Climbing Stairs for Weight loss (Part 2)
Getting the most out of stair climbing
With any form of exercise it is important to start off slowly and build progression into our workouts, and stair climbing is no different.
When we first start climbing stairs for weight loss, we may find ourself getting out of breath after only a flight or two and we may also find that our thigh muscles start to "burn".
To help our body acclimatize to this form of exercise, we should start by limiting ourselves to walking up two flights of stairs followed by five minutes of walking on the spot. At the end of the 5 minute walk on the spot, when our heart rate has come down a bit, we can try walking up another two flights followed by another five minute walk on the spot. This may be enough of a workout for us in the first week or two.
In future weeks, we can try adding another two flights of stairs and another five minute walk on the spot each week. Eventually we should be able to climb all the flights of stairs we want without having to stop to regain our breath.
When we start to get even fitter and stronger, we might want to try to make our stair climbing workouts even more intense by doing one or more of the following:
- Lengthening the time of our workouts (doing more sets).
- Climbing two steps at a time instead of one.
- Adding to our body weight with a weighted belt, weighted vest or carrying dumbells.
- Reduce our rest intervals.
- Speed up our workouts by racing the clock, a friend or a workout partner.
Aerobic versus anaerobic stair climbing workouts
Depending upon how we use them, stairs can predominantly improve our aerobic fitness or our muscle strength.
For strength improvement it is best to walk up two steps at a time and limit the number of sets of stair climbs we do per workout to between 1 and 5 sets. And instead of running up 20 flights of stairs, it may only be necessary to walk up a total of 15 to 30 steps per leg.
As well as strengthening all the muscles in our legs and buttocks, it is possible to magnify the strength and shaping affect of stair climbing by changing our technique slightly.
Here are some tips for working the inner thigh, hips and buttocks using stairs:
- To work the inner thigh, stand sideways at the bottom of the stairs, place your hand on the rail (if available) for balance. Lift your right foot and place it on the first step. Transfer your weight onto your right leg as you lift your left leg and cross it over your right and up to the next step. Continue up the stairs in this fashion until you've reached the desired number of reps.
- To work the butt, start at the bottom of a flight of stairs, step up with your left leg and kick your right leg back (contract your right buttock when you do this), and then repeat with the right leg and left kick. Continue this until you've reached the desired number of reps.
- To work the hip abductor (the muscle on the outside of your hip that moves your leg out to the side), stand on a stair step sideways with one foot on the step. Without bending the supporting leg, lower the unsupported leg a couple of inches by tilting your pelvis, and bring it back up. Repeat 10 times and switch to the other leg.
To get the most benefit out of any aerobic exercise, we should do it at
least 3 times a week, for at least 20 minutes per session, at an intensity
that elevates our heart rate to between 60% and 90% of our maximum (which
is calculated by subtracting our age from 220).
With stair climbing however, we may not be able to continually climb stairs for a total of 20 minutes, so we may need to build up to this level by incorporating other activities with our stair climbing.
One example is to walk on the spot between flights (as suggested above). Another is to skip in between flights, etc.
For a combined aerobic and anaerobic workout, alternate five minutes of stair climbing with sets of exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, dumbell curls and presses.
A combined workout example might include a five minute warm-up, thirty to forty minutes of intervals (consisting of 2-3 minutes of stair climbing followed by 1 minute of muscle toning exercises), a five to ten minutes cool-down and stretches.
Think you'll get bored just climbing stairs?
Not a problem!
To help avoid boredom we can:
- Cross-train using other activities such as bicycle riding, walking, jogging, etc.
- Use music to motivate us - wearing a portable radio, CD player or an ipod allows us to listen to all our favourite songs while climbing.
- Keep an exercise diary and track our progress - nothing motivates like success!
Continued on next page...