99% of the people on the gym floor–even the competitive bodybuilders–have "Step-Up" as part of their lower body workout routine, which is a very good lower body exercise. However, when they perform "Step-Up", they are actually performing the "Step-Down", which is not the intention of the exercise.
So let's clear this confusion between Step-Up and Step-Down exercises:
1. What is Step-up?
Step-Up is basically single leg squat. It is an unilateral lower body workout similar to a lunge. Also, it is a functional fitness exercise, which we perform in our regular day-to-day activities.
2. Why is Step-up required?
Step-Up is required to develop equal strength in both the legs, hence, it is an unilateral lower body exercise. When we perform squats, which is a bilateral exercise, we may not use both the legs equally to push the weight against the gravity. Hence, isolateral/unilateral exercises like lunge, Step-Ups, etc., become important.
3. How do you perform Step-up?
To understand the correct form and technique of Step-Up, it is necessary to understand the correct depth of squats, concentric contraction, and eccentric contraction.
Correct depth of squats:The correct depth of the squat is 'a$$-to-grass,' i.e. femur bone below parallel. You would hardly see anybody doing it, because they all lack mobility in hip, ankle, etc.
- Concentric contraction:
Concentric contraction occurs when muscles shorten. When we start squatting, we basically start with concentric contraction (contraction of Quadriceps muscles) phase, then we squat down and finally get back to concentric contraction of Quadriceps muscles.
- Eccentric contraction:
Eccentric contraction occurs when Quadriceps muscles lengthens. When we squat down, we are in eccentric contraction phase.
As you all agree that Step-ups are single leg squats, you will also now agree that Step-ups should be performed as under:
- Step-Up starts with concentric contraction of Quadriceps i.e. standing upright on a bench;
- When standing on a bench, you should stand on either right or left leg completely planted. This will shift the entire body weight on that leg, which is termed as working leg and the other leg will be only on toes, as a non-working leg.
- Now, you should start descending down with the non-working leg but still maintaining the entire body weight on the working leg, which is still planted on the bench.
- Thereafter, the toes of the non-working leg should touch the ground, while you still maintain the entire body weight on the working leg, which is planted on the bench. This is termed as an eccentric contraction (Quadriceps muscles eccentrically contracting) phase for the working leg.
- Then with fast explosion, you rise up with the working leg which is planted on the bench, and then the non-working leg comes up and is again planted on only toes. This completes one rep of Step-Ups for the working leg.
4. What is Step Down?
Step-down is completely opposite of STEP-UPS and SQUATS. You start with bottom position, with the working leg planted on the bench and non-working leg completely planted on the ground. In this case, the weight is on both of the legs, which is not the intention of the exercise. Thereafter, you rise up and step down again. So basically this does not mimic the Squats and is not an unilateral lower body exercise.
I hope you've found this article interesting! Feel free to comment below if you have any comments or queries on this, or wish to book a free workout session with me! I would be happy to help.