If You’ve Got a Stairwell at Home, You’ve Got a Gym

When it comes to working out, necessity is the mother of invention

One of the few bright spots of being in isolation this long has gotta be watching regular people suddenly discover that the thing they’ve been using one way can, in quarantine, be used in a completely different way than originally intended. Zoom is a perfect example — what was once a tool exclusively used in the office by telecommuters and “sick” employees is suddenly Friday night’s hottest club in town. 

The stairs in your apartment building or multi-story home are another good example. Because what you once used to traverse between floors can now double as a home gym. 

In fact, there’s a metric ton of exercises you could be doing on your stairwell that work all different parts of your body, right freaking now. “If you’ve got stairs at home, you can basically get a full-body workout without ever leaving your house,” says Damien Brown, a personal trainer in L.A. “Cardio is obviously no problem on stairs, but it’s the body-weight exercises you can do that people don’t think about.”

Let’s start with the cardio, though. If you’ve got 15 steps or more in your home or building, you’ve got what you need to get your heart going — and going good — and Brown says there are multiple ways to keep things interesting beyond simply running up/walking down ad nauseam. “You could skip one or multiple steps, hop up on two feet or do crossovers all the way up, and that’s just the start,” he explains. “Try picking three different moves, and then do three sets of each as fast as you can for three rounds, walking or jogging down in between.” 

But again, cardio only scratches the surface of what you can do on a good set of stairs. “There are tons of great stair exercises you can do instead of what you might normally do in the weight room,” Brown says. “For example, you could do incline and decline push-ups to replace what you’d normally do on the bench. Another good one is doing split squats — reverse and regular — instead of using a squat rack or a leg press. And if you’re hoping to get in some good core work, try crab-walking up and crocodile-walking down a flight of stairs five times.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “If I’m doing this at home, am I just going to be sweating all over everything?” 

Assuming you’re a sweater, the answer is probably, “yes.” Sorry, can’t be helped. 

That said, you could get creative, like leaving towels around the handrails at the top and bottom of the stairs for a quick dry-off between sets. Also, you might want to consider running stairs barefoot — the thinking here is, if you do sweat, you’re more likely to prevent dirt and grime from getting the stairs nasty if you’re not in your outside sneakers. Just remember to clean off your feet first, and the stairwell afterward with soap and water. 

After all that, if you’re still missing your weights, instead of adding some expensive dumbbells to the mix, buy a couple of gallons of milk — almost nine pounds, each. Not only will you have some DIY weights to curl, press and squat on your way up and down your stairs, but you can always join the GOMAD gang when you’re done. 

Now that’s quarantine innovation.