Pure Gym Limited

Barbell Step Ups


How to do barbell step ups

The barbell step up is a variation of the bodyweight or dumbbell step up that uses a barbell to add more resistance and increase the difficulty of this exercise.

Barbell step ups are a compound exercise that works almost every muscle in the lower body and core, with the quads, hamstrings, and glutes the main muscles strengthened. As a unilateral (single) leg exercise, barbell step ups improve balance, coordination, and stability while exposing each leg to significant levels of resistance. This is a great exercise for building muscle mass and strength while improving functional fitness.

Step ups make an excellent addition to any training routine and can be used alongside or as a replacement for squats and lunges.

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Check out our other step up variations: step ups, side step ups


What Do Barbell Step Ups Work?

Barbell step ups work the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, alongside the core and smaller stabilising muscles throughout the body.

How High Should Barbell Step Ups Be?

Barbell step ups should be at a height that allows you to drive through the top leg rather than relying on pushing up off the floor. This will depend on both your strength and mobility. A step that is knee height is a good place to start – you can then increase or decrease this accordingly.

Are Step Ups Worth Doing?

Yes - step ups are a great addition to a strength training programme as they build lower body strength, overall stability and balance, and help to reduce strength and mobility differences between the two sides.

Barbell Step Up Tips

It is important to get the step-up form correct before attempting barbell step ups, so we recommend practicing with bodyweight or dumbbell step ups first. The leading leg should drive most of the step up, not the leg on the floor. If you find yourself pushing off with the bottom leg, drop the weight or lower the platform.

How To Do Barbell Step Ups

  1. Stand in front of the step or plyo box with your feet hip width apart and hands by your sides. Brace your core by tightening the abdominal muscles – it can be helpful to imagine you are about to be punched.

    If using dumbbells or kettlebells, you can hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms extended by your side, or hold a dumbbell or kettlebell between both hands in front of your chest.

  2. Place your left foot on to the box and drive through this foot to push your body up and bring your right foot on to the platform.

  3. As you push up, focus on squeezing your glutes and maintaining a tall spine.

  4. You can alternate between legs or switch after you've finished reps.

If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.