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The Lower Body Exercise That Sculpts It All

You know what our favorite part about working out outdoors is? The fact that anything—literally anything can be turned into a piece of workout equipment. And if you know what you're doing (or have the right trainer, natch), you can up the intensity of a move without loading on extra weights or ratcheting up the resistance. That's the beauty of a move like the step-up. It sculpts every leg muscle from the hip down, and you can seamlessly work it into any workout (perfect example: do a few reps next time you're stuck at a red light while out on a run). 

A basic step-up is simple: just stand up tall, and use your right leg to step up on to an elevated platform, whether that's a bench, plyometric box, aerobic step, or (stable!) chair. When you place your foot onto the platform, your knee shouldn't be higher than your hip. If you notice your thigh is slanted down toward your hip, the platform is too high. As you step up, raise your left knee to balance on your right leg. Avoid pushing your knee forward past your toes. Hold the position for 2 seconds, then repeat on the same side. Complete 3 sets of 12-15 reps on each leg. 

Ready to take things up a notch? Ramp up the speed of the repetitions to make the move more cardio intensive. But remember to lower your body down with control—avoid carelessly allowing your leg to drop to the ground.

And if you're really looking to intensify your burn, make the movement an explosive plyo exercise by adding a hop and using more force when pushing up on to the platform. (Love the jump? Try this whole Plyometric Power Plan.)

Watch Seattle-based trainer Jennifer Forrester demo all the variations above, then step up your own fitness game by adding one (or all!) to your next sweat sesh.

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