Exercise to Make You More Awesome: The Step Up

 I like to think the only thing that's offensive about myself is the amount of sushi I can put down....and overhead press.

I like to think the only thing that's offensive about myself is the amount of sushi I can put down....and overhead press.

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend!  It's been busy at the gym for the past few weeks, and I had my sister in town this weekend which was nothing short of awesome.  If you're curious, we ordered....and finished....an entire boat of sushi.  It was pretty much the best meal I've had in a while.

That said, it's been some time since I highlighted a particular exercise, so I wanted to do so with an exercise that's not as popular, but pretty darn effective: the step up.

First things first, this is not your 1980's aerobics class brand of step up.  One of the reasons this exercise isn't very popular is because it's often thought that you need to be performing heavy squats or leg presses in order to build an appreciable strength or muscle.  Well, that, my friends, couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, this exercise is pretty easy to perform incorrectly, and pretty difficult to master since there are several ways to cheat.  However, here's a quick video I made to go over some the pointers:

As you can see in the video, it's kind of important that the knee that's elevated stays at a 90 degree angle (and by that, I mean it's uber important).  Most of the time when people have knee pain during any squatting movement, it's because their knee is shooting forward, and not keeping their shin as vertical as possible.  When your knee shoots past your toe, you create a ton of shearing force inside your knee, rather than treating that joint like a hinge.

 There is much more to the step up than whatever is going on here..

There is much more to the step up than whatever is going on here..

Also, one way people tend to cheat this movement is by bending the knee of the foot that's on the ground, in an attempt to help push themselves up.  Cheating is bad, and by keeping that back knee straight, your force yourself to use your top leg for the entire movement.

Lastly, the way to start this movement is to do it on a box that's actually a lot lower than you *think* you need.  Once you've mastered that lower height, feel free to keep moving up until femur is parallel with the ground, just like my top leg is in the video.  Starting to high will have you cheating in numerous, uncountable ways. (Note: I've made this mistake before, and believe me, I was humbled very quickly.)

And, if you're convinced that heavy squats and the leg press are the only way to get an effective leg workout, your problems are probably a little deeper rooted than that.