Pure Gym Limited

Step Ups


How to do step ups

The step up is a unilateral strength training exercise that works all the muscles in the lower body, with the quads, hamstrings, and glutes the primary focus.

Step ups are a compound exercise as they require multiple joints to move, with the use of multiple muscles. Compound exercises have many benefits, including bigger strength and power gains, more calories burnt, improved coordination, and more effective and efficient workouts.

Unilateral (single limb) strength training are an important aspect of strength training. Compared to bilateral exercises, unilateral exercises provide a greater challenge on the smaller stabilising muscles and core, helping to improve stability and balance in addition to strength. They also allow muscular imbalances between the two sides to be identified and minimised, leading to bigger overall strength gains and reduced risk of injury.

We’ve covered bodyweight and dumbbell step ups below.

Jump straight to instructions

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


Are Step Ups A Good Exercise?

Step ups are a good exercise to include in your training routine as they can improve strength, stability, balance, and coordination, while minimising muscular imbalances.

Are Step Ups A Compound Exercise?

Step ups are a compound exercise as they involve multiple joints (knee, hip, ankle) and muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, and core).

What Does Step Up Exercise Work?

The step ups work almost every muscle in the lower body, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, adductors, and hip flexors. The core is also engaged to help stabilise the torso.

Step Up Tips

It can be tempting to choose a higher surface to step on to, but choosing a step that is too high can make this exercise less effective for the working leg. Choose a platform that allows you to drive up through the top leg rather than using the bottom leg to push off from. As your mobility and strength improves, you will be able to increase this height.

How To Do Step Ups/ How To Do Dumbbell 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.