How to Do Barbell Step Ups Properly

If you are familiar with the dumbbell step up and bodyweight step up, you shouldn’t find the barbell step ups too hard to do. In fact, most of the time people start with the barbell step ups before they advance to these two.

It is basically the same concept, it is the equipment that varies. This is a very common leg exercise that mainly targets the quads. 

HOW TO DO BARBELL STEP UPS PROPERLY

  1. Place a riser on the ground in front of you. Anything between 8-12 inches off the floor is ideal.
  2. Place a barbell on your upper back, behind your shoulders.
  3. Put one leg on the riser in front of you
  4. Drive through the front foot and extend the knee as you stand up fully.
  5. Replace the foot back on the ground
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

BARBELL STEP UPS TIPS

Here are some important tips to help you do this exercise with more ease.

In the beginning, if you are finding it hard to drive off the leg on the platform, rising on the toes with the other leg will help. When you do this the focus on your front foot goes from the balls of your foot to the heels of your feet, thus making it much easier to drive off.

To practice good form and technique, beginners are always advised to first start with the dumbells variation over the barbell variation. It is best to first get comfortable with the basics before you go to the hard stuff.

To ensure maximum benefit for this leg when doing this exercise, complete all reps on one leg before you start on the next.

MUSCLES WORKED BY BARBELL STEP UPS

QUADS

This exercise mainly targets the quads, which are located at the front of the thighs. Strong quads often mean strong knees which are not susceptible to injuries. When doing leg exercises, it is important to choose those that will not put too much tension on the knees.

When walking normally or training on the conventional flat ground, your quads gain little or nothing. Things get amped up a little bit when you throw a riser or platform in the mix.

Other secondary muscles worked by the barbell step ups are the hamstrings and glutes.

However, the kind of weight you have on the barbell and the height of the platform determine which muscle gets worked on the most in a training session.

Hamstrings and glutes are important for climbing motions, like going up a flight of stairs or hiking.

BARBELL STEP UPS BENEFITS

IMPROVES BALANCE AND STABILITY

In order to do this exercise well, you have to master control as you move the barbell up and down, to the front and backwards. This improves coordination, balance, stability and control

SINGLE LEG WORKOUT

The other good thing about this exercise is that it requires you to complete all the reps on one leg before moving to the other one. You focus on each leg, not work them as a unit.

This allows you to strengthen each leg and pay attention to the muscles on every leg individually. Better still, you can use this exercise to correct imbalances on one leg.

NO FANCY EQUIPMENT

This exercise does not need you to invest in very expensive equipment and too much space.

VERSATILITY

You can do this exercise in the place of other intensive lower body exercises if you prefer an exercise that is much easier to do and will not put more impact on the legs.

Plyometric exercises are good but every once in a while you need to step back and take a break. If you have an injury, you also need to switch up exercises and focus on the ones that won’t result in any further strain.

BARBELL STEP UPS ALTERNATIVES

EXPLOSIVE STEP UP

This exercise is also known as a dynamic step up, if you do it diligently, it will improve your power.

To do this exercise:

  • Place one foot on the step
  • Step up, and as you do so propel yourself straight up off the step.
  • Using both feet, land on the step then proceed to step down
  • Do the same for the other foot and repeat as many times as you desire

Take care not to jump too high and ensure your landings are soft.

BARBELL STEP UPS MISTAKES TO AVOID

To get the most from this exercise and lower the risk of injury, avoid these errors.

KNEE PASSING TOES

When you step up, the knee should not go past the toes, doing this puts your knees at the risk of injury. Pushing the knee past the toes will engage muscles this exercise is not meant to engage and might hurt your knee.

PUSHING UP WITH THE WRONG LEG 

Ideally, the leading leg should do the work, driving into the step and while the leg behind factors more like dead weight. Pushing up with the lower leg reduces the load on the leading leg.

WRONG POSTURE

The wrong posture, in this case, refers to rounding the back. If you are having trouble maintaining an erect posture, you can lean forward ever so slightly so that you don’t strain your knee joint.

Keep your torso erect and chest up so you do not arch your back.

Read: How to fix bad posture with bodyweight exercises