Conquer the Rocky Steps: 10 Exercises to Do at the Art Museum

Go vertical: Mix up your humdrum routine with this fast-paced, total-body stairs workout.

Trainer Holly Waters, practicing what she preaches.

It’s so easy to get into a workout rut, doing the same tired routine day after day, week after week. Boredom’s not your only enemy: your body gets used to all that repetition, and sooner or later, it starts cutting corners in the calorie-burning department. The trick is to keep your muscles guessing.

Enter: the stairs. “Getting a little bit of an angle into your workout is really, really great for your backside, your endurance and your core,” says Holly Waters, a personal trainer at Sweat Fitness. “Whether you’re taking one step at a time or five, you have to engage your core, arms and legs to generate the momentum to go up the stairs.” Talk about full-body workout.

Now that the weather’s getting warmer, Holly suggests hitting the stairs once a week. She likes to bring clients to the Art Museum steps for training sessions, so she shared a workout she often uses with them. Tailor it to fit your training needs: add more or less repetitions, or only go half or a quarter of the way up. Just be sure to jump around triumphantly with your hands in the air, Rocky-style, when you’re finished. Obviously.

Warmup: Single Step Run

Jog up and down the stairs four times. Plain and simple.

Exercise 1: Every Other

Hit every other step as you go up; hit every one as you come back down. Repeat two to three times or timed for two minutes.

Exercise 2: Speed Double Leg Jumps

Perform box jumps all the way up one time; go for speed. For beginners, stay at the bottom and box jump up to the first step only. Repeat for a minute to a minute and a half.

Exercise 3: One Leg Jump-ups

Hop on one foot to the top of the steps; jog back down. Repeat twice. Beginners, stay at the bottom and just jump up one step; repeat for a minute to a minute and a half.

Exercise 4: Bear Crawl

Get down on all fours. Go up the steps moving your left arm and right leg first, then your right arm and left leg. (Here’s a video so you can see the movement.) Repeat to the top; jog down.

Exercise 5: Side-Step Stutter

Picture the stutter step drills football players do in practice. Turn to the side so your left leg is on the first step and your right leg is on the ground. Maintaining a slight squat position, stutter step for two minutes with your left leg on the higher step; turn around and switch sides so your right leg is higher. Advanced athletes can combine the moves: stutter step for a few seconds on one side, then turn 180 degrees and switch to the other side in a fluid motion. Repeat.

Exercise 6: Dips

Perform tricep dips on the stairs; do 20, shake it out, repeat. Another idea: If you’re working out with a buddy, bring a whistle along. One person walks or jogs backward up the steps. When the partner blows the whistle, drop down and do 10 dips. “I like to keep people guessing,” Holly says.

Exercise 7: Angled Up and Down Pushups

It’s exactly what it sounds like: perform 10 to 15 pushups with your hands on the steps and feet on the ground, then turn around and perform a second set with your feet on the steps and your hands on the ground. “The angled-up pushups are easier and the angled-down ones are harder,” says Holly. “Beginners might start by only doing the angled-up ones, and progress from there as they get more comfortable.”

Exercise 8: Angled Burpees with a Stair Jump

You know what a burpee is, right? Do a pushup on the steps, angled up. Then bring your feet in and jump up on the stairs, advancing one or two steps each time. “This is an accelerated move; it’s not for beginners,” Holly says. “It takes a good deal of coordination.” Beginners can do two to three sets of 10 to 15 burpees on level ground.

Exercise 9: Weighted Run

Run up the stairs carrying, well, something heavy. Holly makes her trainees run with a tire (no joke!), but you could also use kettlebells or free weights. If you don’t feel like lugging weights (I don’t blame you), run with your arms above your head. Do three to four up-and-down runs with weights.

Exercise 10: Medicine Ball Thruster Step

A thruster is a squat with a shoulder press at the top. Squat low with a medicine ball (free weights work, too) and as you stand up, take a step up. You can make it more advanced by doing a squat thrust with a jump up, or you could even skip a few stairs.