Before spending hundreds of dollars in cardiovascular equipment for your house, take a look around. If there is a set of stairs nearby, you already have everything you need to get fit. Not only are the stairs made for an intensive cardio session, the individual steps can also be used for everything from lunges and step-ups to for upper body movements such as push-ups and dips. Just by climbing the stairs for 30 minutes a week, cardiovascular benefits are obtained, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
What about your ability to burn calories? You can burn more than 500 calories if you run up the stairs for 30 minutes, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (for a 150-pound woman). Even walking up and down the stairs for half an hour burns 286 calories. That's roughly the equivalent of walking at 3, 5 miles per hour for two hours!
"Given how exhausting it is to run up the stairs, a mixed circuit works better," says Fabio Comana, MA, MS, NASM, director of continuing education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Try this whole-body strength training and cardio that mixes running and walking up the stairs with resistance exercises.
Equipment and instructions
To carry out the routine, you will need medium resistance training bands (a resistance band will work) and a ladder. After a brief warm-up, do each of the following exercises on a circuit (doing one immediately after the other), with a minimum or no rest between each set. After you have completed the entire circuit, recover for a minute before repeating. Do the whole circuit three times in total.
Use the Perceived Effort Index (RPE) to measure your effort. Imagine a scale of zero to 10, zero being no effort at all (sitting on a chair) and 10 as strong as you can work.
Go up and down the ladder for three to five minutes at an effort level between 3 and 4.
Full-speed race down the stairs
Run at full speed up the stairs ( 8 to 9 RPE) and walk down. Continue repeating this pattern for 30 seconds.
Stand at the base of the ladder and place your hands on the third rung (the rung must be at your chest height) in a lizard position. Keep your back straight as you go down the ladder and push up. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Pass the exercise band behind or around the handrail on the ladder and hold it.Hold the handles in each hand and step back far enough to feel the resistance of the band. Pull the handle towards you in line while you press the shoulder blades down and together. Pause and return to the starting position. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Stand in the center of the bands holding a handle in each hand. Bend the elbows (keeping them in contact with your body) while you carry the handle up towards your shoulders. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Sit on the second step and place your hands on the step behind you, palms facing forward. Keep your feet resting on the landing, with your knees at a 45-degree angle and lower your body until your arms are parallel to the rung. Push up, pressing the shoulders down away from your ears throughout the movement.
Go up and down the stairs for three minutes between 6 to 7 RPE.
Squats with arms above the head
Push your hips back and bend your knees down to squat, bringing your elbows back behind your torso as you lower. Go back up until you are standing and extend your arms over your head. That is a repetition. Do as many repetitions as you can in 60 seconds.
Squats with alternating arms
Do the same squats as you did in the previous step but instead of raising both arms high, raise one arm at a time, alternating the arms in each repetition. Continue for 60 seconds.
Put the right foot forward at the top of the first rung and lower in one thrust. Allow your left knee to bend at a right angle behind you. As you get down, stretch both arms over your right shoulder. Push with your right heel and use the glutes to get back on your feet. Repeat, this time taking a step forward with your left foot and raising your arms over your left shoulder. Continue alternating legs for 60 seconds.
Rest and recovery
Rapid cardio routine
For a quick cardio routine when you're short on time, Mark Merchant, CSCS, co-owner of As One Fitness in New York City, recommends the following training deceptively hard:
10-minute basic program: warm up and down the stairs for five minutes at a moderate pace and then go up, moving faster and faster during the remaining five minutes.
20 minutes of advanced cardio training: 1. Go up and down a flight of stairs 2. Run up and down on a stretch 3. Jump up (two feet at a time) on a stretch 4. Carry weight ( as much as you can support) up and down in a stretch 5. Repeat this sequence for 20 minutes
30 minutes of cardio exercise in steady state: walk up and down as many plants as you can up and down for 30 minutes."Do this and you can do everything," says Merchant.