Core Corner: Step Ups with Dumbbells

Winter is the time of year for planning, looking through the Event Guide and choosing your target events. This month’s core corner will review a simple movement pattern: the step up. This is a movement that can serve as a cornerstone for an overall lower extremity strength program.  This compound movement involving hip, knee and ankle joints will improve overall functional leg strength, the foundation for endurance events. It is an easy exercise to add heavy resistance for strength in the off and pre- season with the addition of dumbbells.  This will increase the core control requirement, but be careful to not sacrifice form by adding more weight than you can control.

Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Towe Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Towe Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Towe


  1.  Find a surface you can step up on (ex, adjustable platform, plyo box or stair). Your knee should not be higher than your hip n the initial step up position.  Start conservatively lower than this as you begin the exercise.
  2. Begin the exercise with a dumbbell in each hand in front of your step. Put your full foot on the step, keep the torso tall and lean slightly forward from the hip to shift your weight in to the stepping leg.
  3. Shift your weight into the front leg and begin to lift your weight, taking the weight out of the back leg without pushing off.  This requires slow, mindful movement. Keep the pelvis level, try not to shift left or right.
  4. As you reach the top of the step, shift your weight to lead the step down with the same leg you stepped up.  SLOWLY lower your weight with the leg that is still on the step, using core control to keep your pelvis from shifting and prevent heavily “plopping” your back foot down. Quiet landing means control of the movement.
  5. Repeat this lead leg for 10-15 repetitions and switch legs.  Repeat 2-3 sets on each leg.  Progress by adding more weight, maintaining slow, core control always.

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Source: Core Corner