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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 20, 2011

WOW: Stairway to Sore Thighs

By Mark Sisson

Complete six cycles for time:

Stair Sprint
15 Bodyweight Rows
15 Feet-Elevated Pushups


Warmup: 30 second Grok Squat, lateral, forward, and backward leg swings (10 each leg), 2 light stair runs at around 70% intensity.

I was listening to Led Zeppelin the other day while nursing my legs after a set of hill sprints, and the name came to me – “Stairway to Sore Thighs.” I thought it was a fun name and sprinting against gravity is always a good time. Plus, even the hill-deficient can find a few flights of stairs to sprint. Still, is it worthy of mangling a Zeppelin song title? Other than perhaps Crossfitting thruster fetishists with a penchant for anterior chain pain, no one would confuse a set of sore thighs with “heaven.”

This one is pretty simple. Find a set of stairs, minimum three flights. Shoot for five or more flights, though, or about fifty steps. Sprint up as fast as you can. Do fifteen bodyweight rows, using whatever is available. Walk down the stairs. Do fifteen pushups with your feet elevated. Rest for half a minute to a minute. Repeat five times.

Pretty simple, right? “Stairway to Heaven” hits me in the heart. “Stairway to Sore Thighs” will take care of the rest.

A few things to remember:

  • Do a few test runs on the stairs before going all out. Get a feel for the steps and figure out if you’re going to skip steps or hit each one while sprinting.
  • If you can’t find anywhere to do bodyweight rows, do pullups instead and drop the reps down to ten.
  • Try exploding upward during the pushups so that your torso becomes perfectly parallel with the ground. Throw a clap in there if you like.


Remember, three flights at a minimum. Those who can handle it are free to double or even triple that.

What Are WOWs?

  • Workouts of the Week (WOWs) are an optional component of Primal Blueprint Fitness that add a fractal and often fun and playful quality to the basic PBF protocol.
  • In most cases WOWs should only be completed by those that have mastered Level 4 of each Lift Heavy Things Essential Movement. Also, it’s recommended that WOWs replace one or both Lift Heavy Things workouts or the Sprint workout (depending on the WOW) each week instead of being done in addition to the Lift Heavy Things and Sprint workouts.
  • Learn more about WOWs and Primal Blueprint Fitness by getting the free eBook. And access all Workouts of the Week in the WOW Archive.

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8 Comments on "WOW: Stairway to Sore Thighs"


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6 years 1 month ago

Love this WOW! This particular one would be perfect for me to do at the office, since the building I work in is like 15 stories high! 😉

6 years 1 month ago
Hey Mark, Love the website and love stairs workouts so I thought I’d add 2 tips I find useful on stairs. 1 – When doing stairs sprints I like to pyramid the number of stairs I’m climbing each step. So for 6 sets, like in this workout, the first set I’d do every stair. The second set, I’d do each second stair. The third set, I’d do each third stair. Then reverse so the pattern through the 6 sets is 1-2-3-3-2-1. I find it gives the body some variation and it me something to think about and concentrate on other… Read more »
6 years 1 month ago

I have done the same thing in the past and can second your recommendation to try this method. By the time you get to 3 steps at a time, you’ve almost transitioned into a plyometric-type workout. Following this method allows you to hone endurance and power/agility in the same workout.

I still need to focus on quiet feet though, I always start my distance runs quiet and agile and then by the end, my legs begin to tire and I’m clomping along like a Clydesdale, haha.

6 years 1 month ago
When I was coaching, I would run ‘Dirty Dozens’ on the stairs during our dry land workouts. (Normally, dirty dozens are in the pool, 25/50M Fly Sprint, same push up increments at each end – also one of my favorites). Straight flights of approx 30ish stairs, depending on the stairs location. The goal was to work sets of 12, for each stair sprint and return, add one full push up. SO after each flight, the push ups increased i.e. first flight, 1 push up. Second flight, 2 push ups – all the way to 12. For those able, increments were… Read more »
John Pilla
John Pilla
6 years 1 month ago
I found your website only a few days ago. AND I had been considering those new 5-toe finger Vibram shoes for a while. Then a chiropractor paddling acquaintance I met was wearing them and recommended them, then I found your website and read about them, here. I finally purchased a pair on Sunday (actually received as a gift from my two sons!) Then, this morning, Men’s Health News, daily e-mail – had this: Running shoes are on a diet. Over the past 2 years, the slimmed-down barefoot and minimalist sneakers have found their way into nearly every shoe store thanks… Read more »
6 years 1 month ago

I did this workout today but I didn’t have a decent set of stairs nearby so I did jump squats instead…definitely still felt the burn! I got on my 2nd set and was like “ok, how many of these am I supposed to do again….six?!?! ah crap!!!”

I think I’ll try this one again in a few days at the park where there’s a great set of stairs to use. Thanks Mark!

6 years 1 month ago

How about this variation:
Go a little more primal, and go on all fours up the stairs. After the 15 feet-elevated PU’s, do 5 HSPU’s (HandStand PushUp’s).

Hayfever Jeff
6 years 1 month ago

This looks great. I work in a downtown area and have lots of access to stairs! I used to actually run stairs on a very regular basis because it was one of the most accessible workouts to do over lunch. Going to have to get back into that. Next sprint day I will give this a shot.