It has been well documented that stair running is an excellent addition to any athlete’s repertoire of workouts. A recent Runner’s World article touted the benefits of running stairs, saying “ The plyometric motion strengthens the same muscles as lunges and squats, and taxes your lungs and heart as you power to the top.” In addition, the angle of elevation of a set of stairs is typically much steeper than any hill you will find to run up. This causes your heart rate and breathing rate to increase rapidly, which overtime will improve your VO2 max (or the amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise). This all helps lead to greater aerobic capacity, which leads to improved running.
An example of an excellent total body stair workout is below. All you need is a flight of stairs that is long enough to take you 20-30 seconds to run up (stadiums, amphitheaters, and parking garages are all good places to look).
- Run up the flight of stairs at a moderately intense pace for 20-30 seconds.
- Jog back down the stairs to recover.
- At the bottom perform 10 pushups, 10 situps, and 10 air squats.
- Repeat this cycle for 30 minutes.
- You can alternate between taking the stairs one at a time or two at a time going up. One at a time focuses on agility, rate of foot turnover, and strengthening the calf muscles. Taking stairs two at a time focuses on power, plyometrics, and glute/quadricep strength.
- Choose different exercises to perform at the bottom of each set. Other examples are v-ups, tricep dips, and lunges.
- To increase difficulty of this workout: try a longer set of stairs that requires more time to run up, increase the number of reps of the exercises at the bottom, or hop up the stairs instead of running.
- Don’t forget a proper warmup. Running stairs is high intensity, a 10 minute dynamic warmup similar to your pre-run warmup is recommended.
- Stair running requires good footing. Running shoes are recommended and take care if the stair surface is wet (for example, after a rain).
- As always, a proper cool down is important as well. As with any new activity, post workout soreness is to be expected. A proper cool down and stretch of the main muscle groups used in stair running (calves, quads, and glutes) can help minimize soreness.