Stair Workout – Bodyweight Exercises


Looking for a bodyweight workout, but want to mix up your routine? Throw some stairs or a bench into the mix! These can be done at home, or at any bench in passing if your going for a run. Here are four exercises to get your started.

Stair exercise #1: Incline Pushup

Incline Pushup 1     Incline Pushup 2

Muscles worked: Pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps, core muscles

  • Starting from the “top” of the movement, place your hands about shoulder width or slightly wider on the stair – adjust to what feels comfortable to you.
  • Bring down your body towards the stairs, keeping your body straight the whole time, and head neutral so you don’t put your face into the stair above!
  • Push up back into the starting position
  • If you’re struggling with regular pushups due to shoulder issues, this modification on a helps reduce strain and can be better on your shoulder and neck joints
  • Too easy? Here’s a modification – start with your feet on the stairs, rather than your hands – this will emphasize the upper fibers of your pectoralis major more

Stair exercise modification: Pushup with feet elevated

Incline Pushup 3     Incline Pushup 4

Stair exercise #2: Incline Mountain Climber

Incline Mountain Climber 1     Incline Mountain Climber 2

Muscles worked: rectus abdominus, core muscles, hip flexors

  • Starting from the “top” of the movement, place your hands about shoulder width or slightly wider on the stair – adjust to what feels comfortable to you.
  • Alternating, bring each knee up to your chest – as soon as your toe touches the ground, bring the other knee back up
  • You can do this one of two ways (a) nice and slowly, to really focus on stability and your core, or (b) as a cardio interval to get your heart rate up – imagine “jogging” on the spot, moving your knees in quickly.
  • Engage your core while you do the movement – make sure your hips don’t sway too much during the movement and stay stable
  • Similar to the Incline pushup, this is a good alternative if you have shoulder problems – performing the exercise on a stair reduces pressure on your shoulder joint

Stair exercise #3: Calf Raise

Calf Raise 1     Calf Raise 2

Muscles worked: gastrocnemius, soleus

  • Place the balls of your feet on the step, with your heels slightly hanging off the edge
  • Push up onto your toes, focusing on going up as high as you can and then slowly coming back down
  • Feel free to hold onto the handrail for balance. If you want to challenge your balance ability, keep your hand close to the handrail, but only a very light touch
  • If you want more of a challenge, you can do a single calf raise by only placing your weight onto one foot

Stair exercise #4: Step Jumps

Step Jump 1     Step Jump 2

Muscles worked: rectus femoris, glutes, calves    Bonus: eye foot coordination

  • Lower into a prep position for a jump (squat) – jump up onto the stairs in front.
  • Land safely in a squat position so your joints help absorb the landing and prevent unnecessary jarring of your joints.
  • Make sure you use your whole body through the movement, feel free to swing the arms, look where you’re going, and extend through the jump.
  • Beginners should aim for landing one or two stairs above, and more moderate exercises can aim for two or three stairs above.
  • For athletic populations or those confident with both jumping and landing, you can include a jump backwards, back to the starting position
  • If this is too difficult, or you don’t feel confident in your ability to land safely, start with step ups so your body gets used to the height differential
  • If you have knee problems, you should avoid this exercise

Do you have any other stair exercises you like to do? Leave a comment below!


Written by James Hsin – Client Care Manager


James is currently going into his 4th year at kinesiology at UBC, and grew up a relatively active individual. He has been training primarily in Muay Thai for the past 4 years, training with champions and beginners alike. James is a firm believer that exercise should be like playing around – it’s better if its fun! James hopes he can share how his fitness journey has encouraged him to grow, and hopes to inspire you to do the same.

This post has been developed by studio contributors which include Co-Op students, kinesiologists, therapists and our expert colleagues

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