Stairway to Fitness

10 quick stair exercises to do anywhere

By Jeff Howard
Photos by
Erin Trimble

I’m always looking for ways to help people move. I hear repeatedly that people don’t have time to exercise, so I constantly look at different ways to solve this problem. On a recent run at the water reserve, I saw a beautiful stairwell and began running up and down it. I started doing exercises that I love using the stairs as fitness “equipment.” It was fun and quick, and I got my workout in. So, now I’m looking at stairs differently, and I hope you will, too. If nothing else, consider simply walking up and down them as part of your exercise routine.

Stair climbing is low impact, and it helps strengthen and tone your leg muscles. It keeps your leg arteries flexible, allowing blood to move more easily. Stair workouts are not only challenging, but they also firm your glutes unlike when you walk or run on flat ground. It’s when you have to dig in and climb that they become active. That’s why running up stairs burns 953 calories per hour. But, this is for the very fit. You can start with walking them and get amazing results. Since the activity requires you to use your whole leg, it’s as if you’re doing a lunge and a rep on the leg press machine with every step.

I designed the following program to give you a full-body strengthening, fat-burning, low-impact workout. Perform the exercises below with little to no rest in between movements. If you have 15 steps or less, repeat the sequence two to three times. You can add a one-to-two-minute jog up and down for a progression in between each exercise.

1. Warm-Up

Warm up with an easy walk or jog up and down for two to five minutes. Keep your shoulders back and down, and pump your arms. The more movement, the more calories you’ll burn.

2. Squat Jumps

Stand at the bottom of the staircase. Start in a squat and keep arms behind the body. Bound up one to two steps at a time to the top of the staircase. Jog back down. Continue for one to two minutes.

3. Side Run

Start by standing next to the steps. Place one foot on the step and run up facing in one direction laterally.

4. Push-Up on Incline

Start in a high plank at the bottom of the stairs. Bring your right hand up to the first step followed by the left hand. Return back to starting position, lower to the step and push up. Walk to the next step and repeat to the top of the staircase. Jog back down. Continue for one minute. For a progression, add two to four push-ups on each step.

5. Tricep on an Incline Then Decline

Start at the bottom of stairs with both hands on the step, then lower your body downwards until you feel comfortable. Lift up, returning back to starting position and repeat this to the next step. Once you have reached the top, repeat on the way down facing the same direction.

6. Plank Decline

Start in a high plank at the bottom of the stairs. Bring your right hand up to the first step, followed by the left hand. Hold for one minute.

7. Lunge Curtsy Lunge

Face the stairs with your left foot on the step and your right leg behind you in a lunge stance. Pulse and turn into a plié. Pulse, turn away from the stairs and pulse. Turn back to a plié and repeat. Continue for one to two minutes.

8. Bear Crawl on an Incline

Start in a high plank at the bottom of the stairs. Bring your right hand up to the first step followed by the left hand on the next step, keeping the hips lifted and the back flat. With legs moving opposite from the hands, continue to the top of the staircase. Jog back down. Continue for one minute.

9. Lateral Skater

Standing beside the stairs, place one foot on the step. Move laterally to the other foot and repeat back to the step. Continue for one to two minutes.

10. V-Sit

Position your bum on the step, lift your knees upwards and hold your hands by your chest. For a progression, lower the legs to the step and then lift. Hold for one minute.


Jeff Howard is a world-renowned fitness presenter who resides in Louisville. He also serves as promotional director of fitness for Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center.

Watch Jeff on WHAS11’s “Great Day Live!” at 10 a.m. Mondays!