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The Fat-Sizzling Stairs Workout


Want access to the best cardio and strength equipment anywhere? Take your workout to the sand, stairs, and hills to boost your burn and tone in less time.

Stair workouts not only kick your butt, they also firm it like nothing else. When you walk or run on flat ground, your glutes are basically taking a nap. It’s when you have to dig in and climb that they fire up. That’s why running up stairs burns 953 calories per hour. For the same burn on a level surface, you would have to hold an all-out sprint. (Turn Your Stairwell into a Fat-Burning Machine.)

What’s unique about stairs, says Brandon Guild, a trainer for Fulcrum Fitness in Portland, Oregon, is that the flat landing spot of each step causes you to strike with your midfoot rather than the ball of your foot. “You use your whole leg, not just your calf, to push off,” he says. It’s as if you’re doing a lunge and a rep on the leg press machine with every step. That’s a lot of extra firm with your burn.

Plus, if you take two steps at a time, your muscles are contracted—that is, working—over a wider range, says Lewis Halsey, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Roehampton in London. “Meanwhile, shorter steps are also great in that they require quicker muscle activation,” Halsey says. In other words, skipping a step requires more power, which can improve your endurance, and striking every step demands faster footwork, which can make you speedier. That’s why we’ve incorporated both methods in this routine—plus some strengtheners that will help you take your toning to the next level.

And since the steps make everything you do tougher, you don’t need to dedicate a ton of time to them to see results. Women who walked up and down stairs for 10 minutes a day five days a week improved their VO2 max (a measure of fitness) by 17 percent within two months, according to a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

How it Works:
1. You’ll need at least one flight with 10 steps. Your entire foot should fit on a step tread, Halsey says. This will make it easier to move quickly during runs and give you enough room to do strength moves.
2. Handrails are also key. Lightly hold the outside rail on the way up and down until your body and brain get used to the movement, Halsey advises. You can also grab it as you get tired.
3. Carpeted stairs may have more traction than bare ones, so don’t discount indoor flights. They’ll also provide a gentler surface for your hands during pushups and dips, Halsey says.

Your Stair Workout
Burn more calories and firm more muscles with this 32-minute routine created by trainer Brandon Guild.

0 to 3 minutes
Warm up with an easy jog up and down. Keep your shoulders back and down, and try to gaze straight ahead rather than at your feet.

3 to 6 minutes
Do 10 reps each of the moves below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can.

Single-Leg Hop
Facing a railing, stand with right leg on second step from bottom; bend left knee so that left foot is next to right calf. (Lightly hold railing with right hand for balance.) With soft knees, hop down one step, then hop back up. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Decline Pushup Leg Lift

Start facing away from bottom of stairs in plank on palms with your feet on first or second step. Raise left leg to hover above step, then bend elbows to do a pushup. That’s 1 rep. Switch legs; repeat. Do 10 reps. (If you love this move, then check out these 5 New-School Exercises for Strong, Sexy Legs.)

Step-Up-and-Down Lunge

Stand at bottom of stairs facing top. Step right foot onto second step, bending leg 90 degrees to start. Push off from right leg to jump, raising left knee. Land at start, step right leg to meet left, then step left leg back into a reverse lunge. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Toe Tap
Lie faceup at top of stairs with your butt at edge of landing. Raise legs to tabletop with knees bent 90 degrees; place fingertips behind ears with elbows bent out to sides to start. Keep knees bent and lower legs so that toes tap first step. Return to start. That’s 1 rep.

6 to 9 minutes
Sprint Up and Jog Down
Alternate, climbing one step at a time for one flight, then two steps at a time for next. Forcefully pump your arms on the way up. (The faster your arms go, the faster your legs can move.)

9 to 10 minutes

10 to 13 minutes
Do 10 reps each of the moves below. Repeat the circuit as many times as you can.

Triceps Dip
Sit on second step from bottom with legs long and heels on ground; place palms on third step with elbows bent straight back. Straighten arms to press hips up to start. Bend elbows backward to lower hips to hover above first step, then press up to start. That’s 1 rep.

Side Leg Lift

Sit on third step up with hips perpendicular to tread so side of right hip touches riser of fourth step and torso leans slightly over fourth step. Extend left leg down steps. Keeping knee facing forward, lift left leg to hip height [shown]. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

Plank Walk
Start in plank at bottom of stairs with palms on first step. Walk right hand up to next step, then left. Walk right hand back down, then left. That’s 1 rep. Switch sides; repeat. (If you love this move, then try the Lower-Body HIIT Workout.)

Climbing Lunge
Stand at bottom facing stairs. Step right leg up to third step, bending knees to lower into a lunge. Step left leg up to meet right. That’s 1 rep. Switch sides; repeat until you get to the top. Jog down and continue until you’ve done 10 reps.

13 to 16 minutes
Sprint Up and Jog Down
Alternate, climbing one step at a time for one flight, then two steps at a time for the next.

16 to 17 minutes

17 to 30 minutes
Repeat minutes 3 to 16.

30 to 32 minutes
Cool down by jogging up and down the stairs.


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