The Step up

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You may wonder why we use ‘the step up’ in the Octathalon course?

One reason is that it is a total lower body strengthener as well as being an extremely functional move

If you think about it, it is like a controlled version of going upstairs two at a time.

Two steps are about 14 inches high, which is the same height as the Step we use in the Octathalon.

Along with helping to develop a strong lower body, this move also requires a good sense of balance which also helps develop core stability. When you do high numbers of step ups you may begin to tire. If that is the case you will notice yourself becoming more unstable as you lift your knee. This can be a good indication of fitness levels.

It is best to first start doing step ups without holding a weight and to just focus on getting a perfect balance. Try holding your arms out to the side horizontally as you step up. If you can do the step ups this way without your arms waving up and down, it will tell you your balance is quite good and your stability muscles are working well.

When you have mastered the step up without weights, take a dumbbell in each hand (choose the weight for the course that suits you best) and stand tall behind the centre of the step with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your arms straight down by your sides with your palms facing inward and keep your shoulders relaxed as you move up, back and down.

It is important to place one foot firmly on top of the step box (it doesn’t matter which foot you start with but it will be called your ‘leading’ leg) with the knee of your ‘leading’ leg bent and aligned over your ankle.

Focus on keeping your hips square and level and your shoulders aligned over your hips. At all times maintain an upright posture throughout.

When stepping back down place the whole of the foot on the ground toe first then heel and spreading your weight equally across the whole foot.

The step up makes an excellent exercise as a beginning to foundation strength training for a move into hill running as well as the treadmill inclines found in the Octathalon. 

Your gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves work to bend your knee and lift your body upward and lower it back down to the start again. Your gluteus medius and your hip adductors and hip abductors act as the stabilisers to help with your balance. They work hard to stop you wobbling when you execute the movement.

The added resistance of holding dumbbells at the same time gives your body even more of a challenging movement.

So all in all this exercise is a great test of strength and coordination and even stamina. Remember The Ironman course requires 200 step ups. Those practising to do this number will often do 1000 reps non stop in training. If you pace yourself this is possible and an excellent way to build up cardiovascular fitness.

There are also other different styles of step ups which can be done and some are naturally faster styles, although they are more tiring to do. The faster styles that still conform to the Octathalon rules are written about in other articles on this website. All the top Octathaletes know and use these faster styles as they know they have to in order to win.