Step-ups have been around for a while and are featured heavily in group classes like Les Mills and CrossFit. That’s because beginner-friendly resistance exercises work your legs and butt hard while conditioning any fitness ability, so I decided to do 560 of them in seven days.
The step up is a leg-burning exercise that targets the quadriceps muscles, hamstrings, core muscles, and gluteal muscles. You can use push-ups in an aerobic exercise with a lower elevation and a higher speed, or a strength program that uses a heavier weight and a higher step.
Whatever you choose to program them with, one thing is for sure – they will burn. And by adding load (I encourage kettlebells or prefer adjustable dumbbells) the muscles will work harder. Looking for a lower body conditioning workout? Look no further. This is what happened when I did 560 Weighted Steps in a week.
How to do a step-up
You can use any exercise equipment, but I recommend a box, bench, or step. Practice with your own body weight first. If you want to add weights, either barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells will work best. You can find out which weights are winning the barbell vs. dumbbell war here.
Common weighted variations involve holding the weights by your side, resting them on your shoulders, or holding them in front of your chest—called a cup grab. Instead, hold the weight above your head to develop core, back and shoulder strength.
How to do steps:
- Stand with a step, box, or bench in front of you
- Hold your weights in the preferred position
- Step up with your left foot, making sure your heel grows downward as you come down
- Extend the left leg to stand
- Bring the right leg to meet the left
- Bend your left leg and lower your right leg to the ground
- Step left leg down to meet right leg.
The benefits of scaling
Unlike box jumps (see photo below) which require explosive power to jump with both legs at once, stepped steps are more accessible to beginners and are kinder to your joints. Both exercises build strength in the lower body and glutes, but this variation protects the knees, while box jumps train the fast-twitch muscle fibers responsible for explosive movements like jumping.
I Did 560 Weighted Step Steps In A Week – This Is What Happened To My Legs
Here’s what a high-repetition step-by-step walking workout did for my legs.
I settled on plyo box step-ups and did 80 reps a day using heavy dumbbells in goblet grips. Instead of going in the cold, I designed a conditioning program like the MetCon Metabolic Conditioning Workout, sweating through 50 calories on the skates, 50 push-ups, then 80 heavy boxes. The goal was to tire my upper body and not spoil myself with the climbs. I found this method more appealing and could adapt it throughout the week.
The second and third day
Over the next few days, the high reps worked my quads hard, focused on an upward trajectory, and pushed hard through my standing feet while pushing through my legs instead of leaning forward. Every time I hit about 40 reps halfway through, my legs were on fire (this wasn’t easy to get through).
the fourth day
I decided to mix it up. To make the workout more challenging, I flipped the box to a higher position and moved slower—a technique called time under tension that I discussed in the article 5 Smart Ways to Build Muscle Without Lifting Heavy Weights.
Moving slowly with a heavier weight tends to be strength training (if you prefer working on explosive strength or aerobic activity, pick up a weight and move quickly). The higher angle hit my posterior chains with more emphasis, including my hamstrings and glutes, and I finally got the gluteal pump I wanted.
My stronger side picked up the slack from fatigue, and I began to lean more on my right leg. When the body works unilaterally (one side at a time) to lift body weight, the weaker muscles have nowhere to hide. This happens to all of us.
Your body, which is trying to protect you, may find ways to make exercise easier. These little tricks can put extra stress on your body in the long run. The ascent signs bend forward, straining the lower back, and tilt to one side. Try to keep your spine long and lower your weight if you need to. This should help you correct your shape before you add volume.
the sixth day
By day six, I felt tight in my hips, so I added these hip movement exercises for hip pain and checked that I fully extended my hips at the top of each rep. I also felt my lower back was sensitive, and I didn’t want to tell my chiropractor I’d been with for so long I lost weight to maximize rep efficiency and not pull focus from the task at hand.
By this point, my muscles were on fire, but I felt like I had gone up a hill and the reps (weirdly) felt (just) more comfortable. Adjusting my foot position and driving across my standing legs helped me go up powerfully.
the seventh day
Phew, 560 reps later, and I was happy to see the back of this fitness challenge. Stepping steps are part of functional training, and an imitation of everyday life, such as walking up stairs. This movement is also a compound exercise – a multi-joint and multi-muscle movement. Since muscles don’t work in isolation, this was a torch from the core to the toe. Safe to say I didn’t do the leg program that week.
A word of caution, no one needs to do 560 Step Ups as part of their training program. You should always program rest and active recovery to help your body recover for the week. Overexertion of any particular muscle group can lead to injury, but separating leg days with cardio (check out the best abdominal exercises) or upper body is a good compromise.
Step crunches help develop knee strength, but if your knees turn in or out or go over your toes, focus on stabilizing your leg before adding weight. Bending forward gently is not a sin and can further activate your glutes and hamstrings, but avoid rounding your spine and sinking your lower back. Overall, step sits are a great exercise for runners looking to develop lower body strength and power, especially while training outdoors, but I can archive this challenge.