Recent Comments

    EZ Knee Hacks for Stairs

    By Cinder Ernst–

    Stairs suck when you have knee pain. Today, I’m going to give you ways to make going upstairs instantly easier. For thirty years, I have been helping plus-size women to gain strength and stamina. In that time, I noticed that many of my clients had/have knee pain. I began to study what worked to alleviate the knee pain and to make daily activities, including stairs, easier. Wanting stairs to be easier is a common refrain in my free Facebook group Knee Friendly Fitness Please. Come join us!

    How you first place your foot on the step matters. You want your knee to be over your first two toes, not pointing in or out. Beginning out of alignment not only makes stair climbing harder, but also the misaligned climbing itself can cause more harm to your knee. On the other hand, being aware of your knee alignment might resolve your stair climbing knee pain to some degree instantly, and most importantly, you are not doing more damage.

    The most common misalignment is that your knee might be pointing or rolling in. If you are a bit knock-kneed (I am), then this is most likely happening to you. As you begin your climb, pretend that you are pushing the outside of your knee into the wall. You can check your alignment by placing a hard cover book on the floor in front of a full-length mirror. Place your entire foot on the book and then look in the mirror to see if your knee is directly over your first two toes. If not, bring your knee into alignment and get used to that feeling. It may feel very different. Keep the book on the floor in front of the mirror because we will use if again.

     Hack #1: Notice and correct side-to-side knee alignment on the step.

    Most people begin the stair climbing motion by moving forward and then attempting to push themselves up, often from the ball of their foot or toes. This positioning puts a tremendous amount of strain on your knee before you even begin the lift and then asks the muscle in the front of your thigh (quadriceps) to do all of the work. The forward shin/knee position hurts your knee. Change the intention and direction of your climb to straight up instead of forward. This tip will work with our next step.

     Hack #2: Think “up,” not forward, to correct front-to-back knee alignment.

    If you can fit your whole foot on the step, do it. If not, place your attention on the furthest back portion of your foot that is on the step. If you are practicing on the book, you can probably fit your whole foot on the book. In order to push yourself “up,” you want your butt muscles to be activated. In order to get them to do this, you push out of your heel or the furthest back portion of your foot that is in contact with the step.

    Hack #3: Push out of your heel or the back of your foot to engage butt muscles.

     Okay, let’s try the lift. If stairs are just a little challenging, try this on an actual step. If stairs really suck, try this on a book first. I do this exercise on a book most days so that I can stay strong and continue to be able to climb stairs with a very messed up right knee.

    Place your right foot on the book, heel in contact, knee tracking over your first two toes. Lift your ribcage as you think up and then simultaneously launch off your left foot and push out of your right heel while you squeeze your butt. Ta da … you’re up!

    Hack #4: Launch off your bottom foot.

     Practice this move on a shallow step or book to build up your coordination and strength. If something feels wrong, stop and get help from a medical professional. Find me on YouTube for easy ways to get stronger.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. She specializes in fitness and rehab for plus-size clients, but her stress-free approach is suitable for all. Find out more at