Here are some ways to incorporate stairs into your exercise routine for fat-burning and strength-building results.
Have you ever thought about utilizing stairs for your workouts? If not, you should because walking and/or running up stairs has numerous benefits, including fat-burning, cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and improved coordination.
Remember, exercise should be fun, so try and set yourself a challenge to keep motivated. See how many stairs or reps you can complete in a set amount of time to add an extra element of challenge, and try to beat your record each week. You could also set a ‘no elevator rule’ at the office to encourage others to take the stairs. Whatever you need to do in order to stay motivated and have fun is worthwhile, because every step counts when it comes to getting fit and shedding fat.
How to Get the Best Stair Climbing Results
Beginner Level: Moving into Your Fat-burning Zone
When you’re doing steady, prolonged aerobic exercise, your body turns fat into fuel. Keeping your exercise intensity at a moderate level requires discipline (especially for me, as I always want to sprint up). Using a heart rate monitor is helpful, or simply rate your intensity level on a scale of 1-10 and try to stay in your 6-8 range.
A basic walk up/walk down is a perfect introduction to stair training. Stepping for 20-30 minutes is ideal, but there’s no reason not to squeeze in stair training, even if you only have 10 minutes. (You know I always say that any exercise is better than no exercise!)
Adjust your walking speed to keep your heart rate in the target zone, and increase/decrease your speed to make sure you continue to push yourself and keep burning fat.
Intermediate Level: Building Your Strength
I have talked before about the benefits of running up hill, and running up stairs is very similar in that it uses the posterior chain muscles (butt, hamstrings and calves). The gradient forces your body to work harder, compared to exercising on a flat surface. This increased workload burns extra calories, and the high-impact nature of running up steps promotes muscle building.
Sprint to the top of the stairs and slowly walk back down. Force yourself to take your time going down and concentrate on your movements. Doing timed intervals is a great way to enjoy sprint stair training. Try completing as many flights as you can in three minutes, followed by a 90 second rest. Do this for 5-8 rounds for a great strength training session.
Advanced Level: Push Your Power and Coordination
This style of stair training is considered advanced and is not recommended at the beginner or intermediate levels. To effectively train to improve power, try bounding up the stairs while skipping steps. This advanced approach is an effective power-builder and used a lot in athletic training. You can perform this as single leg hops or double leg jumps; it requires balance, concentration and co-ordination.
Try high-performance hops or jumps up 10 steps and then return to your starting point, aiming for a maximum of 10 total sets.
Because of the high impact nature of this type of exercise, I recommend working for a maximum of 20 minutes per session. If you want to challenge your upper body for the remaining workout time, do push-ups.
By Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness