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Secrets of Speed and Quickness Training
A collection of articles
by Dr. Larry Van Such - Vol. 20

Is Running Steps a Good Idea, or a Bad Idea?

Here’s an interesting question for you… is running steps, as an exercise, a good idea, or a bad idea?

I love to run steps whenever I get the opportunity. Years ago when I was in my early 20’s, I was living with my sister and brother in law their condominium in Pompano Beach, Florida.

The building we were living in at the time had upwards of 20 floors. This meant the fire escape stairwell had 40 flights of zig-zagged steps, with each flight containing about 10 steps.

In Florida this meant that the non air-conditioned fire escape was extremely warm and got hotter the higher up you got. I am pretty sure the temperature in that fire escape was well above 100 degrees on most days but that’s another story altogether.

I remember racing up and down these 40 flights of stairs as if it were yesterday. The first time up was definitely easier than the second go around, and certainly, coming down was effortless in comparison to going up.

I would use the handrail as a propulsion device with each turn onto a new flight of steps. I grabbed on to it to pull and launch myself up the first few steps of the next flight, creating some much needed momentum.

Steps Can Be A Great Workout

I can remember the burn in my legs, the pump in my thighs and the feeling of such an incredibly intense workout that while only lasting about 10-15 minutes, seemed much longer when breathing in the hot and heavy humid air.

The instant sweat that was created from this unique environment was a good lesson on how to take advantage of your surroundings in a positive and productive way.

I only had the luxury of living in that building for about 8 months before I moved out on my own, but I will always remember the positive feeling I got from those workouts.

Nowadays, I look to the high school football stadiums to get my step running in. The local high school stadium near my home doesn’t have 40 flights of steps, but it does allow me to get close to the workouts that I once enjoyed down in Pompano, Beach.

Is There a Bad Side to Running Steps?

So, to answer the question above, 'Is running steps good or bad for you?', naturally my answer is going to be, 'it’s good'.

So imagine my surprise when I shared this experience with a gym member the other day. We were talking about cardio workouts and things like that and he mentioned to me that he likes to run on the treadmill and around the track.

I mentioned to him that those are great exercises, but for some reason, I prefer to get my cardio by running steps. I even told him where I go to do it.

It was a friendly conversation, but he said something really interesting that got my attention. He said that his orthopedic doctor never recommends that anyone run steps. I said, 'Really, that’s odd, why would he say that?'

He said that his orthopedist believes that one’s own body weight is too much weight for one leg to support as the body goes up and down the steps, especially in an aggressive exercise-type of way. He further said that the joints were not meant to support the body in this way very efficiently.

I politely “saw his point” but I have to be honest here, I have never heard such a thing. I can see if perhaps you have some type of injury that you wouldn’t want to run steps, but for healthy and active living people, I see no reason why this exercise should be avoided.

The Structural Advantages of Running Steps vs. Running on a Treadmill

The way I see it, running steps has many advantages over running on a treadmill or track. The main reason is when you run steps, the toes and the balls of your feet make contact with the step, and not your heel.

This allows the ankle joint to flex and absorb any shock going up or down the steps. The amount of force that may travel up your spine is dissipated very quickly and so it limits any problems such as neck or back pain that may result.

I find this shock absorption by the ankle joint while running steps to be extremely advantageous over a treadmill where the majority of times, I see people striking the belt with their heels first.

This does not allow for any shock absorption to take place in the ankle and foot and as a result a much harder and discrete force is shot up the leg, thigh, hip and upward through the spine and neck causing knee pain, back pain and even headaches.

Many of my patients can’t run on treadmills for this very reason, even though they may not have any problems with their feet.

The Muscular Advantages of Running Steps

Now, aside from the cardiovascular benefits that I believe you get from running steps, it’s also one of the best exercises I recommend for speed training outside of the programs we offer.

Running steps targets the gluteal muscles, hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles, all of which are necessary to getting off to a fast start in a race or in most sports.

I personally recommend this workout to whoever asks me about them, so naturally I was taken back a bit when I heard advice to the contrary.

So in this particular article, I would like to hear what you think about running steps.

Do you think there is any particular danger to running them, or do you think they are yet another great exercise to incorporate into your workouts whenever the opportunity presents itself?

Please let me know by using the comments below.

Always glad to help!
Dr. Larry Van Such


Speed Training For All Sports
Speed Training Exercises For Faster Muscles

Other Articles...

24 - Slow 40 Times? Football Coaches, Are you the Problem?

23 - Secrets of Speed Training to Make You Faster in Days - 4 part Series

22 - Pop Warner Football Player Scoring More Touchdowns!

21 - The glutes are often underdeveloped for 'pulling'

20 - Is Running Steps a Good Idea or a Bad Idea?

19 - Developing Speed and Power in the Tennis Serve - 3 Part Series

18 - Developing Bat Speed and Power in the Baseball Swing - 4 Part Series

17-4 - Becoming An All-Star Athlete.

17 - Why Isometric Training with Resistance Bands Differs From Isometric Training With Weights - 4 Part Series

16 - Muscle Confusion - What is the more complete definition?

15 - Improve your sports performance by training with all 3 muscle contractions - Part 1 of 2

14 - Bruce Lee - One of the fastest and quickest athletes ever

13 - 8 Tips to Incorporate Speed Training into Your Strength Routine

12 - Why You Must Train For Speed and Strength Separately

11 - When It Comes To Speed, Even The Best Machines Will Disappoint You

10 - Why Most 'Speed Training' Programs Do Not Deliver As Advertised

09 - Start speed training midseason and still see results in days

08 - Why the smallest guy on the team is getting credit for having the strongest leg.

07 - Golf - Golf Swing Muscles to Exercise for Swing Speed

06 - Todays' isometrics with resistance bands conditions muscles for speed, strength and coordination in ways static weights can not.

05 - The little known secret behind 'No Pain No Gain'.

04 - Not All Exercise Resistance Bands Are Created Equal.

03 - Baseball Players: An Exercise That Will Increase Bat Speed and Generate Power - Part 1

02 - To jump higher train your hip flexor muscles to contract quicker

01 - Isometric exercises with the resistance band  - The single most effective way to increase the speed of muscular contraction.

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