When it comes to sculpting strong quads, there are three standout exercises: The squat, the lunge, and the step-up. And if you want to double down on the benefits of any of those moves, all you need to do is add a jump. Turning a standard strength exercise into a plyometric one enhances the communication between your nervous system and muscles, improving muscle activation, motor unit recruitment, and firing rate. In so doing, it helps you develop one of the most desired athletic skills of all: Explosive power.
But you don’t have to be an athlete to reap the benefits. Whether you’re racing to catch a bus, chasing down a toddler, or heaving a new coffee table into your trunk, you’ll need explosive lower body power to get the job done, and the alternating step-up jump will help you build it.
Exercise Instructions for the Alternating Step-Up Jump
Muscles targeted: Quads and glutes
- Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your left foot on a bench so that your hip, knee, and ankle are all bent 90 degrees.
- Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, and core braced, drive through your left foot and push your body up with enough force for both feet to leave the bench. Switch feet in the air, landing with your right foot on the bench, and lower your left foot to the floor.
- Continue alternating legs with each rep.
Make it easier: Pause for a count of two between each rep, or eliminate the jump altogether and perform a standard alternating step-up. Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your left foot on a bench so that your hip, knee, and ankle are all bent 90 degrees. Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, push your body up with your left leg until it’s straight (keep your right foot elevated). Pause, and then lower both feet (right, then left) to the floor. That’s one rep. Repeat, this time placing your right foot on the bench and pushing up with your right leg. Continue alternating sides with each rep.
Make it harder: Increase your speed of movement, or do a lateral step-up jump. Stand tall with your left side to the bench and place your left foot on it. Drive through your left foot, pushing your body up with enough force to propel you to the other side of the bench. Land with your right foot on the bench and your left foot on the floor. Continue jumping back and forth over the bench.
Bonus tip: You don’t get extra points for jumping high. The goal isn’t to see how much air you can get, but rather to teach your body to move explosively under control and with perfect form.