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The “Infamous” Santa Monica Stairs:



If you’re looking to take your conditioning to the next level, doing the Santa Monica stairs, at 170 stairs per flight, is an excellent way to challenge yourself on a regular basis. On any given day, you may see professional and recreational athletes, celebrities, and local fitness enthusiasts all huffing and puffing together to get into better shape.

To find the stairs, take Fourth Street going north from anywhere in Santa Monica until it dead ends. If you are facing north, there is a set of cement stairs that are immediately to the right that many people choose to do. However, I suggest walking east, around 100 yards or so, to the next set of stairs, which are made of wood, and also a couple of feet wider than the cement stairs. The wood is a better surface because it is more forgiving on the body, and the width makes going up and down a lot safer.

In case your schedule is tight, and you can’t make it to the stairs in Santa Monica, I suggest that you go nearby where there is a flight of stairs of at least 15 steps. This can be your home, office building, or local park, etc.

Just like any other mode of cardiovascular training, it will yield the best results when the intensity is monitored, along with a measured duration and distance. I encourage you to make sure that you keep your heart rate in your target zone throughout the duration of the workout to accomplish your specific goal. This ensures maximum value for the time, hard work, and sweat.

The target heart-rate zone is based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate. Generally it can be as low 65 percent for recovery and utilizing more fat stores for energy, and as high as 85 percent to further challenge the cardiovascular system, and improve performance.

The Importance of Progression When Doing a Stairs Workout

If you don’t follow a progressive program, you could end up with severe muscle soreness, and potential joint pain. This can deter adherence to the consistency it would take to achieve the improvements to see great results.

On the other hand, following a planned progression will allow your body to gradually build the strength and stamina to withstand the impact stairs have on the body. This will create a much better experience to facilitate consistency, and achieve greater results.

Below is a sample stair workout, along with some parameters and tips for progression. Incorporating this activity weekly will surely boost your metabolism, improve your cardiovascular conditioning, and burn fat. Enjoy the process, and see you at the stairs.

Beginner to Intermediate Level

If you are not yet accustomed to doing a stair workout or walking stairs period, it is best to begin with doing only 3-5 flights total. (The average flight of steps is 15 steps.) Over a period of weeks and months focus on just increasing the number of stairs within a specific period 30 to 45 minutes. The performance goals for you are to:

• Have little or no rest in between sets of stairs

• Increase the number of sets over the course of days, weeks, and months.

• Feel better overall

Intermediate to Advanced Level

Incorporate timed intervals and recovery periods to mark specific improvement. Increasing the number of sets will also create improvement overall. The performance goals for you are to:

• Increase speed and decrease time

• Improve the working heart rate

• Improve the recovery heart rate

Workout: Intermediate-Advanced Level/

2-3 X a Week / 35 Min

Time Sets THR Zone Effort Level

(Beats per min.) (% of Max)


5 Min. Jog 60-70% 50%

5 Min. 2/65-75% 50%

Form Stair Steps

(1st Half Single Step / 2nd Half 2 Steps)

15 Minutes Interval Stairs

Sprint 1st 2/80-90% 75%

Half Doubles

Jog 2nd 75-85% 50%

Half Doubles

Jog Down 75-65% 50%

(Repeat 2 X)

Sprint 1st 1/80-90% 75%


Jog 1st 80-70% 50%

Half down

Sprint 1st 85% 85%

Half Singles

Walk 2nd 85-75% 50 %

Half Doubles

Jog Down 75-65% 50%

Sprint 1st 1/85-95% 85%

Half Doubles

Walk 2nd 85-75% 50%

Half Doubles

Jog Down 75-65% 50%

10 Minute Cool-down Jog 65% 50%

*Stretch (especially the calves)


• Mental Focus On Details Establishes Efficiency and Injury Prevention

• Focus on breathing to support the exertion on the way up, and the recovery on the way down.

• Focus on moving through your center (hips and abdomen) to drive you forward and up the stairs.

• Focus on driving through the entire foot as you step up to engage the upper thighs and glutes. (The more muscle involved the more calories burned.) This does not apply when you are jogging or sprinting up the stairs.

• It is just as important to pay attention to how well you control your movement going down as it does going up. Stay light going down instead of coming down hard on each step. Utilize your muscles to soften the impact on your joints and bones. YOUR BODY WILL THANK YOU!

• Record progress each workout to keep you motivated. You can detail as much as you want from number of sets, stairs, duration, heart rates (average, maximum, and recovery), and how you felt (before, during, and after) doing them.

Santa Monica Stair Etiquette:

• Stay to the far right of the stairs to allow others to move past you safely.

• Do not bring your dog as your workout partner, as it is a safety hazard for others.

• Do not stop. est directly at the bottom or the top so that others can move by you.

• Do not use your cell phone on the stairs, for obvious reasons.

• Do not hover over someone in front of you. Go around as soon as it is safe.

• Clean up your trash

Stair Facts:

• The average flight of stairs is 15 steps.

• The Empire State Building has 102 floors and 1860 steps.

• The Washington Monument has 897 steps.

• The Eiffel Tower has 1652 steps to the very top, and 704 allowed by visitors.


A stair workout is considered safe; however it is recommended that a partner or trainer is present in case of accidental injury. Seek approval from a doctor before performing the exercise if you are experiencing or have in the past experienced a heart condition, high blood pressure, bone or joint problem, diabetes, experienced chest pain (while sedentary or during exercise), lose your balance because of dizziness, loss of consciousness, or any other reason why you should not do physical activity.

Adam Friedman, CSCS, CN, CMT is a Kinesiologist, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Certified Nutritionist, and Certified Massage Technician. He is the founder of Advanced Athletics, Inc. located right next door to the world famous Gold’s Gym in Venice, on the corner of Sunset Ave, and Hampton Drive, one block east of Main Street. To schedule a complimentary assessment please call 310.396.2100 or email Adam at Otherwise, to learn more, visit

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