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10-Minute Cardio Workout Using Step Ups

By Marc Perry / February 20, 2016

I’m always on the lookout for ways to pair exercises together into circuits to get more exercises done in less time to increase intensity, get cardiovascular benefits, and improve results.

The leg strength circuit below, which combines Step Ups with Jump Step Ups will help you make improvements to your cardiovascular health without going for a long, boring jog.  The best part is that this circuit only takes around 10 minutes if you do 5 rounds as a workout, yet it’s brutally effective.

10 Minute Cardio Instructions

You will complete 20 step ups on a platform that challenges you, then with no rest complete 20 jump step ups for a total of 40 reps.  I have below more information on how to complete each exercise to match your specific fitness level. Complete 3-5 rounds as a workout, or during a longer workout.

Leg Circuit Exercise #1: Step Ups

Step Ups are a functional exercise that I encourage you to incorporate into your routine if you do not use them already.  Step ups improve your balance and coordination, while activating your glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

In the video and photo above, I’m using a bench that’s about 18 inches from the ground.  The higher the platform, the more difficult the exercise becomes and the more glute and hamstring activation.  The shorter the platform, the easier the exercise becomes and the less overall strength benefits.

There are 2 primary variations with the step ups you can use: (1) stepping up with one leg, then standing on the bench, or (2) kicking up the opposite leg as you step up.  Variations #2 requires more balance and coordination and I strongly prefer this method if you can do it.  You also incorporate your abs complex into the equation to a greater degree.

Finally, you can add weight by holding dumbbells in your hands, which is what I prefer and instead of alternating legs as you step up every rep, you can use the same leg for several repetitions, then switch legs.

Step Ups Exercise Instructions:

  1. Stand 6 inches in front of a bench, or raised platform
  2. Step onto the bench with your right leg, while making sure your foot is flat against the bench.
  3. Lean forward slightly and push yourself upwards through the heel of your right foot, so your left leg is able to come up to the bench.
  4. Step down with the right leg under control.
  5. Repeat the same sequence with the left leg.

Leg Circuit Exercise #2: Jump Step Ups

Jump steps ups are a fantastic plyometric exercise that can help improve your stamina, explosiveness, and cardiovascular capacity.

Because jump steps ups are more challenging then bench step ups, you may consider using weight for the bench step ups, but no weight with the jump step ups.  Using weight with jump steps ups can get your heart rate up very fast and is an advanced exercise.

Jump Step Ups Instructions:

  1. Stand 6 inches in front of a bench, or raised platform.
  2. Step up onto the bench with your right leg, while making sure your foot is flat against the bench.
  3. Lean forward slightly and forcefully jump upwards using your right leg.
  4. Smoothly catch your weight with your left leg on the bench, and then with your right leg on the floor.
  5. Repeat the same sequence continuously alternating left and right.

When should you do this leg circuit?

  1. Complete 5 rounds of this circuit for an intense and effective 10 minute workout
  2. Incorporate this leg circuit into a longer circuit of 4 to 5 exercises
  3. Do it at the end of your workout as a finishing exercise

At the end of the day, you can use this circuit any way you want to, but the preceding is how I have used it.

If you try it, let me know what you think!


  • Allan says:

    Thanks! Never thought of using my bench like that! I am 5'6" and my bench is relatively high in proportion to my body...I'll need to check if can be lowered.

  • jk says:

    Nice! I haven’t even thought about doing these for my routine. We use to do these 20 years ago as part of our practice for the track team. I totally forgot about them.

  • Hank says:

    Good use of time and very effective.

  • Saurabh says:

    Super workout!! I tried it today. For folks who feel that bench is too high or somewhat unstable, suggest using the Reebok step platform - it's wider and you can adjust it's height.

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Saurabj - That's a great point about the bench/platform. I should have been more explicit in the video, but choosing a platform that is stable and big enough to fit the whole foot is absolutely critical. Also adjusting the height is valuable. Thanks again for the comment and happy you enjoyed the workout!

  • Rhea Shad says:

    Great workout!. Anyway, is there any options for someone who doesn't have a bench?

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Rhea Shad - If you have a stepper, or raised platform, that can work, like this one: The Step F1080 High Step. It could be possible using some type of stool, or other platform as long as it was very sturdy.

  • Ken L. says:

    Great circuit Marc!! So I did each exercise then 30 sec break. 5 times with 15s. Keep the good stuff coming!!

    • Marc Perry says:

      @Ken L. - Awesome! Happy you liked it. I get a pretty crazy lung burn when I do it.

  • Dmytro says:

    Simple and effective. This stuff is great. Period.

  • Anna says:

    Step ups. They are so much fun!