The step-up exercise is personally one of my favorite exercises to prescribe for any runner looking to increase their force production through the ground with each stride. When performed with the non-stepping leg following through to a thigh-block position, (hip and knee in 90 degrees flexion), it directly mimics a running motion and provides a sufficient workload from 90 degrees to 0 at the hip. The thigh position at the top of the step-up is directly applied to the actual running mechanics in each stride as we bring the thigh up through hip flexion.
When performed optimally, this exercise engages all of the glutes as well as quads, hamstrings, adductors, and calves. Eccentric strength is emphasised, creating a different challenge than a split squat or lunge.
To perform the step-up to exercise you must first have a step that is the proper height. In order to assessthis you must put your foot flat on the step. If your hip and knee are both at right angles then you are ready to begin. If the knee is higher than the hip then the step is too high and if the knee is lower than the hip then the step is too low. This is an important variable to this exercise because we are trying to achieve strength increases and a specific range of motion.
How To Do Perform a Step-Up
- Step-up with a flat foot driving through the heel. Be sure not to bounce yourself off the ground. The foot that is in contact with the ground is never going to touch the step; instead it will go straight from the ground up into a thigh block position (hip height) and then back down to the ground.
- The arm movement should be coordinated with the stride (opposite hand up with thigh).
- On the way down be sure to have full eccentric contraction to control your body slowly in the downward phase and not crash. If this exercise is too easy you can front-load a barbell or use a contralateral dumbbell (holding a dumbbell with the arm of the same leg that is coming up).