Step Ups are multi-joint unilateral exercises that strengthen the muscles of the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves and feet. They improve overall leg strength, increase joint (knee and hip) stability, and provide structural integrity to the muscles around the knee and hip joint. Mid height step ups focus on the vastus medialis, while allowing some gluteal work. The greater the height of the step, the more gluteal involvement in the exercise.
Step Ups are dynamic movements that teach the central nervous system to react to stress and impact quickly in a controlled environment. This ability is paramount to being able to run or sprint effectively, but the exercise as a general class is suitable for populations engaging in rehabilitation, post-rehabilitation, and mainstream exercise programs.
Set up a step at mid-tibial height. The highest point of the step should be a distance half way between your knee and your ankle. Next, grasp a barbell shoulder width apart and place it on your upper back (mid-traps).
Keep your chest high, shoulders back, and elbows underneath the bar. Stand up, lifting the bar off the uprights. Step forward, and place the foot of the working leg on the step platform. The heel of the working leg (leg on the step) should be in line with the toe of the non-working leg. The feet should be hip-width apart, as shown below:
Lock the knee of the support leg, and pull the toes of the support foot upward into the shoe. Doing so will eliminate toe-off of the support leg in the exercise. Inhale.
As you exhale, drive the foot of the working leg down onto the foot plate, and step up onto the platform. If possible, keep the support leg slightly back and do not ground your support foot. Performing the exercise in this manner is the most efficient method for the target muscles.
Inhale as you control your descent. You should allow the support knee to bend when your foot hits the floor to cushion the landing. After landing, re-set your original position as in step 1 and repeat until you complete all the reps on one side or reach muscular failure. Take a brief rest – 10-20 seconds, and then perform the exercise on the other leg.
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