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The Step Up- A Real Squat Alternative? by Scott Bird
The Step-up - a real squat alternative?In the 1920s - particularly in the US - weight training began gaining favour with the public at large, and the Step-up began finding itself in various books and magazines. However, the back squat gradually started to dominate (largely due to the efforts of the German Henry ‘Milo’ Steinborn and Joseph Curtis Hise) and the Step-up was all but forgotten.
The Step-up seems to have been largely overlooked as a weight-bearing exercise for the thighs - primarily due to the dominance of the back squat. This article may just make you reconsider its use.
What is it?
The Step-up - as the name implies - is nothing more complex than stepping up onto an object, then stepping back down from it. Although it is an incredibly simple exercise, there are a few things to be aware of.
Factors to consider
Perhaps the most important of these is the height of the step. The basic exercise works the hips and thighs, and the step height adjusts things in favour of the quadriceps or hamstrings. A higher step works the hamstrings harder, a lower step targets the quads (1).
According to Anatoly Bondarchuk, the ‘normal’ or ideal step height (for those with perfectly balanced quad and hamstring strength) is such that when the leading leg has the foot flat on the step, and the corresponding thigh parallel to the ground, the trailing leg has the toes just touching the ground (but the heel elevated) (1). This will naturally vary from person to person, and the use of a weight plate is common to bridge small gaps (it’s unlikely that your training partner will have exactly the same requirements as you).
In addition to the step height, speed and number of reps both play crucial roles in determining the effectiveness of this exercise (for your personal goals). The usual rules apply - in general the reps will be lower and the breaks longer when training for maximum strength, and the reps higher/breaks shorter for hypertrophy goals.
The starting/finishing distance of the feet from the step also makes a difference, with a larger gap emphasising the Gluteus Maximus and a smaller gap emphasizing quadriceps (2).
The target muscle group is usually the quadriceps, though the weighting of this can be adjusted by altering the step height and gap as indicated above. Other muscle groups involved are (2) :
* Gluteus Maximus
* Erector Spinae
* Rectus Abdominis
As you can see, this is well and truly a compound exercise, and targets similar muscle groups to the squat.
Step-ups wearing a weight vest
Former East Bengalese marathon runner Sri Chinmoy (pictured) switched to weight-lifting in the mid 1980s (when he was in his 50s); setting a personal record for Step-ups done whilst wearing a 50lb weight vest by regularly performing 100 in 1996 (aged 65). Once again, the usual rules of rep ranges and breaks apply.
Performing the step-up
Although almost any form of step is suitable for bodyweight step-ups, a large flat surface will be increasingly necessary as the weight lifted climbs up. One solution - which enables a quick changing of height - is a Step-Up Bench Accessory, such as this one from Gill Athletics.
For bodyweight-only or dumbbell step-ups, the pins (of a power-rack) themselves are a quick and often handy step.
When using a weighted bar, begin with the same stance and bar position as for a back squat. As you step up onto the box/bench/step, keep the torso as erect as possible (try to keep the shoulders roughly over the hips throughout the movement). On descent, slightly bend the leg you’re coming down on to (it’ll reduce the shock and increase safety).
Comparisons to Squatting
I realise that powerlifters are not going to suddenly stop squatting in favour of performing weighted step-ups. However, there are a couple of benefits to the step-up which might favour their inclusion in your routines :
Working them in
Perhaps the most obvious way to incorporate them in your routines is to simply replace squats with step-ups. Realistically, though, there are a couple of things to consider :
Step-ups can be used in many ways, and are a great alternative to (not necessarily a replacement for) the back squat. Give them a try.
1. Bulgarian Leg Training Secrets
3. Sri Chinmoy
4. Ashrita Furman
Submitted by DMorgan on Wed, 02/20/2008 - 11:10am. Related Articles |
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