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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

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Upward Movement

Downward Movement


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: Accessed November 14, 2017.

Step training guidelines. American Council on Exercise website. Available at: Accessed November 14, 2017

Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 1/31/2014