Stairs Exercise: The 20-Minute Incline Workout You Can Do Anywhere

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We wouldn’t blame you for thinking of a staircase as an annoying daily hurdle. But taking advantage of that steady incline can actually be a major boost to your fitness. Regularly walking up 400 steps — or about 33 flights — during the course of a day can substantially increase your endurance, giving you a 17 percent bump in VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in during exercise), according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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An even quicker, more effective way to see results? Turn your home or apartment’s staircase into a gym. Jason Walsh, the trainer responsible for getting Matt Damon into Bourne shape backs the approach. Walsh founded Rise Nation, a group fitness studio built around the VersaClimber (imagine a stair stepper and climber in one), and he says any flight of stairs can help you burn calories, build strength, and increase mobility. “Stair climbing — climbing in general — is a movement that we as humans are supposed to be doing; plus it’s low impact,” says Walsh, adding, “through climbing, you have an opportunity to strengthen the hips and get them working properly.” Stronger hips, Walsh says, can help correct common muscle imbalances throughout the body.

Try his workout below, and get a workout trifecta — body-strengthening, fat-burning, injury-proofing results.

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Perform three rounds of the exercises below with little to no rest in between movements and rounds. Do it two or three times a week. As you get fitter — and crushing a staircase routine feels easier — Walsh recommends adding another round or two.

Alternating High-Knee Toe Touches

Stand facing stairs, and raise one knee up high to tap the first step with toe, then repeat on opposite side, moving quickly and pumping arms aggressively. Continue for 30 seconds.

Double-Step Step-Ups

Stand facing stairs, and step up two stairs with left foot, bringing right foot to meet left, then step left foot back to the bottom of the staircase, again bringing right foot to meet left; repeat on opposite side. Continue for 30 seconds. (If stepping up two stairs feels easy, try three stairs at a time.)

Step Bounds

Stand at the bottom of the staircase. Send hips back into a quarter squat and arms behind body, and bound up two steps at a time to the top of the staircase. Jog back down to start. Continue for one minute.

Every Others

Run as fast as you can up flight of stairs, skipping every other step on your way up. Jog down, using every step. Continue for one minute.

Step Jumping Lunges

Start facing stairs with right foot up two steps in lunge position with knee tracking over ankle. Explosively jump, alternating feet in mid-air. Continue for 30 seconds.

Plank Step-Ups

Start in high plank at bottom of stairs. Bring right hand up to first step, followed by left hand. Return back to starting position, down with right hand first, then left, keeping hips lifted and back flat without rotating torso. Repeat with opposite hand taking the lead. Do 10 reps on each side.

Decline Push-Ups

Start in high plank at bottom of stairs with feet on first step, hands on floor. Keeping abs engaged and back flat, bend elbows to lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Push through your hands to raise back to starting position, arms fully extended with elbows locked. Do as many push-ups as you can before your form gives out. (Each subsequent time you do the workout, try to increase your rep count.)

Step Sprints

Run as fast as you can up flight of stairs, hitting each step. Jog down. Continue for one minute.

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