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Stairway to Heavenly Legs

Written by Heather Kim

If you've been stepping your way to boredom at the gym, you'll want to read about the benefits of climbing real stairs.

How many times have we been advised to take the stairs? I'm not going to tell you I take them to the 21st floor for business meetings. But I do take them up or down from the parking garage. It works.

To hit the stairs the VonRay Johnson way:
Warm up and stretch for 10 minutes first.
Walk up the stairs two at a time, and walk down.
Do a full set of push-ups.
Jog up the stairs two at time, walk down and do a set of bench dips.
Sprint to the top, walk down, do a set of sit-ups.
Go plyometric. Hop up two steps on one leg, alternate to the other. Walk down and perform some leg lifts for your abs.
Leap up two or three steps at a time, and bound back down one, then up three, down one. Walk down and do dumbell lateral raises.
Take the stairs backwards, walk down, do military presses and curls with dumbells.

Nobody knows this better than VonRay Johnson. A 60-year-old bodybuilder and certified fitness trainer in Portland, Ore., Johnson builds stairs, in the parks of the city's southwest hills, into workouts for his clients.

"It challenges you to be the best," Johnson says. "It's great for the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves." But if you aren't yet in shape, go low-impact on the stairs at first to protect your joints, he advises.

Done Johnson's way, stairs can help you build power, strength and endurance. You also will need to take a shower.

As for those of you who can't find the time for an exclusive session on the stairs, do them my way: Tuck them into your day; a stair here, a stair there. You'll get some of the same physical benefits, you'll avoid inane elevator conversation, and you won't have to worry about stinking up a client's office.

A total body workout is only a staircase away.

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