Are Step Ups better than Squats!?
If you’ve been in the gym for the last few weeks, you know we’ve been really drilling step ups. You might be wondering why we decided to spend more time with single leg work generally and specifically chose the front rack step up as the exercise of choice, so here goes…
Most of your life is lived on a single leg. Any motion other than a jump from two feet is a single leg motion. From walking to sprinting, changing directions and shooting layups, you spend a lot more of your mobile life on one leg than on two. So, it seems like it would be wise to train for that reality.
For most of us, it’s been awhile since we strapped on cleats and played a field sport. So we haven’t really needed to rely on super strong single leg postures to drive us down the field, to change direction to make a play, or to quickly stop in place to avoid a defender.
If your physical activity for the last 6 months to 3 years has been in the gym, you’ve been doing lots of bilateral (two legged) activity. You can balance easier which allows you to produce more force.
That’s great! It means you can make huge gains on things like squats and deadlifts which are super fun and rewarding.
Unless… you are seriously imbalanced side to side. Then you’ll start shifting balance, twisting, and otherwise compromising your positions. Add to that situation the fact that you’re getting stronger, because that’s what happens when you lift heavy weights, and now it’s only a matter of time before something starts to nag at you.
It could be a knee, hip, or your lower back, but when things get out of sync, they tend to start bugging you. Listen to that! Those first whispers are clues that something might not be right. It’s worth investigating your pain! Start with a coach, and if it’s outside of our scope, we’ll send you to a trusted PT for help.
Enter the Step up. By isolating one leg, keeping a balance requirement, and minimizing the risk for over-extension in your lower back, it’s a one stop shop for creating strength balance in your lower body.
Our goal is to make the movement a strict single leg movement. That means no jumping off of the back foot and no half-squatting to fully standing on top of the box. We do that to make your body learn to balance and to strengthen the most difficult part of the range of motion: the bottom.
Be patient with it! Most of us are pretty novice at these, and the weights on the whiteboard should reflect that reality! Give it some time and I think you’ll see some pain resolve (I have), your balance improve, your pistols become better/more accessible, and your bilateral work more stable.
Let us know what you think!
P.S. – The biggest benefit to doing these is the ego busting effect they have on us. Mindset is the key that unlocks performance and having and open mind that’s willing to fail to grow is key to leveling up in life.