Weighted Step-up

The Weighted Step-up is a useful alternative exercise to the squat and is effective in building leg strength, power and cardiovascular abilities.

Primary Muscle Quadriceps
Secondary Muscle(s) Hamstrings
Difficulty Intermediate
Optional Sandbag, Barbell and Weights, Dumbbells, Plyo Box, Bulgarian Bag, Bench

Weighted Step-up Guide

The weighted step-up is a simple movement involving stepping onto a raised platform and back down again whilst supporting extra weight. The exercise targets similar muscle groups to the squat but allows you to train with less weight, reducing stress on the lower back and impact on the knees.

The step-up is an incredibly flexible movement and can be used for warm-ups, conditioning, or strength training exercises. Through altering the weight involved and the speed, height or number of repetitions you can tailor the exercise to meet your fitness goals.

Please note that the non-weighted version of this exercise should be mastered before introducing additional weight.

How to do Weighted Step-ups

We're assuming that you're using a barbell to add additional weights but you can use other equipment such as dumbbells, sandbags, bulgarian bags or a weighted vest.

  1. Stand facing the raised platform, with the barbell resting on the back of your shoulders (the same stance as a back squat), hands grasping the bar at the sides.
  2. Place one foot onto the platform. 
  3. Stand-up by extending hip and knee of the raised leg, placing both feet onto the platform. 
  4. Step back down with the second leg, returning to the original stating position by returning both feet to the floor.
  5. Repeat the exercise but alternate the leading leg between repetitions. 


  • Keep the torso upright throughout the movement.
  • Ensure that you slightly bend the leg on descent to reduce the shock of landing on the floor.
  • The further distance from the platform the greater the emphasis on the Gluteus Maximus muscles, and the closer you are gives focus to the Quadriceps.
  • The higher the step the bigger the demands placed on the Hamstrings, and the lower the step brings focus to the Quadriceps.

Weighted Step-Up Variations

  • Bodyweight Step-up: The most basic form of step-up. The non-weighted version of this exercise should be mastered before introducing additional weight.
  • Dumbbell Step-up: Introduces additional weight to bodyweight step-up by holding a dumbbell in each hand by the sides of the body. 
  • Barbell Step-up: The same exercise as the bodyweight step-up although uses a barbell across the shoulders like a barbell squat. 
  • Weighted Vest Step-up: Using a weighted vest to introduce more weight to the exercise for strength training and added intensity. The weight is safely and evenly distributed around the torso.


Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise.