Running stairs was a regular part of cheer practice for me in high school. That was the start of my deep and abiding love for it. Since then I incorporate stairs into my running whenever I can. If there’s a staircase along my route, you can rest assured I’ll run it before heading home.
But I also get bored with my workouts quite easily (I complaint I hear from others, so I know I’m not the only one). That’s how I came up with this circuit of exercises. A) I work with what I got (no gym) and B) I need something new and different.
It should be noted that I did these exercises on a staircase with planks for steps (as opposed to solid concrete stairs), so there was space in between the steps. But these moves can be modified for any type of staircase.
Running: I usually warm up with a few sets of stairs. Depending on the height of the staircase, I’ll do two to three sets of two to five rounds. I like timing myself on a few of the sets so that I can chart my progress over time.
Sit-Ups: These are brutal on my staircase at home. I sit halfway down the flight and tuck my feet into a upper step and allow myself to hang down the remaining steps, so I’m inverted. Then I do regular sit-ups, lifting my chest so it’s perpendicular to the step, then back down below parallel to the step below.
Push-Ups: Last September I discovered I have a weak right shoulder, so in the interest of building strength and stability in that joint, I prefer doing inclined push-ups. I position my hands on the second or third step from the bottom, lower my chest down to the step, and raise back up. If you’re more advanced than I am, try them with your feet elevated above your hands.
Triceps Dips: I’m a firm believer in balanced training. If I work one muscle group, I have to hit their antagonist, too. So when I do push-ups, I do triceps dips as well. I sit on the bottom step, facing away from the staircase, then raise myself onto my feet and my hands on the step above where I’m sitting.
Calf Raises: Usually I don’t do such a muscle-specific move, but this one usually works all the way up through my glutes, so I’m okay with it. I’ll stand on the edge of the step with just the ball of my foot and toes anchored there. Starting with two-leg calve raises, I usually get through three sets of 20 followed by two sets of 10 on each leg, holding on to the railing for support.
Step-Ups: I love this move, because it’s so functional. I use my glutes and quads in similar motions as this all the time, so it’s important to keep them strong. I start standing at the bottom of the stairs then step up to the second or third step on my right leg. I’ll pause there for a second before lowering back down to start and repeating on the left leg.
Back Extensions: Before doing this workout, I had been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to strengthen my whole backside without gym equipment. Then I thought of this. I lie on my stomach with my feet anchored under the bottom step then raise my upper body off the ground as high as I can before lowering back to start.
For all these exercises, I like doing three sets of 10-15 reps. But don’t let that stop you from pushing yourself farther. Just be careful not to push too hard. Soreness can be a beautiful thing, but pain inability to move is a serious red flag.