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There are a ton of exercises for the legs, yet most of the time when you go to the gym guys are only doing some variation of a squat, deadlift, or leg press, along with some basic leg extensions, leg curls and calf raises. All of these are great exercises, and kudos to all of you that take the time to really push your legs. However, one exercise that is very rarely performed in the gym is the step up.
Step ups are a very basic movement yet they are highly effective at improving stability and strength in the legs! The step up is a unilateral movement that requires balance and will force you to strengthen each leg individually. This will help you bring balance not only to your physique but to your legs, in general.
If you want to increase the amount of load when you do step ups, use the barbell or dumbbells. If you use a barbell, load it with weight and place it on your back. If you choose to use dumbbells, hold a dumbbell in either hand and let hang by your side.
Step up onto a bench, using only one leg to balance at the top. Slowly lower yourself to the ground, alternate feet and step up again.
The use of the barbell on the back contributes to axial loading, which requires the use of your core musculature to stabilize the spine. Also, step ups strengthen your hip flexors. This is especially important for people who find that when they deadlift or squat, their lower back tends to round. The reason why the hip flexors are important is that they help to stabilize the pelvis and keep it in a neutral position as you squat. Sometimes as you squat lower and lower, the hip flexors aren’t strong enough to stabilize the pelvis. In this case, the hamstrings take over and begin to actually pull the pelvis underneath you, causing your lower back to round. It‘s a simple, yet common muscular imbalance that can be corrected through proper stretching of the hamstrings along with strengthening of the hip flexors.
If you are serious about your physique and getting in shape, there’s no way around working your legs. Squats and deadlifts are completely necessary. But if you want to decrease you back pain, improve the strength and stability in your core and legs, and just really take your fitness and workouts to another level, grab a barbell and a bench and step right up!
Try this 2 day split on legs!
|-Step ups||3||12||2 min.|
|-Front Squats||3||8||3 min.|
|-Unilateral Leg Extension||3||10||2 min.|
|Standing Calf Raises||10|
|-Lying Leg Curl||3||10||2 min.|
|Seated Calf Raise||20|
|-Step ups||3||12||3 min.|
|-Step Mill||1||10 min.||3 min.|
|-Leg Extension||3||8||1 min.|
|Standing Leg Curl||12|