USED IN: Break-In; Fat-Loss III; Hypertrophy I and II; Strength I

SET-UP: Set up a box or stack of steps from the aerobics studio so that it's about knee-high. You can start lower (as shown in these photos) if you're a beginner, or go higher if you're advanced. Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides.

LIFTING: Place your right foot flat on the step. Push down through your right foot to straighten your right leg and lift your entire body up. (Don't push off with your left leg; it's just along for the ride.) Set your left foot down on the step.

LOWERING: Step off with your left foot. As soon as it brushes the floor, lift again with your right leg. Finish all your reps, then switch legs and repeat the set.

Figurine Metal Forgeron


Although it's not specified in these workouts, you can hit your body with a bigger endurance challenge on the higher-rep sets by alternating legs on each rep. You start with both feet on the floor, step up with your left, down with your right, up with your right, down with your left, up with your left, etc. I get dizzy trying to keep it straight—oxygen to the brain isn't a priority on high-rep step-ups—but if you want to try it, it's your option.

Barbell or Dumbbells?

On most exercises, there's a compelling reason why Alwyn chooses one or the other in any particular program. On lunges . . . well, it's not so compelling. Most of these lunges, split squats, and step-ups can be done just as effectively with barbells or dumbbells. A few guidelines:

1. If it's six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other, choose whichever is most convenient to use.

2. You can shake up your workouts by switching from barbell to dumbbells and back again from one workout to the next.

3. A barbell is awkward to use on Bulgarian split squats (and their many variations), walking lunges, and any type of angled lunge. You'll probably want to stick with dumbbells on these.

4. Conversely, switching from dumbbells to a barbell on the step-up makes it a different, almost supercharged exercise, since you've shifted the center of gravity upward. It's not for beginners or the timid, but in my experience, the barbell step-up rises above all other lunge variations as a lower-body muscle builder. And it's a great exercise for sharpening your focus in the gym; if you let your mind wander over to the bodies in the yoga studio with a heavy barbell on your shoulders . . . well, you don't really want to contemplate the many possible consequences of that strategy.

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