The Fittest Athletes Climb Stairs


Everyone is looking for the ultimate exercise to get them in shape. Something routine or gadget, that burns more calories than the next piece of cardio equipment. Stair climbing has current research to pound a stake into the No. #1 spot for calories burned and yet still being one of the safest exercises.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania school of medicine has concluded that stair climbing burns 23% more calories than running, 250% more than swimming, 63% more than bicycling and 400% more than walking at 2 mi./h.

Climbing just two flights of stairs per day can remove up to 12 pounds of body fat over the course of a year. An average 175 pound man walking up stairs for just ten minutes bill burn approximately 200 calories. That same man will burn only 160 calories running at a 7 mph for 10 minutes.

Stair climbing is actually easier on the knees related to impact. Typical walking or running results in a full extension of the knee and transfers most of the forces to the cartilage. When climbing stairs, the knee is typically in a bent position and so the muscles and ligaments are more involved.

The program is simple to start and even if you can only climb 2-3 stairs at first, it is a starting point to build from. Add a simple 5 stairs per day if you are looking to just get started.

Advanced programs for running stairs include running sideways and in extreme advanced cases using your hands and feet to climb up and down the stairs.

stairA typical stair routine for an intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiast would include running approximately 100 steps in a forward direction, then using a crossover step to keep your torso perpendicular to the stairs for a total of three sets on either side. It is a good idea to strengthen the means by climbing the stairs backwards.

Since the stairs elevate the heart rate to a maximum level, many types of sports will utilize this natural advantage to promote maximum cardiovascular results. Wrestling teams for example will often use stairs in combination with exercise stations and form a course.

A set of stairs is climbed then 50-100 push-ups are performed. Another set of stairs are climbed, then 50-100 sit-ups are performed. Still another set of stairs and then 50 burpees are attempted.

Combinations are unlimited and safety is always the primary concern, so always attempt to descend stairs at a controlled speed. It is actually best to attempt to control your feet and place the toes even with the leading edge of the shoes. This builds hand/foot coordination and promotes the safest foot position for decent.

Here is an example of a MMA stair routine that I put together for a fighter who won the world championships:

Total stair length was in a stadium at 120 steps.

  • As a warm up, jog the stairs twice.
  • Side step-ups, alternate sides (total 4)
    -step up two steps at a time, standing perpendicular to the stairs.
  • Sprint stairs twice, with 50 burpees at the top.
  • Lunge stairs taking 2-3 stairs at a time.
  • Hop-ups, 2 sets
    -feet are shoulder width apart, attempt to jump 2 stairs at a time.
  • 10/10’s, running stairs, then using hands and feet to climb the steps backwards. (2 sets)
  • Burpee climb with weight pack (20-50 pounds)
    -weighted, start in the push-up position, advance by pushing up and hopping two stairs above.
  • Dead man drag
    -drag a bag or a tire, connected by a rope, up the Stairs, one set forwards, one set backwards.
  • Decline push-ups
    -decline push-up with legs on stairs. Perform 5 reps then use arms to push to the next step up.
  • Sprint last 4 stair climbs.
  • Stretch the neck and torso, then the legs. Eat right and get plenty of rest.

The previous workout is among the toughest workouts in existence. It is important to be in top physical condition before you begin any attempts to train at that level.

Yours in Health!

Dr. David Ryan

Columbus Chiropractic Center Director

About the Author
Dr. David Ryan has an extensive background in both coaching and playing professional sports, and has been the team physician for several highly ranked teams. Dr. Ryan now serves as the current Co-Chairman of the Arnold Sports Festival ( and is a former Medical Director of this internationally acclaimed event.

Dr. Ryans numerous articles have been published in International Medical Journals, Muscle & Fitness Magazine as well as on the popular website. Visit Dr. Ryans home page on here: and his YouTube page here.