Low Step-Up This is one of my favorite unilateral (single-leg) strength exercises for beginners. The Low Step-Up gives athletes an opportunity to safely coordinate a single-leg movement before moving on to more advanced exercises. I also use the Low Step-Up to detect knee valgus (inward hip rotation resulting in knee collapse—most often due to weakness in one or more lower body muscle groups—glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps—or deficits in neuromuscular control). Step height remains low and athletes use only a light weight until knee valgus is corrected.
Note: Step height for the Low Step-Up varies depending on athlete height. With one foot in contact with step and one in contact with floor, set step height so athlete’s bent knee is at an angle greater than 90 degrees. If knee valgus or knee instability is present, lower step height.
- Stand facing a low step, feet pointed straight ahead about hip distance apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides or one dumbbell at your chest like a goblet. See Goblet Squat.
- Place your entire left foot on top of step, your right leg placed on floor directly behind step.
- Shift weight to left foot and drive through left heel to push your body up until left leg is straight—without locking knee.
- Continue flexing the right knee until it forms a 90 degree angle. Balance at top position for about a second before slowly returning right leg to starting position.
- Perform desired number of repetitions and repeat on other side.
Athletes commonly want to push themselves up using their back leg; however the work should come from the leg on the step. Beginning athletes are instructed to control the movement both up and down. Once athletes have demonstrated good mechanics and baseline strength, power is added to the Step “Up” portion of the movement while continuing to use control on the Step “Down”.