The weighted step up exercise is a simple and effective way to build leg strength and power without placing excessive stress on the joints of the knees, hips or back. Step ups are a great exercise for both beginners and elite athletes because you can gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise by increasing the step height, the weight lifted, and even the speed of the movement during the exercise.

Modifications to the Weighted Step Up

There are many ways to modify this exercise to make it easy or more difficult. Here are some of the most common variations.

  1. The Unweighted Step Up
    Begin with the simple step up. Step up with one foot and step down with the other and repeat the movement for a specific number of repetitions. Then switch the lead foot and repeat the same number of repetitions. A beginner may opt to do this for a set amount of time (one minute, for example), instead of a set number of reps.
  2. The Basic Weighted Step Up
    This is the same movement as above, only you are either holding dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders as you step up and down. Again, you can go for time or repetitions depending upon your goals.
  3. The Dynamic Step Up
    To do a dynamic, or explosive, step up, start with one foot on the step and as you move your weight to this foot (and step up) push down into the step with a powerful movement so that as your other foot comes up, you’ll jump up with both feet off the step and then land softly with both feet on the step.
  4. The Weighted Dynamic Step Up
    As you increase your strength and improve your technique, you can begin adding weight to the dynamic step up. Be sure to use smaller steps, lower jumps and always land softly.

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