This 30-Minute Workout Turns Your Stairs Into a Fat-Burning Machine

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All you need for a good cardio and strength workout is your staircase.
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Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of cardio equipment for your living room, take a look around. If you have a set of stairs in your house, you already have everything you need to get in shape.

Not only are stairs ready-made for a killer cardio workout, but individual steps can be used for strength moves like lunges and step-ups for your lower body and push-ups and dips for your upper body.

And you don't have to spend hours doing it. Even a few short bouts of climbing stairs throughout your day can improve your heart health, according to a January 2019 study from Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Plus, you can burn close to 300 calories in 30 minutes, according to the American Council on Exercise (for a 155-pound person). That's works out to 235 calories for a 130-pound person and 365 calories for a 200-pound individual.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

"Given how exhausting running a stairwell is, a blended circuit works best," says Fabio Comana, certified personal trainer and a faculty instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Try this total-body strength and cardio workout that mixes stair running and walking with strength exercises. All you'll need is medium-resistance exercise tubing (a resistance band will work) and a set of stairs.

Warm-Up

  • Walk up and down the stairs for 3 to 5 minutes at an effort level between 3 and 4.

Strength-and-Cardio Stair Workout

Do: each of the following exercises in a circuit (performing one immediately after another), taking minimal to no rest between each set. After the entire circuit has been completed, recover for one minute before repeating. Do the entire circuit three times total.

Tip

Use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to gauge your effort: Imagine a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being no effort at all and 10 being the hardest you can possible work.

Move 1: Stairway Sprints

  • Sprint up the stairs (8 to 9 RPE) and walk down.
  • Repeat this pattern until 30 seconds is up.

Move 2: Push-Ups

  1. Stand at the base of the stairs and place your hands on the third step up (step should be at chest level) in a plank.
  2. Keep your back straight as you bend your elbows to lower yourself toward the stairs.
  3. Then push back up.

Reps: 12 to 15

Move 3: Standing Rows

  1. Anchor the resistance band by running it behind or around the stairway banister.
  2. Grasp the handles in each hand and step back far enough to feel resistance on the tubing.
  3. Pull the handles toward you in a row as you squeeze your shoulder blades down and together.
  4. Pause and return to starting position.

Reps: 12 to 15

Move 4: Biceps Curls

  1. Stand in the center of the resistance band, holding one handle in each hand.
  2. Bend your elbows (keeping them in contact with your body) as you bring the handles up toward your shoulders.
  3. Slowly return to starting position.

Reps: 12 to 15

Move 5: Triceps Dips

  1. Sit on the second step and place your hands on the step behind you, palms facing away from you.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the landing, knees at a 45-degree angle, and lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the step.
  3. Push back up, pressing your shoulders down away from your ears during the entire movement.

Reps: 12 to 15

Move 6: Cardio Interval

  • Walk up and down the stairs for 3 minutes at a 6 to 7 RPE.

Move 7: Body-Weight Squats With Overhead Reach

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat, driving your elbows back behind your torso as you lower.
  3. Press back up to standing as you extend your arms overhead.

Reps: repeat for 60 seconds

Move 8: Body-Weight Squats With Alternating Arm Reach

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a squat, driving your elbows back behind your torso as you lower.
  3. Press back up to standing as you reach one arm at a time. Alternate arms with every rep.

Reps: repeat for 60 seconds

Move 9: Alternating Lunges

  1. Stand up tall, then step your right foot forward on top of the first step and lower into a lunge, allowing your left knee to bend at a right angle behind you.
  2. As you lower, reach with both arms up over your right shoulder.
  3. Press through your right heel and use your glutes to return to standing.
  4. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot and raising both arms over your left shoulder.

Reps: repeat for 60 seconds

Cooldown

  • Walk up and down stairs at a 3 to 4 RPE.

3 More Quick Cardio Workouts

For a quick cardio routine when you're short on time, Mark Merchant, CSCS, recommends the following deceptively tough workouts:

10-Minute Basic Workout

  • Warm up by climbing up and down the staircase for 5 minutes at a moderate pace.
  • Pick up the pace, moving faster and faster for the remaining 5 minutes.

20-Minute Advanced Cardio Workout:

  1. Walk up and down one flight of stairs.
  2. Run up and run down one flight.
  3. Jump up (two feet at a time) one flight.
  4. Carry weight (as heavy as you can manage) up and down one flight.
  5. Repeat this sequence for 20 minutes.

30-Minute Steady-State Cardio

  • Walk up and down however many floors you can go up and down for 30 minutes. "Do this and you can do anything," says Merchant.
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