• Exercise 101: Step-Up Using Free Weights

    Name of Exercise —Step-up
    Type of Exercise —Multi-joint
    Muscles used —Quadriceps, hamstrings and buttocks

    Starting Position

    © 2011 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    • Hold dumbbells in each hand or place a weighted bar on your upper back. Note : You can also do these without weights.
    • Keep your chest up and out while keeping your shoulders back. Stand in front of the bench or step with your feet shoulder-width apart.

    Upward Movement

    • Step up with one leg and place the entire foot onto the step or bench.
    • Keep your back straight and avoid leaning forward.
    • Lift yourself up using the leg that is on the step. Do not push-off with the leg that is on the floor.
    • Extend your hip and knee, push your body upward, and place the trailing foot onto the step.

    Downward Movement

    • Step off the bench with the trailing leg.
    • Try to place the trailing foot at least 12 inches behind the base of the step.
    • Bring the lead foot off and place it next to the trailing foot.


    • Stand in the starting position and step up with the opposite foot.
    • Keep alternating legs throughout the exercise.

    Trainer Tip

    Remember to keep your whole foot on the bench or step rather than just the front or the heel. The natural tendency in this exercise is to lean forward as you begin the upward movement, but don’t do it! Keep your back straight.

    Repetitions, Sets, and Weight

    The number of repetitions (reps) and sets you should do depends on your strength goals. In general, muscle strength works to increase the basic function of the muscle and is the typical workout goal. Muscle endurance is important to people who participate in endurance activities, such as running or biking. Muscle power is beneficial for athletes who need to use sudden quick movements for activities like sprinting and football. Beginners should start with a basic routine and gradually move toward a strength, endurance, or power routine.
    Beginner : 1 set of 8 to 10 reps
    Muscle Strength : 1 to 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps
    Muscle Endurance : 1 to 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps
    Muscle Power : 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps
    Use a weight that is heavy enough to perform the desired number of reps and sets for your skill level using good form. After you are able to perform more reps and sets than is outlined in your category, try to increase the weight you lift by 5% to 10%. Your strength goals may change as you progress.


    Selecting and effectively using free weights. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/selecting-and-effectively-using-free-weights.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed January 4, 2016.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.