Step Up to the Challenge of Running Stairs

by Jackie on June 12, 2015

Running stairs is much like other forms of running; the more you do it, the faster you are going to become. And just like any exercise, it requires good form and variances to train different muscle groups. You are moving against gravity, and stair running is going to be more intense than running on a flat surface.

Running StairsRunning stairs will strengthen your muscles, in particular those in your thighs and butt. Your glutes, hips, quads, and ankle joints will also benefit. Other muscles that will be engaged are the thick group stretching down your neck, and the ones that support and protect your spine and lower back. Strengthening and developing these muscles will give you aesthetic benefits and help you maintain core stability.

This exercise burns around 12-20 calories per minute, depending on the intensity. Whether you want to run up stairs faster or you are using stair-training to improve your ground level speed for running, follow the stairs to reach your fitness goals.

Running stairs is a moderate to high-intensity cardio activity that burns calories quickly for energy. As your heart rate increases, your muscles work harder, and you will need more oxygen as you climb and descend. For best results, run stairs in high-intensity, short-duration intervals. This will boost your metabolism, meaning you’ll burn more calories, reducing excess weight.

As always, consult your doctor before embarking on any strenuous physical activity. Running stairs can be hard on your joints, so make sure to use supportive footwear. It is also advised to have a friend to go with you to help you should any injury occur.

Try this workout to gain the full advantage of running stairs:

  1. The best part about running stairs is that they are almost everywhere! Check nearby high schools, colleges or even high-rise buildings that takes you between 6-10 seconds to run up.
  2. Warm-up. This can be accomplished by marching in place or jumping jacks. Walk up and down the stairs to get used to the feel, as it will help your rhythm.
  3. Begin with 6-10 sets (depending on height of staircase) of forward alternating sprints. For example: step 1-left, step 2-right, step 3-left, step 4-right, etc.
  4. Next, 6-10 sets (depending on height of staircase) of double forward alternating sprints. For example: step 1-left, step 3-right, step 5-left, step 7-right, etc.
  5. Follow this with another 6-10 sets (depending on height of staircase) of crossover running- (3-5 sets leading with the left and vice versa)
  6. End with 3-6 sets (depending on height of staircase) of stair hops. For example: hop with both feet on each stair.

Some important things to remember when you perform this exercise:

  • Do not sprint down the stairs. Instead, briskly walk down them. It is also not safe to sprint down stairs as falls can occur.
  • Maintain a 1:3 work-to-rest ratio. For example, if it takes you 10 seconds to run up, you would rest for 30 seconds before performing your next set. After the walk down, you may still have a few seconds before hitting your next sprint.
  • To challenge yourself and to progress, you should attempt to run faster for each workout. Remember, to work slower if you are a beginner as it will help improve your mechanics and rhythm. See you at the top!


Health Contributor at Creative Bioscience
I'm a fitness nut. I know what you're thinking, one of these people who has never been fat a day in her life, and can eat whatever she wants. The truth is I struggled with my weight growing up and lived in a household where everything seemed to be fried. Once I got away from home I realized I had the choice to eat and exercise how I wanted. I've gained a lot of insight into working as a personal trainer, and feel I can relate to others that were in my situation. I think if I can do it then you can to, and if you want to start kicking butt then hop on board and lets get started.

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