Movements We Love: The (Barbell) Step Up

It’s no secret that we love training unilateral movement patterns. Single leg or single arm, in normal speak. We will resist the regurgitation of the same article about why those are excellent, and instead specifically focus on the barbell version of the step-up since have them as our primary movement during this cycle’s Friday BUILD day.

Hamstring and Glute Activation: Because we are stepping up and using our heel to pull our body upwards (if we are doing it properly), we have a bit better opportunity to engage the muscles of the backside in contrast to other single leg movements. This is why more load is not always better, we’re about activation here, not overload. Notice this part of the video with Coach Nate and Coach Ashley below. Always remember that building muscle is just about making that mind muscle connection as it is the weight you have on your back.

Neural Activation: The step up can be an advanced, highly coordinated movement for most. We are used to lunging, but not all of us are used to having a high degree of accuracy with your landing. To put it bluntly, it’s a riskier landing than any other single leg movement and in a loaded position, any time we are learning new skills our central nervous system is going to be involved from a motor learning perspective. That always yields strength improvements that transfer to other movements, because it’s new, it helps drive fresh adaptation.

Core Stability: Because of the transition from elevated to ground level, our core strength is challenged and brought into the picture in unique way that differs from a forward to backward pattern of lunge core stability. It’s not better or worst, it’s just different. And that’s a good thing to progress.

Eccentrics: Recall that eccentrics are the stage of movement when are lowering the weight. If you are not yet versed into why they are super important, then read that link. Again, because of the transition from elevated to ground, we must move very deliberately and with intention. This means our eccentrics under load are very, very valuable in the step up. You don’t crash down, you lower. And you get all sorts of good benefit by just returning to the starting position.

Here are two different versions we utilize.

Back Racked Step Up

Front Racked Step Up

Subtle nuances between each that challenge us in different ways. The back racked version will load the hamstrings and the posterior chain a little bit more while the front rack version will load the core and the quads. Both work towards the goal of stronger legs with more muscle on them, that perform better and keep your body healthier.