Though typically performed with just bodyweight, don't underestimate this exercise, especially as a primer for other quad exercises. It can also be used as a higher-rep finisher on leg day. The "burn" is intense.
The Peterson step-up encourages forward tracking of the knee over the toe, along with a ball-of-the-foot contact point of the working leg, both of which encourage quad activation with emphasis closer to the distal or knee end of the thigh.
- Avoid pushing off the ground with the non-working leg. Let the working leg carry the entire load.
- Stand up tall at the finish position.
- Remember, the quads are knee extensors. To get the VMO to do the most work, squeeze the knee tight at the top. (Note: VMO is short for vastus medialis obliquus. This is the "teardrop" muscle located on the inside of the knee.)
- Once the reps become easy, increase the range of motion with a higher step rather than add weight.
- Be vigilant about your knee tracking. A good rep should show no compensatory action, like the knee falling inwards towards the midline of the body. The knee should point where the toe points at all times.