Total Body Strength + Cardio Stair Workout

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // March 20, 2023

A simple flight of stairs can provide an intense cardio challenge and a great way to sculpt and tone your total body—and this workout will do just that. If you are doing a stair workout, you’ll burn calories, get your heart pumping, and build stronger muscles. In the end, you’ll be sweaty, stronger, and thanking the stairs for a free but fierce workout!


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    Stair Workouts For Cardio HIIT Training

    Why are stairs such a great cardio tool? Moving up a flight of stairs forces you to work harder against gravity so you push your heart rate to its max and create opportunities for a great HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout.

    Jogging up a flight of stairs will warm you up and start the body’s fat-burning process. And sprinting up or running every other step will turn your moderate-intensity into a high-intensity interval. Studies have shown High-Intensity Interval Training helps you burn calories at a higher rate and for a longer period of time after you finish.

    Stair Workouts To Tone Your Muscles

    The gravity you fight going upstairs also helps you tone your muscles. Obviously, your thighs, butt, and calves will benefit simply by running the stairs. But the variety of moves in this workout will also help you build strength all over with quick toning moves to firm up your arms, back, chest and core.

    Related: The 30-Minute Anywhere Bodyweight Workout

    Best 20-Minute Stair Workouts

    Find a set of stairs nearby—indoors or outdoors works fine—and get ready to shape up all over!

    Stair Jog To Warm Up

    1 min

    Get your workout started with a consistent-paced jog up to the top of the staircase. Recover as you walk/ jog back down the staircase. 

    Repeat jogging up and recovering in a walk or jog back down to the bottom for one minute. 

    This first warm-up minute of stair jogging will increase the heart rate, warm up the entire body to get ready to increase pace and effort throughout the remainder of this stair workout!

    Stair Run For High Intensity

    2 min

    For the next two minutes, increase your pace and run to the top of the stairs as quickly as you can. Hitting each step as you run to the top, the goal is to build intensity by working on speed. 

    Recover on the way down, trying to stay at a jogging pace. No shame in the modified game, if you need to walk your way down to the bottom to bring your heart rate back down, do it! 

    Think FAST and FURIOUS on the way up, and CONSISTENCY on the way down!

    Walking Lunges Up Stairs

    10 reps

    Walking lunges with the added bonus of the stairs, allows you to focus on squeezing the glute and using the quad and hamstring for support as well. 

    When performing walking lunges on a flight of stairs, be sure to skip a step allowing you to push off the heel and use the glute.

    Skip A Step Run For High Intensity

    1 min-2

    Skip a step and keep your mind focused on agility and accuracy together!

    Keep your eyes on the stairs below you, as you skip a step each time. Skipping a step will get you to the top faster, so take your recovery on the way back down the stairs.

    Declined Push-Ups


    Because a stair workout doesn’t just need to include lower body and cardio! The decline push-up is done when the feet are placed on an elevated surface (in this case the first or second stair), which puts the body at a declined angle. 

    Doing the decline push-up will increase your upper pectorals (chest muscles) as well as the shoulders. Your abdominals will also be engaged to keep your body in alignment as you push down and push back up.

    Stair Run For High Intensity

    2 min

    You’ve done this one before, let’s do it again! Set your timer for 2 full minutes. Sprint your way to the top as quickly as possible. Take the recovery on the way down. 

    If you’re feeling good, stay in a jog on the way down. If you need your heart rate to come down a little further, walk your way to the bottom. The effort is on the sprint to the top, as quickly as you can!

    Split Jump Lunges

    1 min-2

    Standing at the bottom of the staircase, place one foot forward on the bottom step. Lower into a lunge position to start.

    Jump and switch to bring the opposite leg forward to the first step of the staircase.

    Perform 24 reps total (12 reps each leg) of switching jump lunges to burn out the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, while increasing the heart rate!

    Skip a Step Run For High Intensity

    1 min-2

    Run up the stairs, skipping a step! Be sure to watch your footing all the way to the top! 

    Not only are you using your physical ability to get yourself to the top, but you are also using your mental focus to keep your footing pattern equal and consistent!

    Tricep Dips


    Using the first or second step of your staircase, place your hands on a stair that lifts your body up. Place your palms away from you, fingers pointing towards your butt. 

    Lifting the glutes to a bridge position, you will lower yourself down to a 90-degree bend in the elbows and press back up to the top. Engaging the backside of the upper arms, the triceps will help to lower and lift throughout this upper body exercise.

    Lateral Running

    1 min-2

    Stand with your feet parallel (sideways) to the stairs. Starting with the left leg closest to the stairs. 

    Soften your knees and engage the core to start laterally running up the stairs. Lead with the left leg, and follow the pattern 1,2; 1,2, or left, right; left, right. 

    Continue to run laterally to the top. Jog or walk your way back down and repeat on the left side for one full minute. 

    Repeat the sequence with the right leg leading for a full minute!

    Stair Jog To Cool Down

    1 min

    Now that you have completed your total body workout, it’s time to cool your body down! But before you take a seat and stop moving your body, it’s important to actively cool down the muscles. 

    Jogging up and down the stairs after your workout will keep the body in motion, however at a lower intensity. 

    For one full minute, continue to jog up and down the staircase until you are in control of your breath. By the end of your minute, you may be at a walking pace, taking control of your breathing.

    Graphic of "Run the Stair" Workout

    on Reply

    This is an exercise that requires physical strength and is good for health. I'm trying to be able to practice it.

      on Reply

      Absolutely, you're right this does require a lot of physical strength. We love a good strength and cardio workout together!

    on Reply

    I'm looking at stairs in a new light! Thank you.

    on Reply

    I am 40 years old female. A MUM of 2 grown up kids. I gym thrice a week on an average sometimes 4 times and really try hard to watch my diet.I am cery active all day but still.have not been able to loose weight for the past 4 years. I sometimes feel so demotivated and frustrated. Please help how can I loose eight.

      on Reply

      Hi there! Definitely check out these articles - good luck!

    on Reply

    Wow! A stair exercise even I can do and not feel so defeated ! I'm a 47 yo female currently weighing 286 lbs. The wooden stairs in my house aren't great, and I am slow and probably look crazy silly trying these, but this is doable. Thank you!

    on Reply

    This is good information for me as I have been doing some stair work, seeing that I live on a second story I have two flights of stairs to work on. Kathleen

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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