The last time I made an entry to this blog I was 20 pounds heavier, clean-shaven, and sleeping eight hours per night... anyone who's seen me lately knows that had to be a long, long time ago. Stress happens, but I'll try to be a more consistent blogger going forward (for my two-and-a-half die-hard fans out there who've been holding their breath for another entry, the wait is over).
So let's talk about stepups. I must be the only guy I've seen do this move in a public gym in five, 10... in my entire life. Why is it so unpopular? Probably because it's tricky to do, and it doesn't allow you to use a ton of weight. Nevertheless, it's a tremendous exercise for training balance and building hip, quad, and hamstring strength. It also improves hip and ankle mobility and knee tracking, making it a great rehab move if you have pain or tightness in those areas. It should be a part of almost any athlete's workout (especially if his sport involves running and jumping--and most do).
Squats and deadlifts will always be the overall best lower-body builders, but, as my friend/competitive strongman/and trainer extraordinaire Jim Smith points out, "they're limited in their ability to improve coordination and balance. Life happens unilaterally [on one leg at a time]. We walk. We run. So we must train in these movement patterns to decrease the risk of injury and improve your ability to move more freely." Think about how many one-leg-at-a-time exercises you've done in the past year. Lunges? Ok, but is that all?
Stepups also have the advantage of giving you a large range of motion. You can really extend your hips at the top, and that means you'll fully develop your ability to be explosive.
See a picture of the stepup and full instructions on how it's done here. "Make sure your weight is on the center of the foot that is stepping," says Smith. Your back (trailing) leg should be immobile so that it doesn't assist the leg that's stepping. "When touching down for the next rep, you should do it softly and not just flop down to ensure tension throughout the movement."
Be sure to check out Smith's site and read his bio here. He can crush your skull in one squeeze, and that's why he'll always have a home here at MF.