Stair Training for Conditioning?

This blog post was written by SPI Fitness strength and conditioning coach/personal training, Adam Swartout. Adam graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Applied Exercise Science from Springfield College and is currently pursuing his CSCS, FMS, and PRI certifications.

What Can Stairs Do for You?

They can do a lot more than you think.

For instance, they can be used in intense cardio training in order to ensure the heart becomes a better pump for the body.  Without an efficient “pump” the body’s muscles and organs will not be able to operate at the necessary level that you need for competition.  The more efficient the heart is, the quicker it can deliver oxygen to the muscles.  Consequently with more oxygen being delivered the muscles can fire at a faster, more powerful rate and produce the given action you need them to.  When the heart becomes more efficient it can still pump the same amount of blood but it takes less pumps to do it.  For each beat, the heart is able to pump more blood as it becomes more efficient.  By doing this you can prolong the life of your heart which means prolonging your own life.

Running stairs as a part of a training program can also promote a more efficient running motion.  If you look at the top sprinters in the world they do not have much hamstring flexion during their leg cycle.  They bring their knees up and snap the leg back down in order to create a backward motion of the leg which helps to create more force to push them forward, and to promote a very efficient running pattern.  This is partly because running without bringing your knees up and flexing the hamstring promotes hamstring injuries (tears, pulls, etc.).  The reason for a higher injury rate is the stretch-shortening cycle of the hamstring while running.  The more times you shorten and tighten the hamstring the more prone it is to injury so by just by bringing your knees up while running and focusing less on the “butt kick “ portion you can reduce your risk for hamstring injuries.  So, in short, a safer and more efficient running motion is just another benefit that running stairs can yield.

They are a great fat-burner.  Stairs are a whole body workout which means that the heart has to pump blood everywhere fast and the more it has to do this the faster it eats through the readily available nutrient stores.  Where does the body turn to when this happens? You guessed it, body fat.  So if you are faced with the option of stairs, elevator, or escalator choose stairs and think of the benefits they can yield.

So to recap, stairs can improve the function of your heart, thus prolonging your lifespan.  They can help improve your running motion making you a faster, more efficient runner, and they can help you shed unwanted body fat.  I would say the stairs are a great choice.



SPI has been busy with our current strength and conditioning internship program, and have been fortunate enough to keep some of these great young talents in our staff! Below as seen on our page “about” is some brief information about the rest of #teamspi. Together our staff is well rounded in all aspects of sports performance and sports medicine and we hope to continue to deliver the greater Utica area with premier services.


Steve Dowd

Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer

Steve is a strength and conditioning coach here at SPI. Steve graduated with his bachelor’s degree in health studies at Utica College (January 2015) where he was also a four year collegiate lacrosse player. Steve was also an avid hockey player his whole life. In addition he also is currently pursuing his NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) Certified Personal Trainer (CPT), and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Steve was SPI’s first intern and was hired upon completion of his internship here. Steve also recently just completed TRX Training’s RIP Trainer educational course.

Adam Swartout

Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer

“I have been in athletics my entire life focusing on soccer, basketball, and track and field.  After high school I attended Springfield College and received my Bachelors of Science in Applied Exercise Science.  While attending Springfield I competed on the Varsity Track and Field team for two years where I specialized in the sprinting events.  I plan on obtaining my CSCS through the NSCA as well as my FMS (Functional Movement Screening) and PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) certifications as well.

I like to think that I am constantly learning wherever I go and that I have had a great start interning at a Mike Boyle facility in MA.  I was able to learn in an environment with many different athletic levels ranging from youth to general population training.  I like to use my diverse sports background to aid in my training philosophy.”

Adam was part of our SPI internship program for strength and conditioning coach’s and was hired upon completion.

Sean Trait, ACSM-HFS

Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer

Sean Trait is Strength and Conditioning coach here at SPI. He was a varsity football player and swimmer at Johnson City High School in Binghamton and went on to play college ball at SUNY Brockport, where he also earned his Bachelors in Exercise Science. Sean is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Utica College. Sean is an ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Health Fitness Specialist. He has been involved in Strength and Conditioning for the past 8 years and primarily has a background in Strength training. Sean is a competitive powerlifter, who will be competing in his first meet in the near future. His personal training philosophy is that “Creating a solid base of strength is a key component in furthering progress in all fitness endeavors.” Sean is another past member of our SPI strength and conditioning coach internship and was hired upon completion.

Alex Ludwig, CSCS

Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer

Alex graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Ohio University. During his time at Ohio University Alex played Rugby and was also the team strength and conditioning coach. Alex has experience as a personal trainer and completed our internship program here at SPI. Alex also recently obtained the highly credentialed NSCA-CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Phil Fess

Strength and Conditioning Coach/Group Fitness Trainer

Phil obtained his bachelor’s degree in Health Studies at Utica College, and is currently anticipating graduation in their Doctoral of Physical Therapy in May of 2015. Phil took part in our SPI strength and conditioning internship and was hired upon completion. Phil is the trainer for our newly started Saturday 9:00 A.M. boot camp.

Frank Mutolo

Marketing and Sales Director

Frank graduated Utica College in January of 2015 with his bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing. Frank is currently working with SPI and is already a huge asset to the company.


Thoughts on Squatting

The following blog entry was written by SPI Fitness strength and conditioning coach/personal trainer, Sean Trait. Sean graduated from SUNY Brockport with his degree in Exercise Physiology, is an ACSM-HFS (American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Specialist), and is also pursuing his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at Utica College.

Should You Squat?

In short, the answer is yes.  If you are physically capable to perform a squat with correct form, you should definitely incorporate it into your workout routine.  It is a complex movement that utilizes some of the largest muscles in the human body and can be used for both strength athletes as well as those looking to lose weight or decrease body fat, as it requires a large amount of energy to perform.  Although there are many folks on the internet describing the pitfalls or dangers of the squat, there are so many benefits to be reaped by performing it, and the dangers can be minimal to none when proper form is used.

A major concern when squatting is the amount of loading on the patellar tendon.  The force transmitted through the patellar tendon is up to seven times one’s body weight plus the external load used.  As you can see, this could be a potential cause for injury, but only if you are squatting incorrectly!

Most people do not pay attention to where their knees track during a squat.  When the knees track well over the toes into excessive dorsiflexion, the stresses put on the patellar tendon can become much greater than the seven times loading normally placed upon the patella due to the change in the angle of pull of the tendon.  This can be avoided by making sure when squatting to initiate the hips back first in the movement.  By doing this, you will decrease the amount of dorsiflexion taking place at the ankle required to reach parallel, and in turn decrease the amount of stress placed upon the tendon.

Another major issue that many folks raise is squat depth.  On youtube and Instagram, you see numerous people posting videos of them performing “ATG” (Arse to Ground/Grass) Squats and advocating that this is the appropriate depth for all to perform.  This is all fine and dandy for those  possessing the hip mobility to do so, but it is completely unnecessary to squat more than 10 degrees below parallel.  At a squat depth between 80 and 100 degrees, you are putting the muscle within the optimal range of muscle length for both the hamstrings and the quadriceps.   At this depth is where both groups of muscles will be able to produce their greatest force.  So when training for strength or muscle growth with ATG, you would have to decrease the load used in order to get out of the hole at the bottom, which causes you to do less work because although you are moving through a greater distance, you are producing a lower force.  When squatting ATG, you also increase the risk of the knees tracking too far out past the toes, especially in individuals who have limited hip mobility and compensate by having more dorsiflexion at the ankles.  This will put unnecessary stress upon the structures of the knee.

One last concern that people raise is that of collapsing knees.  If you are squatting and your knees cave in towards the middle of your body, you are creating a valgus force upon the knee, which causes excessive stress upon the MCL.  Repetitive stressing of this strong ligament may cause it to tear to some degree once loads begin to increase past body weight training.  An easy fix for this is to find a short, 8-12 inch resistance band, place it around the knees and focus on pushing the knees against the band when squatting.  Another way to look at this is to picture the knees staying in line with the feet at all times throughout the squat.

By thinking about all of these things when squatting, you will minimize your risk of injury and be able to enjoy all the benefits of squatting.  Here at SPI, we can assist you in learning the proper technique to elicit the desired result with minimal risk of injury and progress you closer to your goals.

Interested in seeing what SPI Fitness can do for you? Email to set up a free consultation/assessment with a highly skilled trainer/coach.