The step-up is the sister movement to the lunge; moving one leg at a time, requiring balance to perform correctly, and working similar muscle groups. Just like the lunge, the step-up has similar issues. These common mistakes listed below focus directly on the step-up. All the mistakes you read with the LUNGE still apply, so don’t get lazy!


Mistake #1: Using the wrong box height. For general purposes, the ideal box height for step-ups should be about knee height. It’s tall enough to allow you to engage your leg muscles at a height that is challenging but not overly difficult. If you want to make your step-ups harder then use a box a few inches higher. The moment you can’t step up without leaning forward too much or pushing off of your back leg, then, it’s time to low the box height. If you’re having trouble stepping on a box that is knee height then use one that is about mid-shin height. As you get stronger move onto higher boxes.


Mistake #2: Pushing off of rear leg. I would argue this is the biggest mistake I see when people perform step-ups. Why? The whole purpose of step-ups is to strengthen the muscles of the lead leg, not the rear leg. When you push off with the rear leg you are using momentum, not muscles, to stand tall on the box.


Fix this by using your rear leg as little as possible. Sounds simple but you’ll notice it is very challenging. Leave the weights alone and try to step up with just your body weight. Keep your rear leg straight to reduce the likelihood of pushing off with it. As this becomes easier you may pick up your weights again. Start light and build up. Remember, the purpose is to build the muscle with the movement, not ‘get through’ the movement.


Mistake #3: Not being consistent. What do I mean? When you perform a step-up you have 2 options: stepping with the heel or toes. Most of us are just trying to stand up and get back down. The problem comes when we change the way we apply pressure to our foot when stepping. Neither one is wrong or right. It’s a matter of goals and goals require consistency. If you step and press up using your toes then you are going to get a better calf and quad workout. However, if you drive with your heel on the box then you’re going to get a better hamstring and glute workout. Again, neither one is right or wrong. Just stay consistent!


You can fix this by deciding which muscles groups you want to develop. Calves and quads? Step up with your toes. Hamstrings and glutes? Use your heel. Very simple.



About Josh Jarmin

Originally from Washington, D.C. (NOVA) Josh moved to Atlanta to be a Middle School history teacher after graduating from James Madison University. He joined the Marine Corps infantry as a reservist and served in Iraq honorably. Josh then turned his attention to personal training after his tour in order to help others reach their health/fitness goals. At one point he was 275lbs and 28% body fat. Now he's 195lbs and 13.5% body fat. Josh worked for several fitness facilities in Atlanta and developed a loyal following of trainees. He's created a training program of his own personal design and has established himself as one of the top kettlebell and body movement experts in the Atlanta area. Josh is currently the Co-Owner and Director of Fitness at Blueprint Fitness.

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