High Step Variations

High step variations
There are dozens of variations of high step-up movement patterns. Stepping up high onto a step platform or plyo box, not only engages the quadriceps as the primary mover, this movement pattern also will engage the gluteus maximus and nose to toes core. High step-up movement patterns performed regularly may enhance your performance in a variety of sports and activities. For example, these movement patterns simulate climbing skills; therefore, rock climbing, hiking, and skinning, would all benefit from step-up movement patterns.

The nose to toes core benefits are instrumental in preparing the body to carry external loads, stabilizing, and balancing the body as you traverse the challenging terrain. And you should be specifically training for that activity. If you are going to participate in a trek, over varied terrain, carrying significant external loads for long periods of time, then you should be training to perform accordingly.

This week, a great high step variation will be featured. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

High Step Variation – equipment needed – 8–12-inch step or plyo box (you may certainly utilize lower or higher steps/plyo boxes based upon your specific physical needs/limitations); external loads such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, sandbags, weighted vests, etc.

High Step Variation – set up – position the step/plyo box in an area free of obstructions/obstacles and place your external load nearby for easy access.

High Step Variation – exercise protocols – perform one-three sets of 8-12 repetitions on two to three non-consecutive days/week. Due to this variation, the step up/up/down/down (i.e., basic step) and the lateral squat is considered one repetition. Remain on the same lead until the repetitions are complete, then switch to the opposite lead and repeat.
*It is important to build in a full recovery/rest day into your program weekly. Recovery is when the body actually grows and repairs!



  • Standing in front of the step/plyo box holding the dumbbell or kettlebell as though you are holding a goblet at approximately chest height.
  • Step up with the right foot on top of the step and then the left foot and then down with the right foot and down with the left.
  • Step out to the right side on the floor and perform a squat. Make certain that you perform a true squat and avoid leaning to the right side or turning the foot externally. Shoulders/hips/knees/toes all facing forward and step into the squat focusing on your traditional squat width.
    *Think up/up/down/down, then step side, step back together and repeat up/up/down/down.
  • Slow, controlled repetitions, two counts each direction. Remember, time under tension—the muscles, in this case the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes/hip abductors/adductors and nose to toes core, must be stressed under tension long enough to create positive physiological change to those muscles.
  • To increase intensity, you may increase the height of the step platform or plyo box as long as you are able to perform the movement pattern properly. Or you may increase your external load, again without breaking form.
  • This exercise should be performed in conjunction with specific upper body muscular strength training and additional nose to toes core training particularly if you are performing climbing skills/drills.

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