Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Cross Training

The Best, Worst Workout I’ve Ever Done: This StairMaster Workout for Runners

If you're looking for a low-impact option that still delivers on intensity, a StairMaster workout is the way to go.

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Unless you’ve won the lottery of connective tissue perfection, there will be a time when every runner feels a niggle that benefits time off from the pounding of running. If that happens to coincide with a bold training goal, laying off running can cause anxiety about loss of fitness and strength as you heal up.

Enter the StairMaster.

This machine is possibly the best “worst” piece of equipment your cardiovascular system and joints could ask for.

If you haven’t yet tried a StairMaster workout, enter with an open mind. It might seem to be a lightweight option, but it’s anything but. It has to be one of the least appreciated training options in the stationary toolbox and one of the toughest workouts out there.

Simply put, the StairMaster is an uphill treadmill that rotates steps allowing the runner to climb at a speed they can control. If you’ve ever done hill repeats, you can see the benefits ahead in plain view. The StairMaster offers both strength and cardio with a side-serving of mental endurance in a handy 45 minute session. When you’re laying off the running or just stuck indoors in winter looking for an alternative, jump (gently) onto the “moving hill,” and give it a go for yourself.

RELATED: 12-Week Intermediate/Advanced Base-Building Training Plan

StairMaster workouts are tough, an amazing value for your time, and a low-impact workout for anyone who needs to take it easy on the joints while still making forward progress.

USA Triathlon coach and Colorado Running Hall of Fame athlete J’ne Day-Lucore has created this series of workouts for the StairMaster, intentionally keeping it productive and effective in a low-impact way.

RELATED: Yes, The Elliptical Can Create Champions. Here’s How.

5 StairMaster Workouts for Runners

StairMaster Workout 1: 8 x (1 minute hard effort, 3 minutes recovery)

  • Warm-up for 13 minutes: Build from RPE 4 to RPE 8, progressing one level up every 2 minutes. Recovery RPE 4 for 3 minutes.
  • Main Set: 32 minutes as 8 x (1 min RPE 10, 3 min RPE 4)
  • Cool-down for 45 minutes total

StairMaster Workout 2: 7 x (2 minutes hard effort, 3 minutes recovery)

  • Warm-up 10-12 minutes: Start at easy level and progress one level up every 2 minutes. When you reach maximum level for 2 minutes, go back to starting level and recover for 3 minutes.
  • Main Set: 35 minutes as 7 x (2 min highest level, 3 min recovery)
  • Cool-down for 45 minutes total

StairMaster Workout 3: 8 Minute Ladder Build with Sprints

  • Build Set: 27 minutes
    • Increase one level every 2 minutes:
      • Set 1: Level 8-9-10-11 (RPE 5 up to RPE 8)
      • Set 2: Level 9-10-11-12 (RPE 6 up to RPE 9)
      • Set 3: Level 10-11-12-13 (RPE 7 up to RPE 10)
      • Recovery Level 6/7 for 3 min (RPE 3-4)
  • Sprint Set: 16 minutes
    • 4 x (1 min at Level 14 or RPE 10, 3 min at Level 6 or RPE 3)
  • Cool-down for 45 min total

StairMaster Workout 4: 3 x 8 minute Pyramids

  • Warm-up for 15 minutes: gradual build from RPE 1 to RPE 6 every 2 minutes; 3 min easy to recover for main set
  • Main Set 1: 8 minutes
    • 3 min at Level 9 (RPE 6)
    • 2 min at Level 10 (RPE 7)
    • 1 min at Level 11 (RPE 8)
    • 2 min recovery at Level 6 (RPE 3)
  • Main Set 2: 8 minutes
    • 3 min at Level 10 (RPE 7)
    • 2 min at Level 11 (RPE 8)
    • 1 min at Level 12 (RPE 9)
    • 2 min recovery at Level 6 (RPE 3)
  • Main Set 3: 8 minutes
    • 3 min at Level 11 (RPE 8)
    • 2 min at Level 12 (RPE 9)
    • 1 min at Level 13 (RPE 10)
    • 2 min recovery at Level 6 (RPE 3)
  • Cool-down for 45 min total

StairMaster Workout 5: 3  x 12 minute pyramids

  • Increase one level every 2 minutes:
    • Set 1: Level 8-9-10-9-8, easy recovery for 2 min (RPE 6 to 8 to 6)
    • Set 2: Level 9-10-11-10- 9, easy recovery for 2 min (RPE 7 to 9 to 7)
    • Set 3: Level 10-11-12-11- 10, easy recovery for 2 min (RPE 8 to 10 to 8)
  • Cool-down for 45 min total