There are a great many reasons why stair climbing is growing in popularity around the globe. Apart from the practical aspects of accessibility, adaptability to all fitness levels and no associated costs, some of the physical benefits include:
- It’s low impact and doesn’t place great force on joints (if performed correctly).
- Strengthens all your lower body muscles, including stabiliser muscles (to assist your balance as you work against gravity) that are often neglected during flat walking or running.
- Intense cardiovascular workout. As stairs are steeper than most hills, your heart rate is accelerated more rapidly and requires less time to achieve a great workout.
- Great core and upper body workout if you’re using a hand rail to pull yourself up the stairs (or if there’s no handrail, incorporating pushups, sit ups and other calisthenic exercises at the top and bottom of the stairs).
- Improves bone density. Any weight baring exercise is beneficial for bone density, and because you’re working against gravity, the heavier you are, the more weight you’ll be pushing up the stairs.
When incorporating stair climbing into your fitness routine, it’s important to get your technique mastered first, before developing poor movement patterns or even worse, injuring yourself.
Good technique will ensure you are recruiting all major muscle groups and maintain correct alignment of your joints. With practice, this will prove a more efficient means of getting to the top of the stairs with less effort therefore allowing you to go faster.
Unfortunately a lot of us have poor lower posterior strength compared to our anterior strength. This could be due to sitting too much, having tight hip flexors, years of imbalanced use or a variety of other reasons. Whatever the case, it’s not unusual for people to have weak butt muscles compared to their thigh muscles.
For this reason, a common mistake people make when walking or running up stairs is to lean forward. If we lean forward, we’re relying predominantly on the strength and power of our thigh muscles, which isn’t so bad if you’re only going up one flight of stairs; however, over longer distances your quads will start to fatigue with the load of work they’re required to do.
You’ll also be placing a lot of pressure through your knees and lower back, rather than allowing the force from the ground to travel up and dissipate through your torso. If you move in a more upright position with shoulders over hips, you’ll be required to utilise your butt muscles (as well as your thigh muscles) in a more hip dominated movement. This means the strength required to get up the stairs will be shared between large muscle groups and your quads won’t fatigue as quickly. This position will place less force on the knees and lower back allowing you to focus on placing weight through your heels rather than the balls of your feet.
Once you’ve got your technique mastered, it’s time to have some fun and set yourself a challenge! Events like Stadium Stomp where you get to run up and down the stairs of the SCG, MCG, Adelaide Oval or The GABBA (www.stadiumstomp.com.au), provide a fun and friendly atmosphere for people of all ages and abilities. It’s the perfect opportunity to get a group of mates together and enjoy the experience as a team.
If that’s not your thing, at least incorporating some stair climbing into your week will offer a great form of cross training and maybe a new challenge from your usual routine.
Article by Sally Brouwer
Sally Brouwer has a Bachelor of Arts in Leisure Management (outdoor recreation/ sports management), as well as a Certificate III and IV in Fitness.
Sally is the owner and creator of the award winning “SBF Challenge” which has helped thousands of people achieve their health, fitness and lifestyle goals. She has been teaching health and fitness for over 22 years, as a group fitness instructor, resort leisure attendant, police operational skills and tactics instructor, workshop presenter and personal trainer.
In 2014 she received the prestigious “Australian Personal Trainer of the Year” award due to her accomplishments and results with the SBF Challenge.
Sally understands what it means to be busy! She’s a mum to triplets, a full time Police Officer, business woman and on the board of directors for “Blue Sky foundation” charity.