Regardless of whether you are at home or on the road, running stairs and stadium steps are effective ways to get your athletes in shape, keep them in shape and provide an alternative to running sprints on the field. Before you start asking your athletes to sprint up the nearest staircase, there are some basic do’s and don’ts for stair running workouts. While simply running up and down a good flight of stairs will give your athletes a good workout, there are some basic rules for stair climbing that can help maximize results and minimize the risk of injury.
Observe the following rules of stair running for safe, effective training.
- Find a suitable set of stadium stairs – While any height of stairs will do, try to find a set that is tall enough that it takes 6-10 seconds to run up. Avoid longer runs. Baseball is an anaerobic sport, so keep the work bouts relatively short. Higher intensity, shorter efforts are ideal for improving anaerobic capacity, leg strength and power.
- Warm-up properly – Start by performing three dynamic, total body exercises: 1) walk up the stairs; 2) lunge up the stairs; and 3) jog up the stairs. Walk down after each exercise. The next four warm-up drills are performed using only the first stair step. Start with 10 alternate foot shuffles. Then do 10 step-ups, crossover step-ups and jump up / step downs. Switch lead legs on the last 3 exercises after 5 reps. A good warm-up should take approximately 5 minutes.
- Never run down the stairs – Since the impact forces and stress on the joints are greater when going down stairs than going up, always walk down.
- Each sprint must be at 95% intensity or greater – Stair running yields the best results from full-speed sprints.
- Maintain a 1:3 work-to-rest ratio – If it takes 10 seconds to run up, walk down slowly and rest for 30 seconds between sprints.
Perform 6-10 sets of the following three exercises with 30 seconds rest between sets and 60 seconds rest between exercises.
- Touch every step – Start with your right foot on the first step and sprint up touching every other step with the opposite foot. Pump the arms hard and fast as you sprint up. Walk down, rest 30 seconds and place your left foot on the first step for the second set. Switch lead legs after each set.
- Touch every other step – Start with your right foot on the second step and sprint up taking two steps at a time. Walk down, rest 30 seconds and switch lead legs.
- Crossover every other step – Start with your left side facing the stairs and both feet on the ground. Perform a crossover step with the right foot and place it on the first step. Extend your right leg and step to the left placing your left foot on the second step. Continue to the top of the stairs crossing your right foot over your left. Walk down, rest 30 seconds, face the opposite direction and repeat the drill crossing the left leg over the right.
Stair running can be a safe, fun and challenging way to stay in shape provided you warm-up before, follow the rules during and cool down after each workout. Most athletes can see positive results within 20 minutes or less. To make it harder for advanced athletes, increase the speed of the runs or perform them wearing a weighted vest.
Ric Mabie, RSCC is the Strength and Conditioning Coach, AAA Round Rock Express, Texas Rangers.