How to do step-ups – the best movement for pumping the buttocks at home

What are the benefits of stepping up

This is a functional movement that occurs all the time in everyday life, such as when you go up the stairs or climb on a stool to get something from the top shelf.

Walking up the hill

Although simple, stepping is an effective workout for several muscle groups at once, and in some cases even has an advantage over such strength training icons as squats and lunges.

Pumps the buttocks better than many other movements

The main function of the gluteus maximus muscles is to extend the hip joint, so exercises that include this action are used to pump them. For example, glute bridge , lifting the hips with support on the bench, squats and deadlift .

In stepping, the gluteal muscles have to not only extend the pelvis, but also participate in stabilizing the hips and knees, keeping them from excessive adduction and rotation. Due to this, the muscles receive more load.

A review of 16 scientific studies using electromyography (EMG) data found that walking outpaced many other movements.

While the hip extension only activates the gluteus maximus muscles by 75% of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVIC), the deadlift by 61%, and the backweight squat by 53%, the various stepping variations provide a load of 125%.

But here it is important to note that by performing the same pelvic extension or squats, in which both legs are firmly on the floor, you can take a lot of weight and load the buttocks to the fullest.

At the same time, it is not safe for even experienced athletes to step up the hill with significant weights, and beginners should not even think about it: the risk of injury is too great.

Stepping is one of the best movements for pumping the buttocks in conditions when working with weights is not possible.

Load many muscle groups

In addition to the gluteus maximus, step-ups also work well on the gluteus medius, quads, and hamstrings. Moreover, you can shift the load on any muscle groups by changing the version of the performance.

Also included in the work are the muscles of the body , which are responsible for a sense of balance and keep your body in a straight position.

Correct imbalances in muscle development

If the muscles on one side of the body are stronger than the other, in a bilateral movement like the squat, the strong side will take the load off. Over time, when using large weights , this can result in injury.

Stepping loads the muscles on the left and right sides equally , helping to get rid of the skew.

Develop a sense of balance and reduce the risk of falls and injuries

Unlike the same squats , which are performed in place, stepping teaches the body to move forward and backward efficiently and at the same time maintain balance on one leg.

Due to its functionality, the movement is recommended for older people to strengthen muscles, rely less on hand support, and eliminate the habit of shuffling your feet when walking.

The stability of the hip and knee joints, a good sense of balance and the habit of correct technique can reduce the risk of injury in people at any age in the long run.

Allows you to practice without equipment and special training

In the gym, stepping is done on a step platform, boxing or plinths for weightlifting. But, in fact, for the exercise, you can use any stable elevation – a chair, a step, a bench in the park or a high curb.

If you do not have dumbbells, you can use a backpack full of heavy things as weighting, or take bottles of water or sand in your hands.

In addition, the exercise can be easily scaled to suit any fitness level. Elderly, poorly trained and very fat people can step onto a platform 10-20 cm high, trained athletes – a 45-50 cm box, while holding dumbbells or with a barbell on their shoulders.

Who Shouldn’t Do Elevation Steps

Since the height of the platform can always be adjusted to the level of the practitioner, stepping has practically no contraindications.

However, if you have serious problems with your sense of balance , make sure that you have something to grab onto in order to prevent a fall in time. Or practice under the supervision of another person who will support you when you lose your balance.

How to do stepping correctly

Make sure the support is stable and firm. Wobbling step-platform structures and chairs with upholstered upholstery or an insufficiently large seat will not work.

Stand in front of the support, you can put your hands on your belt or keep them loose at your sides. Straighten your shoulders and straighten your back, tighten your abs .

Place your right (working) foot on an elevation so that the entire foot is pressed against the surface, and the heel is near the edge of the platform.

Keeping your back straight, shift your body weight to the working leg, and then rise to the platform and straighten the leg at the hip and knee joints. After that, you can put the second leg next to the full foot, on the toe, or even leave it on the weight.

Slowly and under control, lower your left foot to the floor as you descend from the platform. It is allowed to both substitute the working leg to the supporting one, and leave it on the platform for the next step.

Perform a full approach with the right leg, and then repeat the same with the left.

What mistakes should be avoided

There are a few common mistakes that can make your steps less efficient and even dangerous.

stooped back

Make sure that during lifting the body does not lean towards the knee: this spoils the shape and takes away the load from the legs.

Repulsion from the floor with the supporting leg

Such a movement takes away the load from the working leg, which means it makes the exercise less effective. Make sure that only the leg that is on the dais makes all the effort when lifting.

The second one simply rises with the body and is substituted only at the end of the phase.

Turning the knee inward

By turning the knee inward during the lift, you put it at a biomechanical disadvantage and increase stress on the anterior cruciate ligament.

Make sure that the knee is always directed in the same direction as the toe – this will help avoid injuries . You can even turn it outward a little to prevent it from rotating inward.

Substituting the leg to full extension

By shortening the lifting phase, you reduce the load on the muscles. Straighten the knee completely, and if it doesn’t work, choose a lower platform.

When to take weights and how to do it

If you can do 10 steps with each leg without any problems, try adding weights. Take light dumbbells of 2-4 kg or bottles filled with water or sand.

If you do not lose balance, and the form of the exercise does not deteriorate for 10 repetitions, you can increase the weight even more. In the case of access to dumbbells with different weights, add load until you reach a pair with which you can only do 10-12 times.

If you’re feeling confident, you can try the barbell backstroke. To get started, take an empty bar of 15–20 kg, or even better, a bodybar weighing 7–8 kg.

As you get used to it, add pancakes until you reach a weight with which you can perform 8-12 times without twisting your knees inward and strongly tilting your body forward.

How to do step-ups to shift the load on different muscle groups

In one study , they tested how different types of steps – classic, side (lateral), diagonal and cross – change the load on the muscles.

15 trained women performed an exercise on a 45 cm box with additional weight (6RM), and scientists tracked the activity of different muscle groups using EMG. Here’s what they found.

Sideways (lateral)

According to the results of the study, lateral stepping is recommended to be done to shift the load on the rectus femoris muscle – one of the heads of the quadriceps, which is responsible for hip flexion.

Stand to the left of the box – right side to it. Place your right foot on a raised platform, transfer your body weight to the bent leg and rise up until it is fully extended.

As with the classic step, you can put your other foot next to the working one or leave it on the weight. In the first case, place the foot of the working leg 10-12 cm from the edge of the support, in the second case, you can place it right on the edge, as in the video.


Such steps better than classical ones load both the direct and medial heads of the quadriceps. In addition, it is recommended for good pumping of the muscles of the back of the thigh.

If you are stepping onto a box or chair, stand to the left of the support one step further from the edge. If you climb onto a stable bench, you can stand in front of it, as in the video.

Place the foot on the support so that the thigh is located diagonally from the body and follow the steps, observing all the technical points.


This is the last option that was tested in the experiment. Scientists have concluded that such steps are better than others pumping the gluteus medius muscles.

Stand to the left of the box, turning to it with your right side. Place your left foot on the box close to the edge. Then straighten your knee and hip as you step onto the platform and place your right foot next to your left. Also, you can not substitute your leg, but leave it on weight.

Descend from the dais with your right foot and repeat the movement.

How else can you do stepping

The following types of stepping have not been tested in experiments, but since they use additional movements, it can be assumed that they will increase the load on the muscles.

With hip flexion at the top

Do the classic raised step with your right foot, but instead of just bringing your left foot forward, bend your hip and bring your knee forward. Step back down with your left foot and repeat the movement.

With hip extension at the top

Take a step with your right foot, and at the top point, straighten your left thigh, while straining your buttocks. Step back down with your left leg and repeat the exercise.


Step with your right foot and bring your left knee forward, then drop down with your left foot and lunge back with your right. Rise from the lunge and repeat the exercise.

How to add stepping to your workouts

Whether you’re working out at home or outside, you can do this exercise in every workout, pairing it with squats, lunges, and other hip and glute exercises.

Do stepping for 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps per leg if you work without weights, and 10-12 reps if you take a weight with which you can exhaust the muscles enough for that number of repetitions.

If you build muscles in the gym, you can add dumbbell and barbell walks to your leg workout day to add variety to your routine.

Since the back squat, machine leg press, and hip extension allow you to take more weight, you should not replace them with walking.

However, you can periodically add this movement to the program to “finish off” the gluteal muscles or quadriceps, restore symmetry and pump up a sense of balance.

Do three sets of 8-12 reps per leg with weights that allow you to fatigue your muscles enough without ruining your technique.

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