Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The year was 1989. Young MC demanded that we all Bust a Move. Thong leotards (worn over shiny spandex shorts) were totally acceptable gym attire. And Reebok launched “Step Reebok,” a lightweight, height-adjustable bench, which literally elevated the world of aerobics. Suddenly, “step-hops” and “straddle-downs” became common lingo in group fitness classes, and colorful, plastic stacks of platforms and risers lined the walls of health clubs everywhere.
Step workouts dominated for a solid decade, with many enthusiasts using a home model in conjunction with a collection of fuzzy VHS tapes. But the fitness world is fickle, and peppy, bubble-gum choreography slowly gave way to grittier, sweatier trends like Spinning, boot camp and cardio kickboxing. And though (most) women retired their scrunchie socks and Reeboks with the straps (with the straps!), gyms that invested some green in those teetering towers of plastic held on to them, hoping the trend would come full circle and become popular again.
And they were right. The step persists, and aside from a few deluxe models that include storage compartments and fancier risers that allow for incline and decline, their basic construction remains the same. The traditional step workout, however, needed an overhaul to be on par with current trends. In that light, we’ve chucked the bubbly hops, high-impact kicks and complex dance combinations of the early ’90s and replaced them with heart-pumping HIIT and intense resistance training moves designed to build real muscle.
Get ready to bring your workout to a whole new level with this spicy high-intensity interval training and full-body strength routine.
If you don’t have a stepper at home, modify by using stairs or a thick hardcover book.
40-Minute Step HIIT Workout
Looking to blast through your cardio and strength training in less than an hour? Our revamped step workout will rev your engine and tax every muscle from the neck down in just 40 minutes.
Warm-Up: 4 minutes
Set the step low, and do one minute of each move below for two rounds.
Elevated Toe Tap
Face the step with your arms at your sides. Bend your left knee and tap the ball of your foot to the edge of the platform. Jump and switch feet so the left foot is on the ground and the ball of your right foot is touching the edge of the platform. Repeat in rapid succession, pumping your arms as you alternately tap the edge of the step with your feet.
Face the step with your feet together. Jump your feet out to shoulder-width and squat down, kicking your hips back and touching your fingertips to the step, chest up. Jump your feet together again and hop in place twice before jumping back out into a squat.
HIIT Circuit: 12-Minute EMOM (every minute on the minute)
Set the step low to medium height and get out your timer. Start the timer, then get in as many reps as you can for the first move in about 50 seconds. Then transition quickly to the next move, which begins at the top of the next minute. Cycle through the sequence of these next four moves a total of three times.
Stand sideways to the step with your feet hip-width apart. Crouch and place your hands on the floor, jumping your feet back into plank. Do a push-up, hop your feet back underneath you and then leap laterally over the step. Land softly on the other side and repeat. Continue, alternating sides.
Knee Drive to Reverse Lunge
Face the step and place your left foot in the center of the platform. Extend your leg to stand up on top and drive your right knee through to hip height. Step back down with your right foot, then step your left foot back and lunge down until your right thigh is parallel with the floor. Complete all reps on one side, then switch.
Start in a push-up position alongside the step with one hand on top of the platform and one hand on the floor. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor, then extend back to the start and walk your arms and legs laterally, moving up and over the step to the other side. Leave one hand on top and place one hand on the floor and do another push-up. Continue, alternating sides.
Elevated Mountain Climber
Get into plank with your feet on the step and your hands underneath your shoulders, spine and head neutral. Slowly draw one knee into your chest without curling your spine or lifting your hips and pause. Return to the start and continue, alternating legs.
Strength Circuit: 24 Minutes
Adding weight to your resistance moves amps the intensity, and increasing the step height adds an element of instability — both of which demand more of your muscles. For each of these four moves, do 12 reps per side before transitioning to the next exercise. (For the elevated pike push-up, do a total of 12 reps.) Set the step on its highest level for the standing moves, and cycle through the circuit three times, allowing for 60 seconds of rest between moves.
Bulgarian Split Squat With Biceps Curl
Hold a set of dumbbells with your palms facing forward, and stand with your back to the step. Extend one leg behind you and place your toes on top, shoulders back, hips square. Bend both knees and lower straight down, simultaneously curling the dumbbells up toward your shoulders. When your front thigh is parallel to the floor, stand back up and uncurl the dumbbells. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Stand close to the step with your back to it and lift your right foot off the floor in front of you, core braced. Keep your right leg straight and extended in front of you as you bend your left knee and push your hips back, lowering slowly until your glutes touch lightly down on the step. Then drive through your heel to return to standing. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Dumbbell Renegade Row
Set the step low to medium height and place a dumbbell to the side of the step, then get into plank with one hand on the step and the other on the dumbbell handle. Position your feet wider than normal for balance while keeping your head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core as you row the weight up toward your flank, keeping your hips square. Lower to the start under control. Do all reps on one side, then switch.
Elevated Pike Push-Up
From an all-fours position on the floor, extend your legs one by one behind you and up onto a high step. Walk your hands back and lift your hips until you are in a pike position with your hips over your shoulders and head. Bend your elbows and slowly lower down until your head touches the floor, then press back up to the start.