A Glimpse of a Sample Staircase Interval Workout

Quick Tips

There is really nothing like sprinting up and down a long staircase.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a staircase near you that is of decent length, congrats, you’re in luck.

By decent length, I am referring to a staircase that takes about 30 seconds or longer to run up at a brisk pace.

If you’ve never treated yourself to a staircase training session, you’re going to find that running vertically is nothing like running horizontally.  Every step/stride requires brute force and attention to detail.

Why attention to detail?

Because the split second that you get lazy or lose focus on what you’re doing, you’re going to miss a step and leave shin skin on the staircase.

Staircase running requires hip extension.  You can fake to make it for a little while, but you’ll find that opening up the hips and driving “down and back” with every stride is going to get you to the top faster and with a higher efficiency.  The hips are the powerhouse of the body, so you might as well use them if you have them, right?

Besides, your quads are overworked.  Let’s build a backside.

If you are finding that you cannot comfortable achieve hip extension, I would suggest regressing and addressing these issues quickly…

Here are some videos that might help…

Thanks KStarr.

Now on to the workout…

Staircase Interval Training165 glorious stairs

Staircase interval training

Total time from start to finish for this workout.

Staircase Interval Training

This is the break down of the workout.  30 minutes of work was my initial target.  I hit that.

My heart rate peaked at 168bpm, which I thought was surprising.  I thought that it would have been much higher.  I’ve seen it 175bpm while running trails.  Interesting.  I suspect that had the staircase taken me longer to run, I may have seen higher heart rates.

I have to disclose that I probably whipped through 12-13 rounds.  2 of these round were loaded up with kettlebells.  I brought my trusty 24kg LifeLine kettlebells with me for some fun carrying variations.  After looking at the length of the staircase and evaluating what I wanted from the workout, I decided that I would only use one kettlebell for these carrying drill.

I worked overhead, racked position and farmer carries, switching hands using a single arm swing hand transition + KB clean + Press.  I can explain this later, but I prefer using this method for switching hands during single kettlebell workouts.  Always loaded this way.

The general structure of the workout look like this:

  • Running the stairs took around 60 seconds (I think)
  • Rest periods were 1.5x-2x the length that it took to climb the stairs (or recovery to 130bpm)
  • Upper body focus was placed on arm action (elbow drive and hands to face) and keeping posture vertical versus slouching once fatigue set in.
  • Lower body was all about putting force into each stair and extending the hips aggressively, picture your feet as springs… explode!

Men’s Health ran an article almost a year and a half ago that I thought I would share because they included a research study out of the British Journal of Sports Medicine which concluded that stair climbing was pretty bad ass, even at relatively low output (just walking up).

Here is that article

One interesting thing to think about here.  Keep in mind that the speed with which you run the stairs is not the only quality we are aiming to build here.

We are also aiming to reduce the time it takes for you to recover, and repeat that effort.  Faster recovery is a sign of improving conditioning.

If you’re a weekend athlete or a movement enthusiast, increasing your ability to recover quickly from multiple bouts of vigorous activity is beneficial for performance and your body composition.

Runners, I would consider this an amazing supplement to improving your running endeavors.  You’re essentially lifting yourself with every stride while running a staircase, and focusing on explosive hip extension is what most of you could benefit from.  Get the hips involved people.




Cheers to training where other people aren’t…




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