Burn Off That Pie, No Equipment Necessary: The Stair Workout

by A Manly Guest Contributor on November 23, 2012 · 18 comments

in Fitness, Health & Sports

Editors note: This is a guest post from Chad Howse.

Did you wake up with a pumpkin pie-induced hangover this morning, feeling more like a butterball than a man?

You’re ready to slough off that tryptophan haze and get yourself moving again. You want to do a full body workout that’s really going to make your muscles burn. But maybe you’re a college student home for the holiday or visiting a place far from your local gym. What to do?

72 stones steps.

Remember those 72 stone steps Sylvester Stallone made famous in the Rocky movies? “Gonna fly now” comes to its apex as Rocky reaches the top of the stairs at the entrance to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That image shows you don’t need any equipment to get a killer, heart-pounding, lung-burning workout. All you need is a set of stairs and a fighter’s mentality.

For this stair workout, we’ll be doing much more than simply running up the stairs. We’ll really train on them. Today, stairs are our universal gym, our incline and decline bench. They’ll provide the obstacle and the resistance, and I’ll provide the method to make a simple set of stairs the only piece of exercise equipment you need.

The Stair Workout

The Set-up

Find a flight of stairs with at least 20-30 steps. Follow the workout chronologically, resting only after each set is finished — I’ll clarify this in the video below.


Jog up the stairs at 75% of your max speed for 5 sets — one set should equal 30 steps. If you only have 20 steps, that’s fine, just do 6 sets instead.

Rest 60 seconds, then begin the circuits.

Circuit #1

Start at the base of the staircase.

A1. 20 push-ups

A2. Sprint (5 flights)

A3. Decline Push-ups (feet on 3rd step)

Rest for 60 seconds, repeat 2x

Circuit #2

B1. Bounding – Jump to highest stair possible – 6 reps (start from base)

B2. Jumps – start from 1st step, drop down, jump to second – 10 reps

B3. Mountain Climbers – 30 reps

Rest for 60 seconds, repeat 2x

Circuit #3

C1. Bulgarian Split Squat – 20 reps each leg

C2. Sprints – 5 flights

C3. Split Squat Jumps – 20 reps each leg

Rest for 60 seconds, repeat 2x


Start by doing 15 push-ups on the ground, flat. Then immediately do 15 push-ups on the first stair with your feet on the ground. Then the second, third, fourth, and finally 15 on the 5th stair.

Watch for how to do the workout:


1. To make your push-ups more difficult, take a look at this quick video:

2. Take your time on the larger stair jumps where you’re bounding from the bottom, to the highest stair possible. Always try and improve, but don’t get over-ambitious — concrete stairs and shins don’t go well together.

3. By using a wider hand-placement with your push-ups, you focus more on the outer chest and shoulders. When you bring your hands closer together, you not only focus more on the inner chest and the triceps, it makes the push-up more difficult as well.

This is how you will feel when you are done.


Chad Howse, author of the PowerHowse Challenge and founder of Chad Howse Fitness, is a former skinny guy and amateur boxer. Chad created his company to help men become their own hero. Check out Chad’s site: Be Legendary: Unconventional Tactics for Life, Fitness, & Work.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 USMC OCS Blog November 23, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Fantastic workout! We would love to post with permission as a guest post (with full credits and linkbacks) on our blog, aimed at candidates preparing to become Marine Corps officers. Let us know–thanks.

2 Jack S November 23, 2012 at 10:26 pm

When the USMC wants to use your workout, you know its good! Great post!

3 Chet November 24, 2012 at 12:34 am

This looks like a great workout. I am indeed home and gym-less, so will be trying this tomorrow morning…

4 Joe November 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

Great post, Chad. I run up several flights of stairs at least a couple of times each day to defeat the desk job lethargy. Does wonder for the energy level. I used the Rocky workouts to lose weight as a teen, and they are still inspiring after all these years. Awesome!

5 Chad November 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

@Jack S – agreed!

USMC I’d be honored.

@Chet – let me know how it goes. My lungs were shot after this one.

@Joe – stairs and hills are my favorite cardio/outdoor training spots. Love em. Great way to break up the monotony of a work day for sure.

6 Albert November 25, 2012 at 4:06 am

Quick question:
I had an operation on my knee this year and while I’m back to doing sports (soccer) again, I would like to know how you judge this workout regarding it’s impact on the joint.

I am a bit concerned that this might be too much, even though I’m very intrigued by the workout.

7 Chad November 26, 2012 at 10:01 am

The drop, stair jumps will be too much impact. I don’t know where you’re at with your recovery, but the sprints and most other things besides the jumps should be all good.

8 Barbie November 29, 2012 at 5:22 am

This is great when the oval is wet and all you have is a vast open space of bleachers.

9 Andrew December 2, 2012 at 7:43 am

Being an overweight geek, I’ll probably have to start slow with this, but taking the stairs every day – and pushing myself to take them steadily faster – is probably the best thing I can do to help get myself moving again.

10 Mike H December 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I had some experience with stairs before. For some time, I only took stairs to go up and down my apartment on the 8th floor. My legs certainly got stronger, but not much weight loss.

11 Tora December 3, 2012 at 12:20 am

This workout looks terrific, and cheap for us who can’t afford a gym, I’ll totally give it a try.

12 Gwen December 4, 2012 at 12:35 am

This is fantastic. With the weather starting to coat sidewalks in ice, I think I might switch to doing this instead of my morning run for a few months. We have a nice long stairway running up the middle of my apartment building. Let’s hope I don’t piss off the neighbors too much…

13 Jim December 8, 2012 at 5:21 am

My brother the Marine saw Chad’s step workout. Couldn’t help but comment that Chad doesn’t fully rise during his pushups. Watch his arms-they never straighten when he pushes up. In the Marines, you have to go all the way down so your dog tags hit the ground and clink (drill sergeants call it playing the Marine Corps hymn) and push ALL the way up so your arms are fully extended.

14 Expert December 13, 2012 at 11:14 am

Take the easy route and get a stair lift. Less strain on the old quads!

15 Justin Doudney February 3, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Do my workout (Bet you haven’t done it before, I haven’t even done it before) Find a 20-25 stair case, Put your feet on the first step do one basic push-up move on to the same thing on the second step (I’m doing squats while I’m typing this) Continue to the top Once your hands are on the final step Do one last push-up, Stand up and say to yourself ”I own this Set” If you want to take it a step further Take chalk with you and write your last name on the top step,Sure it will get washed awawy by the rain,But it can’t wash awawy the fact that you conequer and left your mark.

16 Klondike Ken April 24, 2013 at 11:29 pm

In our community we have a set of stairs that is 223 steps with about 12 landings. This workout gives a great variance. Problem is I am 63. Wait a minute, why is that a problem? Upward and onward.

17 Doug Davis August 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

When I have to travel I rarely bother with hotel gyms; if there are at least 3 floors, I head to the stairwell and run up and down. That is a workout. Why wait in line for a treadmill? That’s just silly and a waste of time.

18 Antoine November 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Any form of similar workout mixing calisthenics, plyo, crossfit exercises will be excellent…who needs stairmasters anymore? Similar workout posted by Barstarz 8 months ago…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAYVPBlCfzg&feature=share&list=PLggLuz3GChhZJgTxqdYSAHfJjqn-P_8ye

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