Exercising on your stairs

Need to vary your home workouts? How about some cardio, strength training and even stretching? Here's a selection of simple exercises that you can do on the stairs. It doesn't matter if you're at home, at a nearby stadium, on the stairs to your flat or at your neighbour's ;).

Exercising on your stairs

It can sometimes be hard to find the time to squeeze in a bit of uninterrupted exercise. And we often feel like we can't train effectively at home due not having enough space or the right equipment. I'm going to prove the opposite. The only things you'll need are a good pair of trainers and a set of stairs, so grab those grey jogging bottoms and bright red trainers (just like a pro boxer) and off we go!

Climbing the stairs counts as exercise

There's no need to be a top athlete to enjoy the benefits of a stair workout. Stairs give you an all-round workout. You can use them to do a wide range of exercises, from climbing and descending the stairs in different ways, to mixing up the cadence, range of motion and energy to suit your goals.

Which muscles are worked when you climb the stairs?

When you climb the stairs, the main muscles used are in the legs. The front of your thighs - the quadriceps - and your glutes are engaged to propel you from one step to the next. Your calves - or triceps surae - are also activated, particularly if you climb the stairs on tiptoe or by jumping.
But the muscles that you use when climbing are different to those you use when descending. Coming down the stairs, the backs of your thighs - your hamstrings - act as brakes to stop you hurtling down the stairs and landing on your bum.

As well as strengthening your lower-body muscles, stair workouts help boost your cardio fitness and your breathing.

Exercising on your stairs

Your stairs are your gym

It's hard to talk without getting out of breath when climbing the stairs. Like when doing step class or using a stepper, stair climbing tones your leg muscles while giving your heart and lungs a workout! "" ""Ready to try some exercises?

How to exercise on the stairs

EASY EXERCISES TO DO ON THE STAIRS

Exercising on your stairs

TRAINING YOUR CARDIO ON THE STAIRS

Exercises for working up a sweat on the stairs. Make sure the area around you is safe, and pay attention with every step ;).

Depending on your physical abilities, you might not be able to do all of these exercises. For people with knee or balance problems, speak to a physio for more suitable exercises.

Exercising on your stairs

Up and down

It's like when you go downstairs because you've forgotten your phone charger, only to discover it's upstairs after all, but then it's not the right cable so you go back down again, but then your phone's still upstairs. And so on! It sometimes feels like you spend all day going up and down the stairs, but this time it'll be deliberate. It's simple yet effective!

You can vary the speed you climb, change the range by skipping a step, or mix up the form of the exercise by hopping (if you feel able to).

Stepping

Like with step classes, this involves stepping on and off the same step. Make sure you put your entire foot on the step if possible as this will prevent calf strain. You can add in arm movements to get your heart pumping a bit more, plus you'll look better ;).

Exercising on your stairs

Stairs for strength training

Take advantage of your stairs to train all of your arm and leg muscles by simply changing which way you face and varying the range of motion. Don't worry, we're not talking about going upstairs on your hands.

Exercising on your stairs

Sideways squats

Stand upright, sideways-on to your stairs. Place one foot on the step above the other foot. Do a little squat each time you climb a step. Recover by walking back downstairs normally, before repeating on the other side. Remember to push your bum backwards and squeeze your abs. This exercise strengthens your bum and thigh muscles. Do 3 to 5 sets of 10 squats on each side.

Knee repeaters

Facing your stairs, place your right foot on the second or third step (the higher you lift your leg, the harder it will be). Next, bring your left knee alongside your right knee but without putting your foot down. You'll feel the front of the right thigh and the right glute working. Do the same thing on the other side. Do 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 15 reps, with 15 seconds of recovery between sets.

Exercising on your stairs

How to build bum muscle by climbing the stairs

Exercising on your stairs

Face-on squats

The gold standard for glute exercises is the squat. Do this exercise by slowly climbing the stairs one foot at a time, or by jumping. You can also turn your knees and toes further out to engage your glutes even more.

How to build upper-body muscle on the stairs

The stairs are just as good at working your upper body as they are your lower body.

Stair press-ups

Facing your stairs, with your feet on the floor, place both hands on one step at around chest height. Bend your arms outwards, then straighten them. Make sure you engage your abs so you don't arch your back. Inhale on the way down, and exhale on the way up. Do 3 to 5 sets of 10 reps with 15 seconds of recovery between each set.

Exercising on your stairs
Exercising on your stairs

Stair dips

Sit down on a step. Your legs should be bent and resting on the ground. Push through your hands to lift your bum forwards off the step. Bend your elbows, pushing them backwards and keeping them parallel, then straighten again. Do 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps of this move with 15 seconds of recovery between each set.

Stretching on the stairs

You can use the stairs to help with certain stretches. Take advantage of the height and the space that the stairs give you, as well as the stability of the handrail, for more balance.

hamstring stretch

Stand facing your stairs. Put one heel on the first or second step and pull your toes towards you. Choose the height of the step based on your flexibility - it shouldn't hurt. Make sure both legs stay straight. Lengthen your lower back and slowly bring your shoulders towards your thigh, with your arms reaching towards your toes. Feel the stretch in your hamstring (the back of your thigh). Hold for at least 30 seconds, then change leg.

Exercising on your stairs
Exercising on your stairs

Adductor stretch

Stand side-on to the stairs. Place your foot on the first or second step, depending on your flexibility and how you feel. Make sure both legs stay straight. You'll feel the stretch in your adductors (your inner thigh). Hold for at least 30 seconds, then change leg.

calf stretch

Facing your stairs, stand on the first step. Let your heel hang off the step. You'll feel the stretch in your calf. Do one leg at a time for a more effective stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then change leg.

Exercising on your stairs

Try out a full workout on the stairs

Stick on whatever music gets you the most pumped, and crank up the volume. Grab your trainers and have some water and a towel to hand. And you're ready for an all-round workout composed of easy exercises you can do on the stairs:

WARM-UP: 6 minutes 30

EXERCISE 1: stepping for 1 minute
Exercise 2: walking up and down the stairs for 2 minutes
Exercise 3: stepping, lifting your arms to the ceiling with each step up for 1 minute
Exercise 4: going up and down the stairs for 2 minutes, accelerating
30 seconds of recovery

PART 1: 5 minutes 30

Exercise 5: side-on squats for 1 minute (right) and 1 minute (left)
Exercise 6: press-ups for 1 minute
Exercise 7: going up and down the stairs for 2 minutes, jumping
30 seconds of recovery

PART 2: 4 minutes 30

EXERCISE 8: face-on squats for 1 minute
Exercise 9: dips for 1 minute
Exercise 10: going up and down stairs, skipping a step, for 2 minutes
30 seconds of recovery

PART 3: 5 minutes 30

EXERCISE 11: knee repeaters for 1 minute (right) and 1 minute (left)
Exercise 12: face-on squats for 1 minute
Exercise 13: going up and down the stairs for 2 minutes, jumping
30 seconds of recovery

PART 4: 5 minutes 30

EXERCISE 14: press-ups for 1 minute
Exercise 15: side-on squats for 1 minute (right) and 1 minute (left)
Exercise 16: going up and down the stairs for 2 minutes, jumping
30 seconds of recovery

PART 5: 4 minutes

EXERCISE 17: dips for 1 minute
Exercise 18: face-on squats with your knees and toes pointing outwards for 1 minute.
EXERCISE 19: going up and down stairs, skipping a step, for 2 minutes.

COOLDOWN: 5 minutes

Recovery for 3 minutes
Exercise 20: calf stretch for 30 seconds on each side
Exercise 21: hamstring stretch for 30 seconds on each side.
EXERCISE 22: adductor stretch for 30 seconds on each side.

WELL DONE!

For more stretches

Complement these stretches the morning after your stair workout. Spend a quarter of an hour doing a full stretching session on a mat. Follow the routine in our stretching video.

This is a basic programme. Feel free to vary the exercises, their duration, and the length of the recovery depending on your fitness levels and how you feel. You can also use the stairs as an add-on to a classic strength workout.

Exercising on your stairs

the free Decathlon coach app

Need inspiration for how to train at home? Find workouts designed by fitness professionals and try them at home.

I hope these tips have inspired you and made you want to try out home workouts! Keep fit ;).

Exercising on your stairs

Céciliane 

Advice writer

A personal trainer who loves artistic activities and sports events.