I am a huge advocate of the step up exercise and there is a good reason why. Not only does it help you build strength through your legs, it also places minimum stress on your knees and back, and for someone who jumps a lot, it is a great way to get some serious strength work in without suffering. Squats should be a part of everyone’s program, done correctly, they are fantastic and absolutely necessary. However, regardless of the perfect technique you obtain, they do place a bit more stress on the body, and I for one always pull up with a lot more soreness (let me reiterate, before I get bombed with comments… that I am not saying squats are bad for your knees or for anything, they are great and I do them all the time). I still do squats, but the step up gives me another opportunity to have a great way, to get strong and explosive and finish feeling fantastic every time.
Things To Consider
There are two major things that I want you to consider when you are doing step ups. The height of the bench, and the speed of the exercise. Bench height is one thing that people often ask about. Basically, the higher the bench, the more hamstring and posterior chain involvement you will get, the lower you go, the more quad dominant the exercise becomes. A neutral bench is a great way to start, where your hamstrings are parallel to the ground. I generally use a neutral or higher than bench because I struggle through the hamstring area.
The other important thing to consider is the speed of the step up. Totally dependent on your goals. I like having the weight on my back, purely because I can lift more. If I am doing a strength phase I will do reps on about 80kgs, you go slow because it’s heavy, explosive I will do fast step ups with about 60kgs (see video below), and step ups with nothing. If you are starting, and wanting to build strength, do them slowly.
Benefits Of Step Ups
I rave about step ups, because I think they are fantastic.
• Low stress on the body (especially the knees)
• Simple exercise without a high technical difficulty (progress faster)
• Adaptable speed for any goal
• Great quad exercise
• Posterior chain exercise (Butt and Hamstrings..check out glute activation and hamstring exercises)
• Build strength quickly
• Extra stabilization necessary
• Unilateral exercise for strength
How To Perform Step Ups
Here are two videos that I made showing two variations of the step up. Just taken during my normal weights session. I am in a bit more of an explosive phase, so this video shows me doing explosive step ups. I’m using 60 kgs, and my aim is to jump. The aim is the key here, how fast I can move the weight. 60kgs is still a bit for one leg, so as you can see, I don’t jump so high, but you will notice the speed of the movements. For those starting out, take it through the same motion but slowly.
This second video shows step up jumps. I use them right after my step ups for some contrast training. This is a really good leg workout and cardio hit too. I do low reps for plyo purposes.
As you can see the step up is a great all round exercise that will really get you firing and strong. You don’t have to worry about getting injuries, and you will rarely feel pain. You can increase your strength and get to great heights quickly, as it is a very simple movement without much skill to learn the technique. You will notice all your other lifts start to improve after adding this to your program. Enjoy!