Step Ups

Simple, yet full of technical details. Welcome to step-ups!

Ideally, the step-up trains the quads, hamstrings, and glutes of the leg on the box (working leg). The working leg performs concentric and eccentric movement, while improving balance.

What often happens? The calf of the foot touching the floor pushes off and the lower back compensates half way through the upward movement. Sure, the working leg does some work, but will not be fully loaded.

How do you properly load the working leg? First, choose a box height that allows you to maintain proper form and meets your current strength capabilities. The box height may be an aerobic step, aerobic step with risers, or a stair step. Second, keep your center of mass (torso) over your base of support (working leg). This allows you to better control the downward movement.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Select appropriate box height. Place working leg on top of box. Shift weight on to the working leg.
  2. Engage the core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to drive the body upward with control. Bring the trail leg to a 90* angle, thigh parallel with body. Pause, maintaining balance.
  3. Slowly lower body toward the floor, maintaining control by keeping the torso over the working leg. Gently touch toes to the floor. Do not shift weight to the trail leg; maintain load on the working leg.
  4. Repeat.

You’ll see me adjusting to maintain balance, engaging the calf and ankle of the working leg. What you won’t see is uncontrolled movement resulting in falling off the box.

Stephanie Harboe is a RRCA-certified running coach and NASM-certified personal trainer.

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