Three normal males of similar height and weight ascended and descended a five step staircase with a riser height of 22 cm and a tread of 28 cm. EMG, force plate and cine data were collected for the stride over the second to fourth step during each mode. Kinematic and kinetic analyses were integrated with EMG to yield an interpretation of the mechanics of normal stair walking. Movement from one step to the next involved simultaneous lifting and horizontal translation of the body, and each stride showed specific phases for progression. The extensor muscles about the knee played a dominant role in progression from one step to the next in both modes coupled with the ankle plantar flexors. The total lower limb extensor pattern, called the support moment, was highly correlated between subjects and to level walking. Intra- and inter-subject variability of the motor patterns were also determined. The greatest variability was seen at the hip, while stereotypic kinetic patterns emerged at the ankle and knee for all subjects across the 24 trials of each mode.