Am I over-thinking Step-Ups?

Ask or answer questions, discuss and express your views

Moderators: Ironman, Jungledoc, darshana, stuward

Post Reply
User avatar
KenDowns
Advanced Member
Advanced Member
Posts: 1415
Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:48 pm
Location: New York, USA
Contact:

Am I over-thinking Step-Ups?

Post by KenDowns » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:16 pm

Basic background: middle-aged, sedentary lifestyle, one of those guys who could eat anything I wanted and never gain wait (until I quit smoking around 38). Have been exercising for the first time, not counting that week or two here and there in high school and college, and have just completed 13 weeks. Made exrx.net my primary (and often only) source for advice and information in about my 2nd week.

So two weeks ago I swapped out all my basics and put in Step-Ups as my quad, and I'm experiencing more problems with this than with any other exercise.

The first time I tried it, I had searing pain in my left shin and knee when stepping up on the right leg, which got worse until I stopped on only the 3rd rep. So I dropped some weight and slowed down and realized I was pushing off with my left leg, putting a lot of weight onto it.

So I concentrated on not pushing off and lifting entirely with the step leg, and realized I had way too much weight, so I dropped down and tried again.

This was better, but of course balance became a big issue, I probably made quite a sight swaying and tripping my way up and down those first two days.

At this point I have extremely mild pain but pretty persistent pain in my knees. If I go low enough on weight to have no pain (a 60lb weight vest) I can do over 20 reps and feel like I'm not exercising. If I go up to even 80 by holding dumbbells I end up with balance issues.

So I'm wondering if I'm thinking about this too much, and I realize I need some advice.

First, what about this "pushing off" thing? In a step-up are you really supposed to exert the entire force with the stepping leg? Does the balance leg do anything more than balance?

As for balance, should I just assume this will come with practice? Once I am rising up I've got all of my weight on one side of my body and this seems to be what is giving me trouble.

As for knee pain, since it is so mild I tend to assume its not an injury, but I've never had any joint pain persist once I managed to get form down, so it has me second-guessing myself there as well. Especially since I can't figure if I've got the form correct.

Sorry for the rambling, just trying to give as much info as I can. Any help appreciated.

Oscar_Actuary
Veteren Member
Veteren Member
Posts: 2406
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 1:12 pm

Post by Oscar_Actuary » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:20 am

What do you have against Squats?

Sorry, I have no good answer for your specific concern. My uneducated answer would be that you have deficincies in those less often used muscles required for balance, and general body spatial awareness.
Keep doing single leg work, too, imo.

User avatar
stuward
moderator
moderator
Posts: 6646
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:44 pm
Location: Halifax, NS

Post by stuward » Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:12 am

There are a lot of variations available with step ups. They will work the whole leg and also the core. Balance can be trained and is a combination senses and stability muscle control. It's highly trainable and more important as we age.

You should find out what's going on with your left knee.

Try this variation. http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Qua ... pDown.html
Touch down with you heel and try to just brush the floor without actually putting weight on that foot. You will likely have to drop the weight to control it.

Other variation to try:
http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Qua ... Squat.html
http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Qua ... gBack.html
http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Qua ... tSelf.html
http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Qua ... Squat.html

Depending on the variation, the "non-working" leg can take some of the load or virtually none. In the split squat, it's actually substantial. Obviously in the single leg squats it's zero. It depends on your goals but I would suggest that you try to minimized the back leg involvement until you find out why it causes pain.

User avatar
KenDowns
Advanced Member
Advanced Member
Posts: 1415
Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:48 pm
Location: New York, USA
Contact:

Post by KenDowns » Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:21 am

Oscar_Actuary wrote:What do you have against Squats?
Nothing against squats, but I picked step-ups because they seemed safer for a beginner. Before I found the article on this forum that says you go just short of exhaustion on the larger muscle groups, I thought you went to exhaustion on everything. Since I work out alone at home I was asking, "What exactly happens when I've go X pounds on a bar across my shoulders and I'm squatting down and I fail?"

But also it seemed to me that a single leg exercise had the practical benefit of requiring less weight. If I screw up and actually (heaven forbid) fall during a step up I just drop the dumbbells.
Oscar_Actuary wrote: Sorry, I have no good answer for your specific concern. My uneducated answer would be that you have deficincies in those less often used muscles required for balance, and general body spatial awareness.
Keep doing single leg work, too, imo.
Would it be safe to say then that, as a beginner trying a new exercise, I may have adaptation issues here? If that is so, then I suppose patience and practice might do the trick.

User avatar
KenDowns
Advanced Member
Advanced Member
Posts: 1415
Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:48 pm
Location: New York, USA
Contact:

Post by KenDowns » Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:24 am

stuward wrote: Depending on the variation, the "non-working" leg can take some of the load or virtually none. In the split squat, it's actually substantial. Obviously in the single leg squats it's zero. It depends on your goals but I would suggest that you try to minimized the back leg involvement until you find out why it causes pain.
Thanks for the links, and this comment makes sense. This answers my question regarding how much load the back leg is taking. I'll probably make a "learning day" and do light-weight sets on all of the variations to get the feel for them.

frogbyte
Advanced Member
Advanced Member
Posts: 1455
Joined: Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:46 pm

Post by frogbyte » Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:13 pm

I also found step-ups rather awkward, especially as the weight went up. Lately I've been doing some high rep squats (since I lack a power rack I only feel safe squatting what I can press), but I like these:
http://strength-basics.blogspot.com/200 ... quats.html

User avatar
Jungledoc
moderator
moderator
Posts: 7578
Joined: Thu Feb 07, 2008 7:11 am
Location: Kudjip, Papua New Guinea

Post by Jungledoc » Sun Nov 21, 2010 10:00 pm

KenDowns wrote:...then I suppose patience and practice might do the trick.
Yes, and light weights. Don't be afraid to do these light for a while, and only gradually increase as you feel comfortable with them. There is no deadline, is there? Except your funeral, I suppose, and it's best to just assume that that is a way off for now.

You said "middle aged" but not how middle your age is, so I don't know if you truly deserve pity for your senescence. I have the same balance issues you do, but I agree with what Stu said. If you are less than 50, I'll say "tough--cowboy up and get it done."

User avatar
KenDowns
Advanced Member
Advanced Member
Posts: 1415
Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:48 pm
Location: New York, USA
Contact:

Post by KenDowns » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:38 pm

Jungledoc wrote:
KenDowns wrote:...then I suppose patience and practice might do the trick.
Yes, and light weights. Don't be afraid to do these light for a while, and only gradually increase as you feel comfortable with them. There is no deadline, is there? Except your funeral, I suppose, and it's best to just assume that that is a way off for now.

You said "middle aged" but not how middle your age is, so I don't know if you truly deserve pity for your senescence. I have the same balance issues you do, but I agree with what Stu said. If you are less than 50, I'll say "tough--cowboy up and get it done."
Middle-aged = 45. Not looking for pity :)

Anyway, I tried warm-ups and low weight sets for step-ups, step-downs, lunges, and the bulgarian split squats.

The winners for sheer intensity were lunges and Bulgarian Split Squats, but I found balance easier with the Bulgarians, so I think I'm making those the basic.

Now I know why I keep reading the advice to stay away from that leg extension machine, with the Bulgarian you *know* you worked out.

As for deadlines, the nice thing about being 45 is that somewhere along the way patience showed up, so no deadline.

Thanks for all of the advice.

Post Reply