In some cases it can be difficult to see how certain resistance workouts translate to every day life and movement, however that’s not the case with step-ups. After all, most of us have to tackle stairs and steps on a daily basis and they can really rack up over time. But whilst step-ups seem like a very simply exercise to perform, considering it appears to be a movement we are all so familiar with, there is still technique and form to consider in order to perform them correctly. Putting these techniques into practice will not only make step-ups feel more difficult, but it improves their effectiveness tremendously. So let’s get to it and start stepping up our step-ups!
Step-Ups: What are the benefits?
Performing good step-up exercises will help you develop stability and strength through your core and lower body. The end goal of your step-ups is entirely up to you and will depend on your current technique, fitness and skill level, the amount of added weight you choose to use and the rep scheme you go with. It also depends where in your workout the step-ups are scheduled and therefore what other exercises they are paired with.
Generally the step-up is effective for:
- Building muscle
- Building lower body strength
- Fat loss (when combined with effective nutrition and weight loss plan)
Do you need equipment?
It comes as no surprise that you will need some form of surface to step onto to, but this doesn’t necessarily need to be a specially designed piece of equipment. You can use a solid box, step (surprise!) or even a park bench. This will entirely depend on the height that you wish to workout at, however it’s advisable that you start out a little lower than you first aim for. You will need to be able to control your hips throughout the entirety of the movement, avoiding kicking your hips out to the side. Going too high can result in poor form and make your workout far less effective, so you will want to aim for good, solid technique over leaping for greater heights.
If you want to add resistance to your workout, you can hold dumbbells or kettlebells whilst performing the movement. A single or two dumbbells / kettlebells can be effective. IF you’re holding a single weight, hold it in the goblet position. If you opt for two weights, hold them by your sides and be sure not to swing your arms in the movement. Alternatively you can hold them at your shoulders in the rack position.
Proper Step-up Technique
Before looking to add more resistance to your workout, you should first focus on proper form and technique. When you do add more weight, try to challenge yourself whilst still being able to maintain good form and complete your full set of intended reps.
- Place your surface in front of you. Remember to use a surface that is a little lower than what you first think you can step on to.
- Place your foot onto the surface, directly in front of your hip
- Ensure that your hips are nice and straight and one isn’t kicking out to the side
- Brace your abdomen and initiate the movement whilst thinking bout keeping your ribs down toward your hips
- Avoid pushing off with your bottom foot
- Using the heel of the foot on the surface, drive through and pull yourself into a standing position by contracting your quads and glutes
- Keep your hip and knee as stable as possible whilst stepping up, avoiding any side-to-side movement
- The same foot remains on the surface whilst you lower your other leg back to the ground. Keep your abs braced and your pelvis tucked slightly, leaning your torso forward very slightly if needed
- While performing the movement, keep your hips and shoulders level
When are Step-ups a good exercise?
Ideally step-ups should be performed near the beginning of your workout, so you are able to keep good technique more easily. If you are more advanced, you can also use step-ups as a good accessory exercise for deadlifts. If you are aiming to improve your strength, then you should repeat all of your reps on one leg, then switch to the other leg and repeat all reps again. By alternating legs you will be making the workout more of a cardiovascular exercise, which will be more appropriate for conditioning.