Barbell Step Ups

I’ve just started performing the barbell step up because I only have a barbell and 116kg (including barbell) of weight at my home address, and this is too light to perform squats for STRENGTH development. Step ups seem like a decent alternative given the amount of weight I have at my disposal.

In the reading that I did before deciding to tackle barbell step ups, it is mentioned many times that one should avoid using the non- target leg from pushing off the floor to help the lifting leg that is already on the bench. In practice it’s almost impossible to disengage the non- lifting leg, even without any weight being used. Are they then referring to eliminating a DELIBERATE use of the back leg? It seems that if I stand on the tip toe of the back leg- in a locked out position, it takes away all the range of motion for me to cheat, which is obviously the solution to the problem. However, I’m not sure if this is how the exercise is supposed to be performed, mainly because the weights used in this style are reduced considerably and don’t coincide with the ratio of your full squat being 2.2 times heavier than your barbell step up. e.g. Taranenko (the true holder of the clean and jerk all time record, with 586lb) championed the barbell step up at the bequest of his coach and he recorded a pb of 396lb x 3 reps and his squat was around 900lb. When I perform them normally (without the tip- toe lockout of the back leg on the floor, with the emphasis placed on the target leg- the back leg does give a slight push as it joins the target leg on the bench, but it is unintentional and not of any great force) my squats are roughly 2.2 times heavier, which tells me that I must be doing them like I am supposed to be doing them. I can’t be sure though, any input?

Generally, has anyone got any good links, caveats, opinions,etc, regarding this exercise? :slight_smile:

In order to minimize the assistance given by the support leg, simply dorsi flex your toes. This will render your support foot in a grounded position which creates a mechanical disadvantage for pushing off.

Vary the height of your box. The higher the box the more the hamstrings and glutes are recruited, the lower the box the more quad dominant the exercise becomes.


A good Hip Extension exercise, not the best, but there ok. The real strength guys go real high on them… Just started doing them w/ Jumpstretch bands. Jesus, 100x safer than placing a barbell across the shoulders, believe me.

During the lowering phase (eccentric) if you take 3-5 seconds before your foot retouches the ground you will also hit balance deceleration, and squeeze more out of the exercise. I also prefer the DB over barbell. I think that Taranenko stuff was BS. I remember seeing it somewhere but haven’t seen or heard of oly lifters pushing the step ups as hard as maybe good FB trainers or track and field athletes. acudave