Step-ups can offer valuable benefits like building muscle mass but you may wonder if they are also good for losing weight.
Something to note first is that this article is about the step-up exercise where you step on something relatively high like a plyo box. Doing step aerobics for weight loss is something else with different effects.
That aside, keep in mind that a variety of lifestyle habits influence whether you will lose weight or not. Exercise is only one of these and usually not the most important one.
With that in mind, adding step-ups to your routine and keeping other lifestyle areas the same (or improving these too) will generally be good for losing weight.
Similar to other resistance training exercises, you may not burn that many calories during the workout. However, the afterburn and increased muscle mass are great for longer term weight loss.
Keep in mind that as you lose more weight, you will have to implement more positive changes to keep seeing progress.
This can mean increasing the resistance of your weighted step-ups but also doing other exercises and changing up other lifestyle areas.
Weight loss fundamentals
To understand better why step-ups can be good for losing weight it can be helpful to quickly go over the weight loss fundamentals.
Your body needs energy to function throughout the day. In more intense activities it will require more energy ( = burn more calories) to fuel the movements.
In most of the foods you eat, there is at least some energy present measured in calories. Not all calories are the same for losing weight but they can be helpful to get an idea of how everything works.
However, when there is more energy coming in from food than you are using throughout the day, your body stores this excess energy.
This is useful if you run out of food but in modern-day life, this often leads to excess stores of body fat. As most people know, excess body fat leads to a variety of negative effects on your health.
Luckily, you can also reverse this process by needing more energy than is coming in from food. When this happens, your body turns to the excess body fat stores to keep functioning.
In short, basically anything that helps you use up more body fat, including step-ups, could help you lose weight to some extent.
However, things like what you eat and other lifestyle habits that influence calorie burning still matter and could undo the progress from the extra movement you do.
How much step-ups help weight loss
While any extra movement can help you lose weight, you want to know how step-ups compare to other options. Your time is limited and you likely want to spend it on something that is at least somewhat effective.
One pound of body fat is about 3500 calories (one kg +-8000 calories). How much weight you will lose by doing more step-ups will also depend on other lifestyle habits like what you eat.
For example purposes, you can assume these other habits stay the same and only focus on the number of calories burned with step-ups.
A rough estimation is that doing 15 minutes of weighted step-ups will burn around 89 – 152+ calories depending on how heavy you are (the heavier the more you burn), how much weight you use, and a variety of other factors.
If a 155-pound individual would do this every day for 10 days, he/she would burn around 1100 calories during the workout sessions. This is about 0.31 pounds of body fat. 30 days, 3300 calories, about 0.94 pounds of body fat, etc.
These amounts are alright but at the same time not the most exceptional. However, something to keep in mind is that resistance training exercises like step-ups also help you lose weight in other ways.
Other ways step-ups benefit weight loss
One of the positive effects of step-ups is that they can help you build muscle mass when done with the right weights, repetitions, sets, nutrition, and rest.
As briefly mentioned before, how much you weigh influences how much energy you use up with basically everything you do. By building extra muscle mass with an exercise like step-ups, you can burn more calories throughout the day.
The muscles worked with step-ups are relatively big. There is a lot of room for muscle mass increases in your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves.
Additionally, doing exercises at high intensities can cause something called afterburn. This comes down to burning more calories than usual, even after your workout has ended.
So the calorie-burning estimations of step-ups are alright but these secondary effects really add up over time. In turn, leg resistance training exercises like step-ups can help you lose a nice amount of weight.
Do step-ups help lose thigh and belly fat?
Some people are looking for a way to lose fat around their thighs and bellies specifically. Unfortunately, it currently looks like it is not possible to target fat loss in a specific area in significant amounts.
What areas are first in what amounts depends on things like your genetics.
The human body tends to “like” to store fat around its waist and thighs. That means these areas are also typically the hardest ones to lose fat in.
In short, step-ups can help you lose thigh and belly fat but only when your body “wants” to lose fat in these areas.
Should you do step-ups to lose weight?
Weighted step-ups are not the most impressive in terms of calories burned during the workout.
However, building leg muscle mass can be valuable for long term weight loss since it helps you burn more calories throughout the day. This includes during other workouts that focus more on short term calorie burning.
Additionally, you get some amount of afterburn after your session of weighted step-ups.
In short, leg resistance training exercises like step-ups can help you lose a lot of weight when done right. Use amounts of weight, repetitions, and sets that help you build muscle mass for optimal results.
Additionally, keep in mind that being consistent is important in any workout plan. If you really like step-up workouts, these could be a good choice. If not, step-up substitutes and other exercises can also help you lose a lot of weight.
Also keep in mind that the things you eat stay important no matter what movement routine you’re following. It’s hard to out-exercise a bad diet.