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What else can be done in those magic stairwells?

Virgil Aponte explains how stair climbing can be used to develop your anaerobic condition.

In my previous articles, I have looked at how stair climbing can be used to develop an anaerobic condition, lower body strength, and power. Now here are some ideas I have come across over the years to make stair climbing workouts more intense, more fun, and more interesting.

Jump Rope

With a jump rope, you can increase the intensity of your workout by skipping before or after your stair climbs. We have used them before and after climbs as well as in between flights. The use of a jump rope is also an excellent way to warm up. Also, keep in mind, that if you have access to only a few flights a jump rope can help here. One client of mine only has access to 2 flights of stairs. So she jumps for 30 seconds climbs 2 flights and then jumps again for 30 seconds and so on. I do not understand why many athletes do not use a jump rope to warm up. Especially athletes that jump a lot like volleyball and basketball players. I guess because it is so simple many people dismiss it. It is too simple and low-tech, so it must not be good (not true). Even though a jump rope is a simple piece of equipment and very affordable, if you get into jump roping, the work can be brutal.

Dumbbells & Barbells

Weights can be used to increase the intensity of the aerobic and anaerobic work, lunges, or can be used to do exercises between your climbs. I have used dumbbells to increase resistance in my lunge workouts, and I have also done climbs with 40-pound dumbbells in each hand to try something new. I got the idea from an athlete whose father is a construction worker. He told his son that climbing stairs with sand-filled buckets are a true test of anyone's strength. He was certainly on to something.

Weighted Vest

A weighted vest can be used to add resistance to your climbs and make them more intensive. I have used weighted vests for almost anything that you can do in stair climbing. I love using them for power workouts to add resistance.

Callisthenics or bodyweight exercises

Callisthenics can be used between climbs to improve strength or conditioning. I have used anything you can think of between climbs. I have done push-ups, squats, handstand push-ups, and you name it.


What program could not benefit from the strategic use of stretching? I usually stretch my chronically tight areas after my first climb to the top and in between climbs while I am waiting for the elevators. I also do a complete stretch after my workout is done.

Who might you find using Stair Exercises?

  • High school athletes
  • College athletes
  • Professional athletes
  • Firefighters (for obvious reasons)
  • Curtis Martin of the New York Jets: I am sure this is not all he does, but if you spoke with him I am sure he would attest to how effective stair climbing is.
  • I am sure many more: it is that effective

Everyone I know who has tried stair exercises raves about how effective they are and many who did not as it told me that it was just too dam tough. Why is it not talked about? I do not know. Maybe because it is not glamorous or high tech people dismiss it.

One Final Note

Sometimes we forget to use our environment. As a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and physical education teacher I often hear things like "I cannot get to a gym", "we do not have enough time" or "we just do not have the facilities". Sometimes we get caught up in thinking we need the latest high-tech whatever to achieve fitness, athletic, or any goals related to exercise.

In reality, we are all blessed with the most high-tech equipment available (our mind and body). Take a look around you. A stairwell, a park, monkey bars, and the list goes on and on. Forget about what you do not have, and focus on what you do have. In my experience, it is usually more than enough to get the job done.

Article Reference

This article first appeared in:

  • APONTE, A. (2005) What else can be done in those magic stairwells? Brian Mackenzie's Successful Coaching, (ISSN 1745-7513/ 26 / October), p. 7-9

Page Reference

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

  • APONTE, A. (2005) What else can be done in those magic stairwells? [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Virgilio Aponte received his Master's 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.