When it comes to home workouts, one of the biggest hurdles can be a lack of equipment. Sure, you’ve read the articles on the best adjustable dumbbells to buy when weightlifting at home, but if you don’t have the space to store them, or you’re traveling and don’t fancy carrying equipment in your suitcase, what else can you do?
On a recent weekend break, I found myself in a similar situation. As I was only away for a couple of nights, slipping some of the best resistance bands into my hand luggage seemed excessive, so instead, I found myself searching for a quick bodyweight workout I could do with no equipment.
I stumbled across Kayla Itsines’ at-home stair session, which has racked up 1.9 million views on TikTok, so found myself some stairs, and set out to give it a go. Read on to find out what happened.
What is the Kayla Itsines stair workout?
The Kayla Itsines stair workout is a full-body, bodyweight HIIT workout that can be done just about anywhere, using just a set of stairs. It’s a series of seven exercises, that can be repeated as many times as you’d like. Kayla doesn’t give any guidance on reps, but we’d say aim for ten of each, and work up from there.
Here are the exercises to expect:
Knee-up: To do a knee-up, start standing in front of your stairs. Step your right foot two stairs up (or one, depending on the depth of your stairs), shift your weight into your right leg, and lift your body up off the floor, as you do so, raise your left knee to your chest, pause, and lower back to your starting position. That’s one rep. Remember to do the same number of reps on each side.
Incline push-up: If you’re struggling to master a full bodyweight push-up, incline push-ups are often a great way of working on your arm strength. Get into a push-up position, placing your hands on the edge of the step. Bend at the elbow and lower your chest down to the step, before driving back up to your starting position, with your arms straight. Here’s another TikTok hack on mastering a full-body push-up.
Bulgarian split squat: The Bulgarian split squat is a variation of a single-leg squat, where you elevate your back leg off the ground. This is a great exercise for targeting the quads, and it also requires a lot of balance, which requires you to engage your core. Here’s more on how to do a Bulgarian split squat.
Incline mountain climber: To do an incline mountain climber, start in a high plank position, with your hands on the edge of one step. Here’s how to do a mountain climber with the correct form.
Box jump: To do a box jump, start by standing in front of a box, or in this case, some stairs. Jump both feet onto the step, landing with your feet hip-width apart, before lowering down into a squat. Step back off the step, and get ready for your next rep.
Step tap: This is a great one to get the heart rate up. Standing in front of the step, tap your left foot on the edge of the step, then your right foot. The aim of this exercise is to move your feet as fast as possible.
Lateral step-up and X-crunch: Standing side on to the steps, place your right foot on the bottom step, then do a lateral lunge to the left, as you finish the lunge, drive your left knee up to your right elbow. Remember to do the same number of reps on the other side.
Decline shoulder tap: To do a decline shoulder tap, start in a high plank position, with your feet raised onto the steps, and your hands on the floor. Holding the plank, tap your right hand to your left shoulder, then your left hand to your right shoulder. Keep bracing your core, and alternating sides.
I tried Kayla Itsines’ stair workout — here’s what happened
In a word, wow. I repeated this circuit of seven exercises four times to really work up a sweat. It took me about 20 minutes, as I took a couple of minutes rest between each circuit. Here’s how many reps of each exercise I did for each circuit:
- Knee-up: 15 reps on each side
- Bulgarian split squat: 15 reps on each leg
- Incline mountain climber: 40 reps
- Box jump: 15 reps
- Step tap: 40 reps
- Lateral step-up and X-crunch: 15 reps on each side
- Decline shoulder tap: 20 reps
Obviously, beginners could opt to do fewer repetitions, or only do one circuit, and people looking for more of a challenge could increase these numbers, but I only had 20 minutes.
The first thing I realized was that the depth of the stairs really matters — I ended up using concrete stairs outside, as I found these gave me more space to jump up during the box jumps. The box jumps were probably my least favorite exercise, and beginners or anyone who suffers from knee pain might want to swap these out for a step-up and squat.
The second thing I realized was that I was sweaty — this circuit really targets all of the major muscle groups, and if you move through the exercises quickly, you’ll get your heart rate up in no time. When traveling, I often tend to pack some running shoes and a sports bra and head out for a quick run, but if you’re not a runner, this is a brilliant workout you can do from just about anywhere.
While I probably won’t be adding this to my workouts at home (I live in an old cottage and I’m not sure my neighbors would appreciate me jumping up and down the stairs at 6 am), I train with Kayla on the Sweat app and love her workouts. After years of home workouts, most of us have gotten pretty good at improvising, but this workout was a wonderful reminder that you don’t need a fancy gym, or a top-of-the-range exercise bike to get your heart pumping.
Looking for more home workout inspiration? We’ve found six resistance band exercises that build your arms without weights, an exercise that sculpts your arms using just your body weight, and the best ab workouts you can do from just about anywhere.