Stair-Climbing: The Surprising Cross-Training Workout For Runners

As a runner, you understand the need for consistent training to improve your endurance and speed. But did you know that incorporating cross-training into your regimen will boost your performance as well? You might not have thought of stair climbing as an effective cross-training activity. Yet it is - It not only offers a challenging workout, but it can also increase cardiovascular fitness, build lower body strength, and minimize injury risk.

In this article, we'll discuss the benefits of stair climbing for runners, along with some pointers on avoiding stair climbing. So, prepare to use the power of the steps to take your running to the next level!

Benefits of Stair-Climbing for Runners

Stair climbing improves cardio fitness

Your cardiovascular fitness can be considerably increased by stair climbing. It effectively raises the heart rate, increases endurance, and improves overall cardiovascular health. By enhancing your body's capacity to carry oxygen to your muscles, which is crucial for endurance running, regular stair climbing exercises can help you run faster and farther. Better still, it does all of those things with minimum joint impact.

Stair climbing Increases lower body strength and power

Stair climbing targets lower body muscle areas even more intensely than running does. It is a terrific approach to increase the strength and power in your lower body, which is necessary for boosting your running efficiency. The glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves are worked repeatedly during stair climbing, which strengthens and improves their performance when running.

Stair climbing improves balance and stability

Climbing stairs can help you maintain excellent running form and lower your risk of injury. This is because it improves your balance and stability. When climbing stairs, you must contract your core muscles to keep yourself stable and balanced while you ascend and descend the steps. This promotes greater balance and coordination, which can lead to more effective running form.

Stair climbing reduces risk of injury

Compared to running, stair climbing is a low-impact activity that is less taxing on your joints. For runners who wish to lower their risk of injury or are recuperating from an injury, this makes it a great cross-training choice. You can still improve your lower body strength and cardiovascular fitness while minimizing the effect on your joints by including stair climbing in your workout regimen.

Stair climbing provides mental health benefits

Stair climbing has a number of psychological advantages that can keep you motivated and engaged throughout your workout. It is a demanding and satisfying activity that can improve your mood, lower stress, and anxiety, and build overall mental toughness. You can increase both your physical and emotional health by including stair climbing in your workout regimen.

Stair climbing for runners:  The research

There have been several studies that have examined the benefits of stair-climbing for runners. Here are three of the most significant.

Study #1

According to a study that was published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, stair climbing helps recreational runners go faster. The study subjects' VO2 max (a gauge of cardiovascular fitness), running economy, and lactate threshold were significantly improved when stair climbing was included in their training regimen (a measure of endurance).

The study subjects were recreational runners, They climbed stairs daily for 8 weeks. Assessments of cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and running economy revealed that stair climbing enhanced their running performance.

Overall, the study emphasizes how stair climbing can enhance recreational runners' running performance.

Study #2

Another study indicated that stair climbing increased competitive runners' lower body strength and power. It was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 

Competitive runners made up the study cohort. They climbed daily stairs for 8 weeks. 

Leg strength, vertical leap height, and sprint speed were significantly improved in the study subjects who included stair climbing in their exercise regimen.

The study emphasizes the advantages of cross-training for runners. Cross-training, sich as stair stepping, can help prevent overuse problems and enhance overall performance.

Study #3

According to research published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, stair climbing can increase balance and mobility in older persons. This can translate to better running form and a lower chance of falling for runners of all ages.

The people who took part in the study climbed stairs for 12 weeks. The findings of  tests of functional mobility and balance revealed that the stair climbing enhanced balance and mobility.

Improved stability and balance can lead to better running form and a lower chance of accidents for athletes who are runners. Runners can strengthen the muscles required for stability and balance by including stair climbing in their training regimen. This will help them maintain good alignment and form when running.

Overall, the study emphasizes how stair climbing can help older persons become more mobile and improve their balance, which can translate to better running technique and a lower chance of falling for runners of all ages.

Cross Training with a stepper isn’t the only way to enhance your running. So can strength training. Check out this 12 week beginner workout complete with videos. 

Finding the ideal stepper machine for runners

Steppers are a terrific technique for runners to cross-train and get fitter. The following advice will help you choose the best stepper machine:

  1. Think about your level of fitness: Stepper machines come in a variety of versions with different features and resistance levels. Go for a straightforward stepper with modest resistance if you're new to exercise or have restricted mobility. Choose a machine with higher resistance levels and more sophisticated features if you're more experienced or want a more difficult workout.
  2. Look for a machine with adjustable resistance: This will allow you to customize your workout and adjust the resistance to your fitness level.
  3. Verify the stride length: The machine's stride length needs to be appropriate for your height and leg length. If at all possible, look for a machine with adjustable stride length.
  4. Look for a connected stepper that provides you with access to on-demand classes and streaming fitness services.
  5. Consider the machine's dimensions and weight: Ensure the equipment will fit in your workout area and is portable if needed. A stairmaster doesn’t always have to take up a lot of space

Here's some of the other benefits you can experience with a stair-climber.

Common stair climbing mistakes and how to avoid them

Stair climbing can be a very efficient cross-training activity for runners. In order to avoid injury and get the most out of your workouts, though, it's crucial to avoid some common pitfalls. Here are some typical errors to avoid:

Overtraining: To avoid overtraining and injury, gradually increase the duration and intensity of your stair-climbing sessions. Give your body time to rest and heal in between workouts and avoid pushing yourself too hard too soon.

Ignoring recovery and rest: When it comes to enhancing performance and fitness, recovery and rest are equally as crucial as training. Include rest days into your training regimen, and give sleep and recovery exercises like foam rolling, massage, and stretching first priority.

Ignoring proper form and technique: Good form and technique are crucial for avoiding injuries and maximizing your exercises. Be sure to stabilize yourself with your core, maintain a relaxed posture, and land gently on your feet.

Neglecting warm-up and cool-down exercises: Warm-up and cool-down exercises, such as jogging, stretching, and foam rolling, are crucial for preventing injuries and enhancing performance. Make sure to include these in your stair-climbing workouts.

Ignoring nutrition and hydration: Optimal performance and recuperation depend on sound nutrition and hydration. Before, during, and after your workouts, make sure to hydrate and feed your body with a balanced meal.


Stair climbing is a great cross-training activity for runners, providing an intense, low-impact workout that targets the lower body muscles and cardiovascular system. Working out on a stair stepper has been shown in studies to increase lower body strength, endurance, balance, and stability, all of which can lead to better running form and a lower chance of injury.

Ready to add stair climbing to your workout regimen? Check out the STEPR and discover why it’s the machine of choice for many of your fellow runners.

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