Doing Step ups with dumbbells? Here’s why you should also use a box for step ups…
Performing step ups with dumbbells is easiest way to add resistance to an already difficult exercise. The step up itself primarily targets your quads while also being a serious challenge on your core stability, single leg stability and overall balance. All necessary components for full body fitness.
However, when you add in a high box you will put more of an emphasis on the glutes as a primary mover!
You will always want to train your movements through a full range of motion right? So why would you choose a standard bench to perform the step up exercise? Its hardly full range of motion… and it’s not definitely not a one size fits all movement.
You NEED to find a high box for step ups with dumbbells to really stress your glutes.
When you use a high box for step ups you will start each rep with your quads in their fully stretched position. This is super important as they are relatively weaker in this position.
In order to start the rep in the now higher box position, your glutes will be forced to contribute more to the overall movement…
So what’s the best height box for step ups with dumbbells?
You will want to be able to complete your own specific range of motion while doing the high box step up.
Most gyms nowadays have soft plyoboxes or an adjustable mount to change the height for step ups or box jumps.
You should choose the box height, or step height that you have enough mobility and strength to manage 6-10 quality reps with a full range of motion.
If you put your back flat against a wall and raise your knee up as high as you can, without your back coming away from the wall, you should be able to get an idea of your current hip mobility.
This is a great place to start for this exercise!
However, just because you have enough hip mobility does not mean you will be strong enough right now throughout the entire range of motion.
Should I do high box step ups with dumbbells or just use my body weight?
If you do not have enough strength to complete 10 quality reps with your own your body weight you have no business using dumbbells just yet…
Using dumbbells for step ups is a great way to add ADDITIONAL stimulus to your glutes and quads, however, you do not have to use them if your body weight is already difficult enough.
In fact, you are better off mastering body weight before moving on to the dumbbell variation.
If you do not have enough strength to complete the high box step up using your body weight I suggest you hold onto an additional support to kick start each rep.
Just give yourself a little assistance to “Flatten the strength curve”… i.e. make the hard part a little easier right now.
How to do the high box dumbbell step up
How to do the high box dumbbell step up
- Step 1: The Set Up
To complete a high step up, you will need a platform height as described above. Always wear appropriate footwear to exercise in to ensure you are safe from slipping during any exercise.
If you have recurring injuries or are particularly weak through the legs, select a lower platform to start. If you are using the full height platform you should be confident in your leg strength or use a nearby support for assistance.
I would recommend you place your platform by a wall, or alternative surface that would allow you to hold your balance throughout the exercise should you need it. As you become more confident in the exercise you can determine your own reliance on external supports.
- Step 2: Foot placement & Weight Shift
To start, place your dominant leg on the platform, starting on your strong side will allow you to learn the pattern faster to start off. Place your full foot on the center of the platform.
Shift your weight slowly onto your dominant leg, pre-engage the muscles of your leg. Squeeze your glutes and quads and drive your knee over your little toes.
- Step 3, Start of the rep:
Extend your arms out in front of you, keeping your muscles engaged and weight on your working leg.
Drive through the platform and bring yourself to a standing position on top of the platform. Try to maintain your balance without placing your other foot on the platform unless you actually need the extra support.
Keep your entire foot fully planted on the platform for the duration of the set.
- Step 4, completing the set:
When you are ready, steadily lower yourself to the floor again.
Keep your working leg on the platform.
Repeat the process until your set is complete on that side.
Then you can repeat the process using your second leg.
While performing this exercise you will want to keep your knee over your foot as best as possible.
You wind find this particularly difficult when lowering yourself down from each rep.
Maintaining this correct knee to foot alignment is critical for the long term success in this exercise.