Stair climbing is both a functional activity that most people complete daily and an activity that can be used for exercise. There are two different strategies that can be used to climb a flight of stairs: the knee first strategy (Figure 1) and the hip first strategy (Figure 2). In the knee first strategy, the movement is broken up into two distinct vectors with a horizontal vector (1) initiating the movement and the vertical component (2) following. This movement pattern relies on the quadriceps muscles as the primary mover and places increased stress on the knee which increases the likelihood of knee pain developing during stair climbing. The hip first strategy combines the vertical and horizontal components and results in a diagonal vector of movement. It relies primarily on the gluteal muscles to initiate the movement. This strategy decreases loading through the knee and reduces the risk of knee pain with repetitive stair climbing. Using a hip first strategy becomes especially important when using stair climbing as an exercise or when training for/completing an event like the CN Tower Climb.
Excellent strength and endurance of the gluteals (buttocks), quadriceps (front thigh muscles), and core are required to successfully complete the CN Tower Climb without injury. A good preparation program will involve both strengthening exercises and stretches for the major muscle groups of the lower extremity and core.
As the CN Tower climb requires good muscle endurance, each exercise should be performed for a minimum of 20 repetitions.
Stand with feet hip width apart, toes facing forward. Keeping the chest open and shins vertical, reach the hips back as if sitting on a chair, allowing the knees to bend. The knees should never go in front of the toes.
Single Leg Squats
Stand on one leg, keeping the pelvis level. Keeping the knee in line with toes and maintaining a level pelvis, reach the hips back and allow the knee to bend as if sitting on a chair. The knee should never go in front of the toe.
Put one leg up onto a step. Keep the knee in line with the toe and drive through the glute to straighten the knee and hip. Weight should not shift forward prior to initiating the movement.
Stand on a band and cross it in front or tie the band around mid thigh as shown in the picture. Do a mini squat, ensuring that the hips are back and knees are behind toes. Keep the pelvis square and level and take a step to one side, slowly bring the other leg in. Perform to both sides.
With forearms shoulder width apart, gently squeeze shoulder blades together and pull down from ears. Balance on knees (easier) or balls of feet (harder), keeping the spine long, hips in line with shoulders, and chin tucked. Hold 30-60 seconds.
Single Leg Jump
Stand on one leg, keeping the pelvis level. Do a mini squat, power through glutes and calf to jump off ground. When landing, ensure heel is on the ground, knee is bent, hip is back and knee is in line with toe.
Stand with feet hip width apart a comfortable distance from the box. Do a mini squat before powering through glutes and swinging arms up to jump onto the box. Land keeping knees behind toes and core engaged. Stand up straight. Jump off the box and land in a controlled squat.
With good running form, sprint for 60 seconds. Walk or lightly jog to recover for 2-3 minutes. Repeat 5-8 cycles.
All stretches should be held for 30-60 seconds and repeated twice. Stretches should be performed daily when trying to lengthen a muscle or after a work-out when the goal is to maintain muscle length.
In a lunge stance with the back knee on the floor, tuck the pelvis under keeping the back straight.
Lying on your back, keeping shoulders and back on the floor, cross the leg to be stretched over the other in a figure 4 position and bring both hips to a 90 degree angle.
Sit with the leg to be stretched straight and the other foot tucked in. Keep the back straight and lean forward towards the straight leg by hinging at the hips.
Stand and bring the heel of the leg to be stretched towards the buttock. Ensure that the bent knee does not drift forward in front of the other knee.
Calves (Soleus and Gastrocnemius)
Stand in a lunge stance. Keeping the torso
upright, bend both knees and sit back over the back leg.
Stand in a lunge stance. Keep the back leg straight and bend the front leg keeping the back heel on the ground.
Start on hands and knees with hands and knees shoulder and hip width apart, keep hands on the ground and sit hips back towards the heels until a stretch is felt through the back.