If you’re a no-equipment-workout kind of guy or gal, you know that after a while, plain ol’ bodyweight moves can get a little dull.
Ready to spice it up? Look no further than a set of stairs.
Whether you have a flight of stairs in your home or you live near some park or stadium steps, this foolproof (and free) stair workout will challenge your whole body, plus give you a good dose of cardio.
We’ve detailed eight you can do using stairs and outlined a 30-minute routine using just the stairs and your bodyweight. Are you ready to step up?
Tip: Wear sneakers with a good traction and grip, especially if you’re using wood or marble stairs, to avoid slipping or falling.
- Warmup (3 minutes). Walk the stairs, taking them one at a time. Climb at a leisurely pace. “Walking” stairs is a great warmup for a stair workout, as you’ll be waking up all of those leg muscles — like your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves — as well as your hips and core.
- Run stairs for 1 minute. Pick up the pace here, running up the stairs, to continue loosening up your legs and getting your heart pumping.
- Strength and cardio. Complete three 30-second sets of each of the moves listed below with 30 seconds to 1 minute of rest in between. Complete as many reps as you can in those 30 seconds.
Taking the stairs two at a time (every other stair) requires a higher and deeper step up than one at a time. And because you’re still traveling forward and upward, your core will be working to help you stabilize as well.
- Start at the bottom of the stairs and step up two steps with your right foot, bringing your left foot to meet it.
- Immediately step up two more steps, leading with your left foot.
- Repeat this sequence for 30 seconds. Go as quickly as you can safely here.
- Return to the bottom of the stairs and repeat for 3 sets.
Pushups are a full-body exercise, but obviously require lots of upper-body strength. Stairs provide an effective prop to assist you here.
- Face the stairs and assume the pushup position.
- Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the first, second, or third step, depending on the stairs’ steepness and your ability. The more elevated your hands, the easier the pushup will be.
- Maintaining a straight line from head to toe, slowly lower your body down, allowing your elbows to bend to a 45-degree angle.
- Aim to touch your chest to the step, then extend your arms, returning to the starting position.
- Start with 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Bulgarian split squat
Challenge your quads and glutes as well as your balance and stability with Bulgarian split squats. By targeting one leg at a time, this exercise will uncover muscle imbalances.
Plus, it requires mobility in your hips. The closer your stationary leg is to the stairs, the more this exercise will target your quads.
- Start at the bottom of the stairs, facing away about 2–3 feet in front of the bottom stair.
- Lift your left foot onto the second or third stair so it’s at about knee height.
- Rest your toe on the stair and assume a lunge position. Lower down on your right leg, keeping your torso straight and hips square. Ensure that your knee doesn’t fall over your toe.
- Extend your right leg, then repeat.
- Switch legs after 10–12 reps.
Step-ups on stairs are a no-brainer! Targeting your quads and glutes among other leg muscles, this exercise won’t only provide aesthetic benefits — hello, round booty! — it’ll help you with daily tasks.
- Start with your right leg. Step onto the third step (or whatever is knee height). Push through your heel, and bring your left foot to meet your right.
- If you’re up for a challenge, lift that left leg behind you when it’s on the way to meet your right, squeezing the glute in the process. Make sure you keep your hips square to the stairs here to really get the most out of this hip extension.
- Once your left leg is safely back on the step, repeat. Lead with your left leg, stepping up the same number of steps and again adding that kickback if you can.
- Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
5. Side squat
Moving in the frontal plane — or side to side — is important for your mobility, so why not take advantage of the set of stairs in front of you and take your squats to the side?
- Turn so the right side of your body is facing the stairs.
- Step your right foot up to the most comfortable step, keeping your body and foot sideways.
- Squat down, putting your weight into your left leg, then stand up.
- Repeat 10 reps on this side, then switch so your left foot is up on the step.
6. Triceps dips
Hit the back of your arms and triceps with a dip off the stairs. The further away your feet are from your bottom, the harder this exercise will be. If you need more support, bend your knees and walk your feet in.
- Position yourself at the bottom of the stairs, facing away from them.
- Place your hands on the edge of the bottom step, fingers pointing toward your feet. Extend your legs out in front of you.
- Place your weight in your arms, and lower your body down by bending your elbows, ensuring they stay “pinned” to your sides.
- When your upper arms reach parallel to the ground, or when you can’t lower down anymore, extend your elbow and return to start.
- Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
7. Mountain climbers
Get your heart pumping with mountain climbers. This is a great move for a burst of cardio using your own body weight.
- Face the stairs, and place your hands on the second or third step, whatever feels comfortable but challenging, to assume a high plank position.
- For 30 seconds, alternate driving each knee upward toward your chest. Keep your torso stationary and your neck neutral.
- Go as fast as you can go here while maintaining good form.
- Rest for 30 seconds and repeat 2 more sets.
8. Crab walk
Have some fun with this one! You’ll be climbing up the stairs on all fours in a reverse position, so it does require some coordination — but you won’t even feel like you’re working out with this playful move.
- Assume a reverse tabletop position with your heels on the first step.
- Begin by walking your feet up the steps, one at a time, then follow with your hands, moving your body upward.
- Keep your core engaged and your butt off the steps throughout the movement.
- Crab-walk up for 30 seconds, then slowly and safely lower yourself down to your starting point.
- Rest and repeat for 2 more sets.
All you’ll need is a set of stairs to complete this workout. Each time you execute this routine, try to increase the reps you do during the 30-second sets. That way, you’ll know you’re progressing and constantly challenging yourself. Keep climbing!
Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.