Box Step Ups Workouts to Enhance Endurance and Leg Strength

Box Step Ups are a highly effective lower body exercise. They require a low level of skill, making them accessible for athletes of all different ability levels. Similar to a lunge or other leg based unilateral exercises, Box Step Ups require the entire body to be powered by a single leg at a time.

Benefits of Box Step Ups

  • Improved coordination
  • Stronger legs
  • Identify weaknesses and imbalances in your movement
  • Improved mental toughness
  • Easy for everyone to do

Another great aspect of this exercise is that it is practically impossible to reach technical failure, making them effective for pushing hard in workouts without any real threat of injury.

Technical failure describes the point during any exercise where the technique of an athlete breaks down to an unacceptable and risky level due to fatigue. Box Step Ups, like Sled Pushes, require very little technical skill and can consequently be used as a perfect exercise to test an athlete to their absolute limits and beyond in the safest way possible.

What Muscles do Box Step Ups Work?

Box Step Ups work the quads (rectus femoris, vastus intermediate, vastus medialis and lateralis), the calves and the entire posterior chain.

The posterior chain is the collection of muscles that run up the back side of the human body. These include the Achilles tendon, gastrocnemius, hamstrings, glutes (medius and maximus), spinal erectors and lats.

How to do Box Step Ups

  1. To perform the step-up, place one foot on top of the box, with one foot on the ground.
  2. Your weight should be shifted into the heel of your foot that is on the box.
  3. Driving through that front heel, extend your leg completely straight before bringing the opposite foot onto the box.
  4. A slow descent is recommended in order to properly load the joints and teach your body proper positioning, while focusing on targeting the proper muscles for the exercise.

Box Step Ups Alternatives

Other variations to Box Steps Ups include:

  • Weighted Box Step ups
  • Box Jumps
  • Box Jump Step Downs
  • Box Step Overs
  • Burpee Box Step Overs

The movement can be scaled relatively easily to suit your ability level.

Box Step Ups Workouts

WORKOUT 1

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 6 Dumbbell Man Makers (2×55/35 lb)
  • 7 Box Step Ups (2×55/35 lb)

Wear a Weight Vest (20/14 lb)

Use one pair of dumbbells throughout. Perform all movements while holding both dumbbells.

One man maker consists of a dumbbell push-up, two renegade rows (one per arm), and a squat clean thruster.

WORKOUT 2

AMRAP in 11 minutes

  • 11 Burpee Box Step-Overs*
  • 11 Dumbbell Thrusters (35/20 lb)

*Add 1 Rep Each Round

WORKOUT 3

5 Rounds for Time

15 Ground-to-Overheads (pick load & object)

30 Step Ups (pick height & object)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 5 rounds. Athlete can choose any object they can find at home to use for the 15 Ground-to-Overheads and 30 Step-Ups.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Step Ups is completed.

Try this other great exercise you can do with a box

WORKOUT 4

For Time

1,000 Box Step Ups (20 in)

Wear a Ruck Pack (45/35 lb)

Complete 1,000 box step ups for time. Use a 20 inch box and wear a ruck pack that weighs 45 lbs for men, and 35 lbs for women.

A ruck is a weighted backpack to simulate the gear carried during a hiking expedition.

Score is the time it takes to complete all 1,000 repetitions.

Tips and Strategy

When you go into this workout, know that your pace will be slow. You’ll break a lot, but long rests will result in feeling like the clock is moving backwards instead of forwards. Commit to short breaks (10-15 seconds) and then get back on the box.

Intended Stimulus

This should feel like one of the most mentally challenging workouts you’ll ever do. You’ll want to quit at least a few times. But when you make it to the finish line, you’ll feel both exhausted (physically and mentally) and extremely accomplished.

Scaling Options

This workout is meant to be gruelling and long—an hour or more for most athletes.

Single-modality workouts, ones where there is only one movement are tough—there’s only one movement, and therefore, nowhere to hide.

Beginners should significantly scale the volume and/or the load to stay safe. The prescribed version of this workout should only be tackled by well-seasoned athletes.

Intermediate

For Time

  • 500 Box Step Ups (20 in)

Wear a Ruck Pack (25/15 lb)

Beginner

For Time

  • 200 Box Step Ups (20 in)

No Weighted Ruck

Build better abs and core strength with this unusual exercise

WORKOUT 5

For Time

Part A

From 0:00-20:00, EMOM of:

  • 20 Box SUs (40/30 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part B

From 23:00-43:00, EMOM of:

  • 20 Box SUs (20/14 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part C

Finally, from 46:00-1:06:00, perform:

  • 400 Box SUs

This workout has 3 parts. Part A is to perform 20 Box Step Ups with a Weight Vest (40/30 lb) every minute on the minute (EMOM) for 20 minutes. If unable to keep pace, start over with 2 reps less than your previous attempt until you get to a pace you can handle. Rest 3 minutes.

For Part B, athlete will do the same EMOM in 20 minutes but with a lighter Weight Vest (20/14 lb). Use pacing you determined above. Rest 3 minutes. Finally, for Part C, athlete must perform 400 Box SUs without any weights. There is a 20-minute time cap for the last part.

Score is the time on the clock when the 400th Box SUs is completed.

Scaling

Established

Part A

From 0:00-20:00, EMOM of:

  • 18 Box Step Ups (30/20 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part B

From 23:00-43:00, EMOM of:

  • 18 Box Step Ups (20/14 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part C

Finally, from 46:00-1:06:00, perform:

  • 300 Box Step-Ups

Recruit

Part A

From 0:00-20:00, EMOM of:

  • 16 Box Step Ups (20/14 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part B

From 23:00-43:00, EMOM of:

  • 16 Box Step Ups (20/14 lb Weight Vest)

Rest 3 minutes

Part C

Finally, from 46:00-1:06:00, perform:

  • 200 Box Step-Ups

WORKOUT 6

3 Rounds for Time

  • 20 Back Squats (205/125 lb)
  • 20 Box Step Ups (30/24 in)

Take the barbell from a weight rack for the back squat.

WORKOUT 7

AMRAP in 11 minutes

  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×50/35 lb, 24/20 in)
  • 1 Strict Handstand Push-Up + Kipping Handstand Push-Up
  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×50/35 lb, 24/20 in)
  • 2 Strict Handstand Push-Ups + Kipping Handstand Push-Ups
  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×50/35 lb, 24/20 in)
  • 3 Strict Handstand Push-Ups + Kipping Handstand Push-Ups*

*Add one rep strict and kipping handstand push-ups after every round.

Scaling

AMRAP in 11 minutes

  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×35/20 lb, 20/18 in)
  • 2 Kipping Handstand Push-Up
  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×35/20 lb, 20/18 in)
  • 4 Kipping Handstand Push-Up
  • 8 Dumbbell Box SUs (2×35/20 lb, 20/18 in)
  • 6 Kipping Handstand Push-Up*

*Add 2 kipping handstand push-ups after every round.

If athlete has no kipping handstand push-ups, modify to 1 hand release push-up + 1 regular push-up. Add one rep hand release push-up and regular push-up after every round.

Movement Standards

Dumbbell Box SUs: Must face box perpendicularly when stepping on and off the box. Dumbbells are allowed to rest on box once feet have landed on the ground. ⁣

Handstand Push-Ups: Measurement of overhead reach, feet under hips, mark at wrist then 3 inches below that marking is the line to clear.

Build explosive power with these Sled Push Workouts

WORKOUT 8

4 Rounds for Time

  • 10 Double Kettlebell Thrusters (2×53/35 lb)
  • 10 Double Kettlebell Box Step-Overs (2×53/35 lb, 24/20 in)

For time, double KB’s thrusters and hold both KB’s in the straight (both) arm’s position for box step overs.

Score is the time after the workout is completed.

Scaling

4 Rounds for Time

10 Double Kettlebell Thrusters (2×35/18 lb)

10 Double Kettlebell Box Step-Overs (2×35/18 lb, 20 in)

WORKOUT 9

5 Rounds for Time

100 Box Step Ups (45/35 lb backpack)

65 foot Bear Crawl Medball Push (20 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 5 rounds. Athlete must complete 100 Box SUs wearing a weighted backpack. Athlete must complete a 65 foot Bear Crawl while pushing a Medicine Ball on the ground for each round. Athlete must wear the weighted backpack during the Bear Crawl.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Bear Crawl Medball Pushes are completed.

WORKOUT 10

For Time

  • 40 Double-Unders
  • 40 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 40 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 30 Double-Unders
  • 30 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 30 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 20 Double-Unders
  • 20 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 20 Push Presses (75/45 lb)
  • 10 Double-Unders
  • 10 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 10 Push Presses

WORKOUT 11

5 Rounds for Time

  • 44 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 12 Push-Ups
  • 12 Air Squats

Wear a Weight Vest (20/14 lb)

On the last round, do 15 air squats instead of 12.

WORKOUT 12

AMRAP in 11 minutes

  • 11 Ground-to-Overheads (95/65 lb)
  • 18 Single Dumbbell Box Step Ups (24/20 in, 50/35 lb)
  • 18 Burpees

WORKOUT 13

AMRAP in 10 minutes

  • 30 Double-Unders
  • 8 Wall Ball Shots (30/20 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Box Step Overs (2×50/35 lb, 20 in)
  • On a 10-minute clock, as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) perform the prescribed work in the order written.
  • Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions completed before the 10-minute clock stops.

Tips and Strategy

This is a workout you CAN sprint. You won’t have time to make up rounds or reps on the backend, so you will need to push the Double-Unders and the Wall Ball Shots from the start. The Dumbbell Box Step Overs will only go so fast and you are trying to race against grip fatigue.

Give it your best attempt to work through 2-3 unbroken rounds. Then after that, try your best to maintain the largest sets possible.

Intended Stimulus

Overall, the loading should feel moderate, which means you are able to accumulate multiple rounds unbroken on the Wall Ball Shot and 2-3 rounds unbroken on the Dumbbell Box Step Overs. If you don’t have a 30 lb Medicine Ball available, then you can shoot to an 11/10′ target instead. Challenge yourself to finish 2 rounds in less than 3:00.

WORKOUT 14

For Time

  • 2 mile Run
  • 16 Burpees
  • 85 Box Step Ups (20/16 in)

Wear a Weight Vest (50/30 lb).

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Weight Vest is intended to be heavy. Use caution when performing Burpees to keep the Vest stable.

Score is the time on the clock when the 85th Box Step-Up is completed.

Scaling Option

Reduce the weight of the Vest. If you do not have a Box, find a stable curb or set of stairs and double the reps.

WORKOUT 15

AMRAP in 20 minutes

  • 4 Box Step Ups (24/20 in)
  • 4 Jumping Jacks
  • 4 Shoulder Taps

Continue with this pattern, adding 4 reps to each movement after every round.

On a 20-minute clock, perform as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written. Athlete must complete 4 Box SUs, 4 Jumping Jacks, and 4 Shoulder Taps. Continue with this pattern, adding 4 reps to each movement after every round.

Score is the total number of repetitions completed before the 20-minute clock stops.

Movement Standard

Shoulder Tap: From a Plank Hold position, tap the right shoulder with the left hand and the left shoulder with the right hand. One tap is one rep.

WORKOUT 16

For Time (with a Partner)

3 Rounds of:

  • 22 Kettlebell Box Step Ups (2 x 20/12 kg)
  • 16 Strict Pull-Ups
  • 32 Thrusters (50/35 kg)

Then,

  • 340 Burpees

WORKOUT 17

For Time

  • 2,000 metre Row
  • 100 Weighted Box Step Ups (20/14 lb weight vest)
  • 50 Burpees

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. The weight vest is only worn on the Box SUs.

Score is the time it takes to complete the workout.

Tips and Strategy

Do what you can to get the work done with as few breaks as possible. You can go pretty hard on the Rower and then just do your best to keep a good steady pace on the rest of the work.

Intended Stimulus

Quick conditioning workout. Less than 20 minutes is a good time but 15 or less is a great time!

Scaling

Scale (up or down) the weight for the Weighted Box SUs as needed.

BOX STEP UPS WORKOUT 18

For Time

  • 21-15-9 calorie Echo Bike
  • 10 Strongman Sandbag Over Shoulders (150/100 lb, after each set)

Directly into:

  • 21-15-9 calorie Row
  • 10 Dumbbell Box Step Ups (24/20 in, 2×50/35 lb, after each set)

Complete 21 calories on the assault bike then 10 sandbags over shoulders, 15 cal assault bike, 10 sandbag over shoulders, 9 cal bike, 10 sandbag over shoulders. Once you complete that you go right into 21 calorie row, then 10 box Step Ups holding a DB in each hand, 15 cal row, 10 box step-ups, 9 cal row, 10 box step-ups.

Score is the time it takes to complete the workout.

Scaling

You can scale (up or down) the weight on the sandbag and the DBs if needed as well as the height of the boxes.

WORKOUT 19

AMRAP in 7 minutes

  • 7 Air Squats
  • 7 Burpees
  • 7 calorie Assault Bike
  • 7 Weighted Box Step Ups (24/20 in, 50/35 lb)

On a 7-minute clock, complete as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions before the 7-minute clock stops.

BOX STEP UPS WORKOUT 20

For Time

  • 800 metre Run
  • 30 Devil Presses (2×50/35 lb)
  • 800 metre Run
  • 40 Dumbbell Box Step Overs (2×50/35 lb, 24/20 in)
  • 800 metre Run
  • 50 Dumbbell Front Squats (2×50/35 lb)

Time Cap: 25 minutes

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written.

Score is the time on the clock when the last repetition of Dumbbell Front Squats is completed. If the athlete did not complete the workout within the 25-minute time cap, score will be the total number of repetitions completed.

Movement Standards

Run: Just do it.

Devil Press: Chest touches ground between dumbbells, full lockout at top. Dumbbells may pass through a clean and jerk motion OR a snatch motion.

Dumbbell Box Step-Over: Rep starts on one side of the box with dumbbells in hands and feet on the ground, ends on the other side of the box with dumbbells in hand and feet on ground. Dumbbells may rest on box between reps.

Dumbbell Front Squat: Dumbbells must be held on shoulders, no requirement to have a grip on them. Athlete must squat in full depth.

Scaling

At Home Version

For Time

  • 800 metre Run
  • 50 Hand Release Burpees
  • 800 metre Run
  • 80 Walking Lunges
  • 800 metre Run
  • 100 Jumping Air Squats

Box Step Ups

Box Step Ups are a simple and effective movement that will significantly enhance your lower body power, strength and mental resilience.

If you are looking to test and challenge your body in other ways, try these Lunge, Shoulder and Abs Workouts.

All good performance must be backed up with solid nutrition, so learn more about fueling your body and health with these vegan protein powders and best foods to build a healthier immune system.

Featured image of athlete ©Luis Lopes

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