Step mill training for the CPAT

This simple plan will help you gradually build up endurance for the stair climb

No matter how hard you train for the stair climb, your legs will feel like rubber when you're through. The time it takes to recover from this depends on your fitness level and your V02 Max. VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can process in order to feed your muscles to do work. In tests like the CPAT, if your VO2 Max is not high enough, you simply fail. Your legs may give out, or worse, you may become injured.

To avoid these pitfalls, you must train properly!
Gradually pushing up your limits over time can allow your body to compensate a little bit each time. This allows your heart and lungs to get stronger each time, thus preparing you for more, harder work the next time.

This is an event that is really easy to train for. You simply need a road-map of how much weight to use when, and a plan of how to safely increase resistance and duration. You really do need a weight vest for this. They are sold at

Remember that training on the step mill is only part of the training process necessary for training for the CPat. Your legs need to be trained with medium to heavy weights. This step mill training plan is only a very small part of the bigger picture. If all you do for your legs is this training plan, you will probably fail the CPat.

Warning! Many people train with a back pack full of sand, or by carrying a weight plate. Don't do this! It changes the biomechanics, and puts your spine at risk! It causes small amounts of injury each time you do it. This adds up, and will cause you problems in the future. As you age, you are much more likely to hurt your back. These sorts of injury are often career changing, if not career ending! Use a weight vest!

Another Warning! See your physician before beginning any exercise program! If at any time, you feel dizzy, sick, or sore for more than 48 hours in one particular area, stop doing the offending exercise! Ask your doctor’s opinion! Remember that no everyone’s body is intended for these uses!

Watch your Achilles tendons!
 Make sure when you step up onto that next step each time, that your feet hit the step in this order: heel-ball-toe, then push-off. Do not do this training on the balls of your feet, or with your heels hanging of the stairs as you step. This will lead to injury of your Achilles tendon(s).

Special Cases: Big feet or no Step Mill
Remember, there are cases when some people cannot train on a step mill, but must use something to simulate it. These limitations might be: your feet are too big for the mill’s steps or lack of equipment.

In either case, I recommend a step used for aerobics or a stair at home. The step should be should be 8-9 inches high. This means you will have to step up, up, then back down off the back: down, down. Get your whole foot on the step (or on the floor) with each up and down. No heels should hang off. Going up, it will go heel-ball-toe and coming down it will go toe-ball-heel.  Change your lead leg each 30 seconds of step training to avoid Achilles stress. Remember, you would count an up-up, then down-down, as one step. You must do 60 of those per minute.

Tall Buildings:
I do not recommend using a tall building unless it’s tall enough to keep walking steadily up stairs for 6 minutes without stopping. In other words, don’t choose a place where you have to walk up 2 flights, then walk back down again before you can walk back up. This will do 2 things: 1. it will give your heart rate a chance to slow, thus not training you well. 2. Walking down stairs is not good for your knees. Even if they are young and healthy, why do it? Especially training? You should save those knees for coming down the stairs of a burning building once you have a job- with a person in your arms!

Step Depth and foot size on test day:
If your feet are too large for the step mill used in the test, that’s a tough one. You should still not train on the step mill. Use the up and back down off the back method mentioned above. Two days a week after your step training, do some calf raises: start off with 2 sets and work up to 5 sets of 8. Stretch the calf, and the Achilles tendon. That is, do a calf stretch with your knee locked for 30 seconds, then with it slightly bent, foot still flat to the floor for 30 more seconds. This should prep your calves for the actual test without hurting you.

So what’s the Plan?
 Here’s a plan for you to use. It will take you 11 (plus) weeks to get through it. Train a day on the step mill, and lift weights with your upper body on other indicated days. One thing I would avoid, though, is weight training for your traps specifically during this time. So: don’t do shrugs or upright rows. The weight vest is tough enough on them. I say strongly: some people might also like to lift with their legs stepping days, but it’s too much to cover here.
This workout is longer than you will be required to do for the step mill on test day. This will make test day easier, plus make you more than ready for the additional demands of test day! For more information on what is expected on test day, read here:
Make sure you warm up 5 minutes easy on the stationary bike, and stretch after wards- especially your calves!

Weight VestPoundsTime: minutesSteps/minute
Day 110260
Day 2 Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 3152.560
Day 4Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 515360
Day 6Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 7153.560
Day 8Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 9203.560
Day 10Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 11RestEntireDay
Day 12Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 1320 460
Day 14Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 1520 min . otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 16Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 1725460
Day 18Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 19RestEntireDay
Day 20Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 2130460
Day 22Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 2335460
Day 24Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 2535 4.560
Day 26Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 27Rest EntireDay
Day 28354.560
Day 29 Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 3035560
Day 31Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 3240560
Day 33Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 3420 min. otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 35Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 3645560
Day 37Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 38Rest EntireDay
Day 39455.560
Self  evaluation:How do I feel?Neck? Knees? Back?
Day 40Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 4145 660
Day 42Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 4320 min. otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 44Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 45505.560
Day 46Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 4720 min. otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 48Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 4950660
Day 50Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 51555.560
Day 52Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 53Rest EntireDay
Day 54Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Self Evaluation: How do I feel?Back? Neck?Knees?
Day 5555660
Day 56Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 5720 min. otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 58Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 59605.560
Day 60Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 6160660
Day 62Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 63Rest EntireDay
Day 64Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 65655.560
Day 66Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 67Rest EntireDay
Day 68Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Self Evaluation: How do I feel?Back? Neck?Knees?
Day 6965660
Day 70Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 7120 min. otherForm of cardioRun, swim, bike
Day 72Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 73705.560
Day 74RestEntire Day
Day 7570660
Day 76Upper BodyUpper BodyUpper Body
Day 77Rest EntireDay
Day 78755.560
Day 79Rest EntireDay
Day 8075660

From here forward, you should be able to be step mill ready if you do the last workout twice a week!

Best of Luck!

Dr. Jen Milus

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