Want legs like pistons? Step on it and build stronger legs

The Step Up exercise is only useful if you want excellent lower body strength, better stability and balance.

Everyone benefits from Step Ups. Whether you’re a professional athlete, maybe just trying to stay fit or even recovering from injury – everyone reaps the rewards.

This classic exercise seriously works your quads (thighs), glutes (butt) and hamstrings (back of your thighs).

It also gives you a decent aerobic workout and can address any imbalances you may have. You’ll also be getting a hill / stairs type workout without the impact on your joints. Build stronger legs at home? Yes please.

Best of all there are plenty of variations so Step Ups never get dull.

Starting with the basic bodyweight version, you can progress to using dumbbells and then adding pauses and knee raises at the top.

Fun for everyone!


Bodyweight Step Ups

You can use a gym bench, a chair, a sturdy box – pretty much anything. An ideal starting height is anything from about 30 – 50cm, depending on your height.

When you put your foot flat on the box / bench your knee should be able to bend at a 90° angle.

When you become familiar with the exercise you can start thinking about increasing the height.

Start by putting your right foot up onto the box (or whatever you’re using) and keep your knee in line with your foot. A nice straight line.

Push up through your right heel to stand on the box and bring your left food up to meet the right.

Keep your chest up, looking straight ahead. You can use your arms to propel you up or keep them on your hips for an added balance challenge.

Then step down with your right foot, followed by your left to the starting position.

Repeat for 10-12 repetitions then change sides to the left leg.

Dumbbell Step Ups

Once you’re comfortable with the action and your balance is good you can start thinking about adding some resistance to the exercise.

The best way is to use a set of dumbbells that allow you to perform 8-12 repetitions. 8-10 reps will build more muscle and power, 10-12 will build more endurance.

If you can’t do at least 8 they’re too heavy.

Start with the dumbbells at your sides and then do your Step Ups as usual.

Wow – much different!

You’ll really strengthen your stabilizing muscles as you have to balance while holding the dumbbells without being able to use your arms for momentum.

Revel in the challenge.

Step Ups with Knee Raise

Another variation that can be done without dumbbells is adding a knee raise to your trailing leg.

As per normal, step up with your right foot onto the bench/box. Then bring up your left leg and instead of placing it next to your right, keep on driving it up, raising it in front of you.

This works best as a cardio builder. Go for higher reps (12-15 per leg) and alternate legs on each step up.

By tacking on knee raises you’ll get a great aerobic boost, plus stronger hip mobility and power.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Step Ups don’t just give you a powerful and balanced lower body. The variations and concentration required keep things interesting, so the exercise never gets stale.

Plus it just feels good doing ‘em.

Now find yourself a step, box or bench. They’re everywhere!

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