Rise Up!

By Louis Hayes

In Sports Applications

December 18, 2009

PDF Article

Climbing stairs is a measurable, observable and repeatable activity. Louis Hayes thinks more CrossFitters should add stair climbing to their daily WODs.

This past year I stumbled upon a CrossFit message-board thread about exercises readers thought should be a part of CrossFit programming. I happened to read the thread during my seasonal immersion in winter stair climbing, but my post replying suggesting “stair and hill climbing” went completely ignored by the other posters.

I wondered if I had too easily persuaded myself that climbing passes the fundamental three-pronged test of CrossFit: functionality, constant variation, and high intensity. Why did no one else agree with me?

I believe climbing is a task that fits harmoniously within the CrossFit mandate. If one can’t see climbing a few flights of stairs as functional, I ask, “What is more practical or lifelike?” The variety in stair climbing is infinite: speed, duration, skipping stairs, forward, backward, carrying loads—these are but a few options. Lastly, for those who don’t see climbing as a high-intensity activity, I’ll race anyone to the top floor of a 20-story building and, when I catch my breath, argue about its intensity.

Stair climbing fits snuggly into the CrossFit world on so many fronts, but it wasn’t until this last winter’s stair-preparation season that I really appreciated my new methodology’s compatibility with CrossFit. With the help of the power formula, I took my stair-race training to new heights via measurement, analysis and repeatability.

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16 Comments on “Rise Up!”


wrote …

I totally agree. I was doing stairs at a stadium pretty regularly this summer and the effects are pretty amazing. I don't know why this isn't emphasized more. But I do know some gyms do it a lot.


Ronnie Teasdale wrote …

I like this article. My affiliate is on the top floor of my building (11th). I use the stairs very frequently in workouts. In fact my intro baseline uses a run up ten flights of stairs instead of the C2. I of course can only use this for people familiar with exercise, because the stair climb has WRECKED quite a few people.

I like the measurements of power, I need to figure out the physics in my set of stairs so I can give out more measurable data to my clients.


wrote …

Couldn't agree more. Its not reasonable for HQ to add it to it's exercises as so many people don't have hills or stairs at their local gym, but as an affiliate owner we use it all the time. In fact I chose our space because our building has a second level accessible by cars that has a bad ass hill climb on both sides of it. We also have a legendary set of stairs roughly a 1km away, that when the weather is good we do running wods at and have even brought equipment to fit it all in. Adds a whole new element.

The Pie
CrossFit Lions


wrote …

Totally agree, Louis! At least one of my out-of-town WOD's if I am traveling and in a hotel is to climb the stairs. I get lots of funny looks from the housekeepers and security folks as you can imagine!



wrote …

My dad lives on the 10th floor of an appartment building. Since starting CF, I've come to like sprinting up the stairs whenever I visit him. It used to kill me. Now I beat the elevator, and by the time it finally gets up there, I've almost caught my breath completely. Stair climbing is great!


wrote …

I agree with stair climbing as a great alternative to hills. In getting my guys ready for Afghanistan, I regularly use our boxes and have them do step ups for time while wearing full kit or heavy rucks. Doing step ups for 30 mins straight with 60lbs on your body makes for a great workout.


wrote …

The building that we work out in is six floors and has a wide staircase close to the fitness center. We often use the stairs and will even have the clients do regular wod exercises on each level. It not only gives us more room but the stairs themselves add a great challenge to a wod


wrote …

The Grouse Grind in Vancouver BC Canada is the king of all stair workouts, and is an absolute must-do for any crossfitter visiting the city.


Plus, it has all the qualities of a workout that crossfitters like: a measured distance and elevation gain, and sanctioned world record timed events to train for. Here is a blog that pretty well sums it up.



wrote …

perhaps next to the C2 Rower could be a VersaClimber??


wrote …

Love it ! I was raised in a high rise block which was 32 flights - 320 ft - high. I returned to live there as an adult and regularly did stair sessions with a friend of mine. We played with all sorts of combinations, single rep for time, multiple reps for time, with weight, running up and down for time and on a couple of occassions running to failure i.e running until we stumbled into a walk or just couldn't run any more. On one occassion this took almost 3 hours ! A favourite workout was 10 reps for time, running up and elevator down only timing the ascent. This amounted to 3,200ft of ascent. We always aimed to complete each rep inside 3 mins. Happy days :)


replied to comment from Charlie Armour

Charlie, I was just saying to Mrs. Bingo that the perfect garage gym in areas where it snows in the winter would have a C2, C2 Cross-Country Ski erg, and a VersaClimber. What a trio!



wrote …

great article.i'm a trainer at the chicago police academy and we use stairs quite a bit in our training....we even sprint up a couple flights of stairs and perform control tactics at the top...run back down and repeat. it is quite a challenge.


wrote …

Now there's something I've completely forgotten about lately. Kind of like Ice Cream Makers and Zercher Squats... I think I'll go find some stairs tomorrow.


replied to comment from Alexander Vetter

Yeah Vancouver....!!!! 2010 WINTER OLYMPICS HERE WE COME!! My home town!!! The Grind can get the best of everyone. Mother nature at her best. Many of the local pro and semi pro athletic teams use it for a training. Though it only operates from about May to October depending on the weather/rain/mud/snow. And the bonus....THE VIEW FROM THE TOP ONTO THE CITY!


wrote …

In Hamilton Ontario we have several sets of stairs that climb our escarpment. They run to about 200 to 500 depending on which site that you climb at. At one time I watched several videos of stair climbing on YouTube and the variety that one employ doing the climbing.


wrote …

In the Canadian Forces, our basic training (boot camp) is done primarily at CFLRS St-Jean. In St-Jean, there is a building called The Mega, because it is just that, Mega. It is 15 floors, with a few of those floors actually being 2 stories each, with 2 flights of stairs each. Our platoon was situated on 9th floor (I can only pity those on the floors above us) and our instructors LOVED to make us run those damn stairs everyday. We would be formed up at the bottom and told we have 3 minutes to get up to our rooms and bring back any random objects, and if we actually made the insane timing, we'd have to do it again with a minute less. Or another fun day was when we'd run about 500 m to jump a small wall, do a whack of pushups, dirty our boots in mud, run back, all the way up to our rooms, and polish our boots for an inspection (doomed to failure of course) only to do it over, and over again. Good times, and great training. 20 flights for time.

Go Navy!

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