Stairs HIIT Circuit

In college, I would look forward to the stair climbing portion of our conditioning workouts. No matter how tired I was from the ghosting or other exercises, I could always keep going on the stairs. In hindsight, it was probably because there were only 3 flights to climb before we would run down and start again, giving our quads a bit of a break. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an exercise I dreaded (unlike court sprints…blah!)

A few months ago, I was coerced into running a set of stairs with my coach, John after our session. After one set of 9 flights, my quads were on fire. I don’t mean a slight burn in the legs- I mean such an intense feeling that my legs physically couldn’t accelerate anymore. The hardest part? Once the legs started burning, I had to keep going, which made the last couple of flights a huge feat of mental strength.

A little while ago, I decided to dip back into the dreadful stairs pain cave, and drew up this stairs conditioning workout to test the lactic capacity of the legs, as well as muscular endurance. I had Jello legs by the end of the session!

Stairs Conditioning Workout

Complete 3-4 rounds of each circuit, taking little to no rest as needed between exercises. Between rounds, take ~45-60 seconds rest.

Circuit 1

1)  Stairs. I did 9 flights, because that’s how many are in the building, but depending on your current level of fitness, that may be too many (or perhaps too little!) for you.

2) Bent over row (15 reps) 

3) Walking lunges (12 reps / leg)

4) Jump rope (60 seconds)

Rest 45-60 seconds, then repeat 3-4x

Circuit 2

1) Stairs

2) Bear crawl (30 seconds)

3) Kettlebell squat to OH press (15 reps)

4) Jump rope (60 seconds)

Rest 45-60 seconds, then repeat 3-4x

If you do end up trying the workout, drop me a comment and tell me what you thought!

Disclaimer: While I am a certified personal trainer, please make sure to consult with your doctor before trying this (or any) workout regimen, especially if you are new to exercise. 


  1. Dave Chow says

    Hey Nicole
    Stuck at home thinking about squash because of COVID and ran across your site after searching for “squash interval stairs”.
    There is obviously no gym, or court now, but have been doing some mtb, stairs (highrise), and tabata to try to stay in shape.
    Question – why is all the other stuff in your circuit important to do with the stairs. Or is the stairs alone good enough?
    Dave in Vancouver

    • says

      Hi Dave! Thanks for reading and reaching out. Glad to hear you’re keeping fit- I think we are all missing squash!
      While the circuit format isn’t necessary, it adds some variety to the session, and in my opinion, makes it slightly less brutal on the legs and more manageable! It is also a full body workout, and decreases some of the impact to make it a bit more joint friendly.
      If you’re looking for an all-round workout which will improve your conditioning, this is a good format to follow. Adding in several sets of a variety of lunges (forward, lateral, backwards) can help preserve some strength in your legs for when you head back to the court.

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