Tuesday, 24 December 2013 08:42

Taking one step at a time -- or two?

It's a glorious afternoon here in Southern China, and I'm feeling on top of the world. Got done with  my exercises a short while ago, had a great lunch, and I'm still "in the zone" - and will likely stay there for a while longer yet!

Anyway, some of you are probably looking at the subject of this email, and wondering why I need to ask the question in the first place. I mean, I speak about progressive training (as in, one step at a time or even baby steps that add up) in my book, so why I am bringing it up here?

Well, some of you Fast and Furious followers would be justified in thinking along those lines - but hold "yer" horses - what I'm referring to is uphill climbs. As in, jaunts up a tough incline (can be man made or a natural hill - it doesn't matter) with steps along the way.

It's actually a question that stair climbing enthusiasts have asked many times over, and there are many schools of thought when it comes to this particular topic, all of them with varying, but valid (to a degree) viewpoints.

"Do I burn more calories if I take two or more stairs at a time?"

"Does climbing one step at a time provide me with a better workout?"

And so forth - and just in case you don't believe, fire up your favorite search engine, and you'll quickly see that this is quite a commonly asked question out there on the Internet as well.

And I thought I'd add my $0.02 as well - - so here goes. What I'm going to say might ruffle a few feathers, and might not jibe with what "conventional" training wisdom dictates, but hear me out before you judge.

Most "conventional" climbing (or stair climbing) theories would have you believe that two (or three) steps at a time is far tougher and far more demanding than climbing steadily one step at a time. And this isn't necessarily that hard to believe for the average Joe - after all, isn't it easier to simply "schmooze" up the two flights of stairs to your apartment rather than sprint up?

Sure is - but what this advice fails to mention is that hills and other serious inclines are an entirely different kettle of fish, my friend - and perhaps a bonier version of fish than you'd expect.

Anyway, without further ado - my answer is "They BOTH work, and they BOTH have their advantages". BOTH burn calories BIG TIME - but neither one burns significantly more calories than the other, despite what various studies may you have you believe (given certain basic constants) - and this is coming from someone whose a huge believer in making a workout as hard as possible.

I generally climb two stairs at a time, but not because I think it provides any extra calorie burning effects - more because it works the thighs in a different manner from climbing one step at a time - but that doesn't mean it's the only way to skin that particular cat.

To put this in perspective, let's take my workout today. I focused on climbing the ENTIRE hill ONE step at a time today - and during no part of the climb did I climb two stairs at a time even once. And I was at the summit before I knew it, breathing in the cool invigorating air as deep as I could.

"Ah, so it was easy then", some of you might chime in.

Uh, no - not really - I was drenched in sweat much like I am after my "two step at a time" climbs - and what is REALLY going to sound unbelievable is that I actually made it up the hill in LESSER time than I normally do. I know this, because I timed myself - and I clocked in a full six minutes ahead of time.

Not bad, eh?

The main reason behind this was that one step at at a time reduces the "shock" on your thighs, and therefore the rest periods required to continue up the hill - but does that mean it's a lesser workout?

Not a chance, my friend - especially when you consider that I clocked in earlier at the top than I normally would.

Taking the steps two at a time might provide a lot more "burn" in your thigh muscles, but climbing at a steady pace accomplishes the same calories burn, albeit without the "pounding" two steps at a time puts your hips and lower back.

Some of you might say "Well, that's like comparing a brisk walk to a sprint" - but it's not. It might be if we're talking Jane Unfit's one struggle to get up to her apartment on the first floor, but not on the hill I'm talking - no chance.

A sprinter finishes a 200 m sprint much quicker than a person walking at a brisk pace does - and I've always said and still say that the former option is a better one in terms of calorie burn and an overall workout.

However, a long, steep hill is an entirely different ball game (or if you don't a hill, a building with maybe 40 flights of stairs at a minimum).

Run, or sprint, or take the stairs three at a time, and you'll certainly feel the heart pound times 10 within no time - but you'll need to rest as well.

Walk up the stairs (or hill) at a brisk undulating pace (one step at a time), and you'll feel the lungs starting to burn times 5 as well - but this burning will be sustainable over a longer period of time, and you'll likely sweat your way up to the top BEFORE the other guy does.

And just so you know, that is NOT the same as flat land walks/sprints. Climbs (especially serious inclines) force your hips, thighs and lower back to work HARD no matter whether your taking it one step at a time or two - the only difference being that one is more sustainable over a long climb.

I've also found that the "burn" is significantly less during the "one step at a time" climb, not because it's "easier" - but because one step at a time allows me to fully "press" down on each step with the heel of my foot, thereby stretching out the calves and hamstrings with each step (which then share the load of the legs as well).

Taking them two at a time usually means I'm somewhat "on my toes" for most of the climb, and that really kills the calves, and causes way more soreness later.

Now, does all of this mean  you should ignore taking the stairs two at a time?

Not at all, my friend - I sure don't - but what I'd advise is working BOTH the techniques into your climb for optimal benefit.

Climb half the hill in one manner, and switch back to the other during the second half.

Or mix it up - take one flight of stairs two at a time, the next two one at a time, and the fourth two at a time.

It's all good - and it all WORKS!

Last, but not least, know that what I'm saying applies to serious climbs - not the trek up one flight of stairs to the bedroom - you'd likely be better off sprinting that than taking the dowager's "slow and steady" walk up THOSE stairs, hehe.

So, there you have it. Take it one step at a time - or two - but put in serious climbs you absolutely MUST - and it doesn't get any simpler than that!

All for now - if you workout today - make it a super one!

Best regards,

P.S. : - My new course on pull-ups is going gang busters - click on over HERE to see what the hoo haa is all about: - http://rahulmookerjee.com/index.php/articles/88-getting-better-at-pull-ups-from-dud-to-stud-within-a-matter-of-weeks