down, keeping left foot off the floor. Complete 10 jumps on right side, then switch legs. (Note: Use side wall for balance as needed.) Do 2 sets total.
10. Decline push-ups
Squat facing away from the stairs and the base of the staircase. Place your hands on the floor in front of you and shift your weight forward so your arms arm supporting your body. Keeping hands on the floor, walk your feet backwards up the stairs behind you until they are on a step that allows you to create a straight line from your extended arms to your toes (probably the third step). Keeping your back and legs straight, bend your elbows and do a push up. Note: Decline push ups are hard and it's normal that you can't go as deep as you would on a flat surface.) Do 10 reps, 2 sets.
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