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The step-up is a popular compound leg exercise for both at home or in the gym. Find out what equipment you need and what options you have.
Step-ups are an exercise where you step on and off an elevated platform. This is a great compound leg exercise for training muscles like your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), and calves.
To be able to do this exercise you need a platform to step on. This one equipment type will already be enough for resistance training beginners to build some muscle.
Individuals more experienced with leg muscle resistance training may need a second category of step-up equipment. By making step-ups harder with external weights you can build more muscle for longer.
In both categories, there are a variety of options with each their advantages and disadvantages.
While there is some overlap in step aerobics equipment and step-up equipment, keep in mind that these are different workouts.
Types of step-up platforms
The first and most essential step-up equipment category is a platform to step on. Without one of these, you would not be able to do the exercise.
1. Plyo box
A plyo box, also known as a jump box or step box, is simply a box that is strong enough to deal with jump exercises.
This together with being an ideal height for most people, makes plyo boxes a great equipment option for step-ups both at home or in the gym. Especially if you plan to do the exercise with extra weights.
Additionally, there are adjustable plyo boxes which can be helpful for progressing your step-ups as you get stronger without weights. On top of that, you can use a plyo box for a wide variety of other exercises.
Besides its versatility, another benefit of the plyo box is that it is a sturdy piece of equipment that can last a long time.
There are also some potential downsides to the plyo box. The first one is that it requires a decent amount of storage space. Secondly, plyo boxes can be a bit pricey.
2. Step platform
Step aerobics is a type of workout where you do sequences of steps with extra movement on and off a raised platform named a step platform. You can also use this piece of step aerobics equipment for other exercises, including step-ups.
There are a few differences with plyo boxes that could make a step platform a better or worse choice.
First of all, a step platform is more elongated on one side and more narrow on the other. If you struggle with balance the wider surface of a plyo box may be a better choice.
Secondly, a step platform is often made from lighter material like plastic. This makes a step platform cheaper but at the same time also less sturdy and less durable.
If you plan to do step-ups with heavy weights or use the platform for something like box jumps, the plyo box may be a better equipment choice.
Lastly, a plyo box is often higher but less adjustable. For step-ups you generally want the platform to be at about knee height. Depending on your height a step platform may be ideal or too low.
A benefit of step platforms is that they generally require less room to store. This can make them a good equipment option to use for step-ups at home.
3. Bosu Ball
The next piece of step-up equipment is a Bosu Ball. You can describe the Bosu Ball as the top of a stability ball attached to a flat surface.
One of the step-up benefits is that this exercise trains your balance and coordination while building a good amount of muscle. The Bosu Ball can be a step-up platform to put the focus of the step-up exercise more towards balance and coordination.
So if your goal is to build as much muscle as possible with step-ups, the Bosu Ball is not the best platform choice. On the other hand, if you want to train balance and coordination, a good Bosu Ball can be a nice addition to your fitness equipment collection.
You can also use the Bosu Ball for a wide variety of other exercises. Usually with a focus on improving your balance.
A potential downside of Bosu Balls is that they can be pricier. If this is an issue, the Bosu Ball is a brand name. Off-brand alternatives may suit your needs too.
Types of weighted step-ups
The way you build muscle in places like your legs is by straining and damaging your muscles. This may seem counterintuitive but this makes it so your body starts processes to repair them and build a little extra to be better prepared for similar efforts in the future.
Generally the more weight you have to move, the easier it becomes to strain your muscles enough for muscle growth in a short amount of time.
Resistance training beginners and possibly intermediates can build a nice amount of muscle mass with bodyweight-only step-ups.
However, at some point, you may need to do step-ups with extra resistance to keep seeing a lot of muscle gain. Doing step-ups with weights at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the bodyweight variation over and over.
4. Weighted vest
A weighted vest is basically its name, a vest with extra weight to make your exercises harder. One of the ways it stands out from other fitness equipment is that it allows you to add weight without using your hands.
This is useful for exercises like step-ups where you preferably want to be able to use your arms for balance. Besides that, you also cannot drop a weighted vest since it is attached to your body.
Another benefit of a weighted vest is that it is extremely versatile. You can use it in many weighted vest exercises for many body parts and different fitness components.
A dumbbell is a type of fitness equipment that is basically a handle with a weight on each side. Because you can hold a separate dumbbell in each hand, you can still use your arms to balance a good amount.
Some benefits of dumbbells include that they last a very long time without much reduction in value, you can use them in other exercises, they are very versatile, and they have a relatively high weight ceiling.
A potential disadvantage is that dumbbells often require a slightly bigger investment. Another potential downside of dumbbells as a step-up equipment option is that your grip muscles may fatigue faster than your legs.
6. Certain weight plates
Weight plates are plates made of heavy material, usually used for making a barbell heavier. While in theory you can use all types of weight plates to make step-ups weighted, you preferably want ones with handles.
If you have weight plates with handles, you can hold one plate in each hand. This allows you to use your arms for balance when doing the step-up exercise.
A benefit of weight plates is that you can also use them to make a barbell heavier when doing other exercises. Besides that, weight plates are versatile, last a long time, and generally don’t lose a lot of their value over time.
Similar to dumbbells, a potential downside of weight plates as step-up equipment is that your grip muscles may fatigue before your leg muscles. Weight plates also require a relatively high initial investment.
If you are looking for a step-up-only piece of equipment, weight plates are likely not the ideal choice. However, if you are interested in investing in weight plates anyway, you can choose the ones with handles so that you can use them for weighted step-ups.
A kettlebell is a metal ball with a handle on top, usually made of cast iron or cast steel. This form makes it so you can hold them in your hands while doing step-ups without removing the possibility of balancing with your arms.
Some of the benefits of kettlebells include that they also last a very long time without much reduction in value. Even after using them many times, kettlebells will have a very similar sturdiness and strength.
Additionally, you can find kettlebells at relatively heavy weights, use them in a variety of exercises, etc.
A potential disadvantage for step-ups is that kettlebells are a bit bulkier compared to dumbbells and weight plates. They may bump against your legs when doing the exercise.
Similar to many other free weights, kettlebells often require a slightly bigger initial investment.