Strengthening Leg Muscles for Climbing Stairs

A stair-climbing training regime is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, but without strong legs, you may find this type of training too intense. Stair climbing primarily targets the muscles of the lower body -- the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, hip flexors and calves. Exercises to strengthen each of these stair-climbing muscles can be performed at home with low-cost training aides and, in some cases, no aides.

Climbing stairs as a workout regime requires strong legs. (Image: fatchoi/iStock/Getty Images)


The quadriceps are located on the top of your thigh. One exercise that helps to strengthen these muscles and requires no equipment is the wall squat. Stand with your back flat against a wall with your feet hip-width apart. Slowly walk your feet forward and slide down the wall until your knees are bent 90 degrees and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds, relax for 30 seconds and repeat two more times to complete the session. To decrease the intensity level, reduce the angle in your knees to 45 degrees.


The hamstring curl exercise helps to strengthen the group of muscles located at the back of your thigh, the hamstrings. For this exercise you will need an exercise ball and mat. Sit on the mat and position the exercise ball under your legs so that your ankles are resting on the top of the ball. Lie back until your back is flat on the mat. Stretch your arms out to your sides at a 45-degree angle for support. Lift your hips off the floor and straighten your body from your feet to your shoulders. This is the starting position. Slowly roll the ball toward your body with your legs. Stop when the bottoms of your heels are flat on the ball. Reverse the roll and return to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Gluteal Muscles

The gluteal muscles, or glutes, are your buttock or butt muscles. One exercise to strengthen your glutes is the glute kickback, also referred to as the quadruped bent-knee hip extension by the American Council on Exercise . Start by kneeling on a mat, bend at your waist and place your hands on the mat directly below your shoulders. Position your knees below your hips and keep your head up. With your right leg bent in a 90-degree angle, lift your leg until your thigh is parallel to the floor and your calf muscle is perpendicular to the floor. Your foot should be above the level of your head. Hold the position two seconds and then return your leg to the floor. Repeat 10 times and switch legs. Concentrate on keeping your glutes contracted throughout the exercise.

Hip Flexors

With a chair and a resistance band, you can strengthen your hip flexor muscles with the seated flexion exercise. Sit upright in a sturdy, armless chair, bend your knees 90 degrees and place your feet flat on the floor. The lower part of your thighs should be beyond the front edge of the chair. Place the middle of a resistance band over the top of your left leg so that it is two inches from the front of your knee. Place the ends of the band under your right foot. While holding the sides of the chair for support, keep your left leg bent and slowly lift your knee toward your torso as high as possible. Lower your leg and repeat 10 times. Switch the band to your right leg and repeat.

Calf Muscles

The calf raise exercise will target your calf muscles. To perform this exercise, stand with our feet together, bend one knee and balance on the other foot. Rise up on your ball of your supporting foot, hold and then slowly release. Repeat 10 times and switch legs. Face a wall and use the wall for support if you need help with balance. For a harder variation with more resistance, use a barbell with this exercise. According to the American Council on Exercise, place the barbell behind your head along the top of your shoulders at the base of your neck. Raise both heels off the ground, balance on the balls of your feet and lower the heels down. Repeat five to 10 times.

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