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Why this single-leg exercise is crucial for runners

step up exercise
How to do the step-up exercise AleksandarGeorgiev - Getty Images

All runners can benefit from single-leg exercises (also called unilateral exercises) - they are great for highlighting any muscle imbalances and improving your balance and core stability. Why? By working just one side of your body at a time, you're essentially forcing each leg to do the work and engage more muscles in order to keep yourself stabilised. After all, when you run, you do use only one leg at a time ...

Step-ups are arguably one of the most simple – and easy – exercises you can do to help strengthen each leg individually. If you’re just starting out, all you need is your body weight – but you can easily make them harder by adding dumbbells, a kettlebell or by increasing your step height.

What are step ups and what are the benefits?

‘The step-up is a go-to exercise for runners because it primarily targets the glute max in hip extension, which is one of the most powerful movements the human body does,’ explains Graeme Woodward, a UK Athletics Level 3 performance coach, UKSCA accredited S&C coach and We Run coach for West Yorkshire.

‘It also has other benefits including working the stabilising muscles around the pelvis which aids running economy and taking the hips into full range in extension and flexion which is something a lot of runners don’t do in normal training and is vital in injury reduction.’

How to do the step-up exercise

step up exercise
PHOTOGRAPHER: EMMANUEL ADEOLA / MODEL: PT AND ASICS FRONTRUNNER REY SMART
  1. Place your left foot onto a bench and push up through your heel to lift yourself up,
    bringing your right foot through in front of you.

  2. Step back down with your right foot, concentrating on flexing the hip and knee of your left leg.

  3. Repeat on the other side.

Sets/reps: Two sets of 10-15 reps

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