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Strength

Stair climbing for lower body strength

Virgil Aponte explains how stair climbing can be used to develop lower body strength

The first way to improve lower body strength in stair-workouts is to climb every other step (essentially performing a lunge). Because doing this puts your legs in a mechanical disadvantage, your muscles have to get stronger to overcome this disadvantage. I also have certain athletes climb every three steps to challenge them even further. But this is usually left to very tall athletes or athletes with very long legs. Two steps is usually enough to challenge most anyone. For the purpose of strength improvement it is only necessary to do 1 to 5 sets of 1 to 30 repetitions on each leg. You can either alternate or use 1 leg at a time.

Strength protocols

As your strength improves you can either increase repetitions, resistance (via dumbbells, barbells, weighted vests, sandbags etc.) or speed to challenge yourself further. Although I have done 20 flights of stair lunges totaling around 60 repetitions on each leg it is important to remember the goal of the workout - are you trying to improve strength or strength endurance.

Strength protocols usually only call for between 1 and 20 repetitions for a few sets. But feel free to experiment as nothing is written in stone. One day I decided to see how hard it would be to climb every other step to the 20th floor. What a workout that was! Is it really strength training in technical terms? No, but if you are able to do this you will have achieved a high level of strength endurance that many athletes will never achieve.

Another way to do stair lunges is to use diagonal, cross-over and side lunges. The great thing about using these lunges is they address exercising in different planes of motion. Most athletes exercise in straight line forward or what experts call the Sagittal plane. Most athletes have plenty of strength in this plane. It is in the side to side (Frontal plane) and the rotational (Transverse plane) that athletes are weakest in. It is no coincidence that athletes get hurt in these planes. Most ankle injuries occur in the frontal plane and many knee injuries occur in the transverse plane. Stair climbing lends itself very well to doing lunges in all planes of motion and can really help athletes improve their strength in all planes of motion to balance out their strengths and weaknesses. In my own experience

I have worked for weeks with just doing stair-climbing in frontal and transverse planes and my knees have never felt better. Walking down stairs can also be used to improve eccentric and deceleration strength which is very important in everyday life as well as sports. Always remember to use caution when going down stairs (because of the risk of falling). I prefer to just use the first couple of steps and just work down from there. For obvious reasons one should never run down the stairs (it is too dangerous). Always remember safety first.

Lower body

A lower body strength workout can look something like this:

  • Round 1
    • Walk up 20 flights
    • Stretch when you reach the top
    • Take the elevator down
  • Round 2
    • Do 30 stair-lunges: 15 on weaker side followed by 15 on your stronger side
    • Climb 2 steps each lunge
  • Round 3
    • Do 30 stair-lunges in alternating fashion
    • Climb 2 steps each lunge
  • Round 4
    • Do 30 crossover-lunges in alternating fashion
    • Climb 1 step for each lunge and over time progress to 2 steps for each lung
  • Round 5
    • Do 30 crossover lunges from side: 15 on weaker side then 15 on your stronger side
    • Climb 1 step for each lunge and over time progress to 2 steps for each lung
  • Round 6
    • Do 30 side to side lunges in alternating fashion
    • Climb 1 step for each lunge and over time progress to 2 steps for each lung
  • Round 7
    • Do 30 side step ups: 15 on weaker side followed by 15 on your stronger side
    • Climb 1 step for each lunge and over time progress to 2 steps for each lung

As your strength improves you have many options to challenge you further. Possible options are:

  • " Use dumbbells or barbell
  • Use a weighted vest
  • Reduce your rest intervals between sets
  • Increase your sets (rounds)

Address frontal and transverse movements In this workout you will be doing lunges in all planes of motion. Remember that it is very important to address frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) planes because that is where many athletes are weakest and is probably why athletes get hurt in those planes so frequently. We usually do not address these planes in our exercise routines but constantly use these planes in our everyday lives


Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • APONTE, V. (2005) Stair climbing for lower body strength. Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 24 / July-August), p. 9-10

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work then the reference for this page is:

  • APONTE, V. (2005) Stair climbing for lower body strength [WWW] Available from: https://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni24a5.htm [Accessed

About the Author

Virgilio Aponte received his Masters Degree in Physical Education and has been an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer since 1994. He has helped people from all walks of life reach their strength and health goals.

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