Barbell Step up

Barbell Step Up (How To, Muscles Worked, Benefits)

The Barbell Step up is a lower-body exercise used by athletes to train single-leg strength and power. This is a great movement for field, court, and track athletes looking to increase force production on a single leg.

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to properly do Barbell Step Ups. I’ll also tell you the muscles worked and what the benefits are along with a few alternatives in case you need them.

How To Do Barbell Step Ups

Equipment Needed

  • Squat Rack
  • Barbell
  • A very stable surface to step up to. (Ideally, a box or bench that is stable, heavy, and well balanced)

Muscles Worked

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Set up the barbell at the height you would normally use for back squatting.
  • Use the high bar back squat position for this exercise.
  • Use a box height that is going to allow your hip and knee flexion to be as similar as possible to your stride while sprinting or bounding.
  • Unrack the weight, place one foot on the box, and drive the other leg’s knee up.
  • The leg drive should be fast and explosive. (Quick note: keep the up leg’s foot pulled up toward the shin).
  • Engage the glutes and pause for a brief second at the top of the movement.
  • Carefully lower the leg back down and prepare for the next repetition.

Coaching Points

A stable box cannot be overstated here. If the box is not stable, do not do step-ups. The risk-to-reward ratio should always be considered with all exercises and implements.

Box height is very important to benefit from this movement. If the box height is too short or high, there will be less sport or movement-specific training.

As with all movements, quality movement is better than the quantity of weight on the bar. This movement is typically programmed for specific training of single-leg drive and down-leg stability. Make sure the knee drive is explosive.

Barbell Step-Up Alternatives

Need an alternative for Barbell Step-Ups? Here are a few exercises that you may be able to use as a substitute.

Dumbbell Step Ups

Dumbbell Step Up

For Dumbbell Step-Ups, hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform the step-up movement. If you find the dumbbells get in the way of your knee drive, you can hold the dumbbells in the front rack position or one dumbbell in the goblet position.

Goblet Reverse Lunge With Knee Drive

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position, reverse lunge, and drive into a knee drive. Hold this position for 1 second before going into the next repetition.

Forward To Reverse Lunge

Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in the goblet position, forward lunge, maintain your balance and go right into the reverse lunge.

More Links and Info

Looking for more Lower Body Lifts? Check out the Exercise Library where there is a growing collection of exercises with step-by-step instructions.


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