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Stairs for Strength


Many people opt for the escalator or elevator when given the option. This article is for people who say no to complacency and do their best to travel the stairs when going up. This article is for the stair dwellers who want to become stronger, more efficient, and lower their risk of injury.

When walking up a flight of stairs step by step, we put the body thru some irresponsible biomechanical faults. We create a shear force on the knee joint, we overuse our already dominant quadricep muscles, and to top it off, we become inefficient in our energy usage and most importantly our time.
When we walk up the stairs two at a time, all the prior is reversed! We create a large degree of hip flexion and therefore a large(r) degree of hip extension! This is important because it focuses muscle contractions towards the posterior chain (muscles on the back of your body such as glutes and hamstrings). Taking two steps at a time also helps with creating a more dynamic stretch and helps reinforce a more athletic motor pattern.

The shear forces created in the knee with single step locomotion are nearly impossible to recreate if we skip a stair/step. In fact, the positions we create by taking a double step closely resemble the same mechanics that are showcased in world record power lifting squats. Sounds like a small change worth practicing right?

Notice the two pictures side by side. Do you see the similarities between multiple world record holder Andre Malenchiev squatting 1,036 lbs. and the happy smiling lady taking her steps two at a time? Both subjects have a ninety-degree bend at the hip and knee joint which forms an optimal biomechanical environment! Now look below at the pair of corporate single step takers … They have minimal hip flexion and extension and their knees are extending past their ankle which creates destructive shear forces and in general they just don’t look enthused.

Now we are not suggesting that your life will be shorter or less exciting for only taking single steps, but we are inviting you to think about one of the simple, but many, ways you can alter daily habits to positively benefit your physical preparedness and sport performance all while reducing your chance for injury along the way.

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