Master Class – Step Up
Lesson Learned: Use step-ups for great glutes and thighs
Muscles Emphasized: Gluteus maximus, quads and hamstrings
Mechanics: Select a box, bench or other stable raised surface high enough that when your foot is on it, your thigh is roughly parallel to the floor. For most people, this will be 12 to 18 inches. Stand upright about a foot in front of the box holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides.
Step onto the box with one leg and plant your foot flat on top of it. Drive down through your heel to extend your hip and knee, and lift yourself up to the box. When the foot of your trailing leg is next to the other, carefully step back down to the floor, and then bring the other foot down next to it. Repeat by performing a step-up with the opposite leg, alternating legs every other rep.
Do: Wear shoes that offer good lateral support on days you are doing step-ups. You don’t want to turn an ankle when you are on a raised surface holding extra weight.
Don’t: Rush through your sets. Weighted step-ups require a relatively high level of balance and coordination as you raise up to the box and lower back down to a somewhat blind landing. Extend your hips and knees powerfully, but go slow on the return.
Next Level: Being a dumbbell exercise and one commonly done late in a workout makes step-ups particularly conducive to drop sets. After reaching muscle failure (or close to it) with the original weight, drop the dumbbells to the floor and do another five to 10 reps per leg as a “burn out” finisher.
Options: Step-ups can also be performed with bodyweight only (for beginners); with a barbell on your back as when squatting (for advanced individuals); or holding a dumbbell in only one hand to create an unbalanced load and provide a greater challenge to the core.
Training Tenets: The step-up is typically used as a lighter, secondary exercise to squats and leg presses done earlier in the workout. It is also interchangeable with lungs, as the movements are very similar, so consider alternating these two exercises every other leg workout.