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Step Ups for Glutes: 7 Pro Tips to Master Glute Activation

Glute focused step ups


If you want to know how to perform the perfect step ups for glutes, this article’s for you. 

It’s easy to grab a plyo box at a gym and start stepping up on it. It’s also easy to grab a stool at home and march up on it a few times 

BUT…are you actually working your glutes when you do step ups for glutes? Is your form contributing to glute growth, OR are you just stepping up and down on a box? 

In this article, I’ll give 7 pro tips to make sure you’re maximizing every. single. movement. when it comes to your glute step ups. 

I’ll cover: 

How to Do Step Ups for Glutes 

Step Ups for Glutes: Muscles Worked 

Step Ups for Glutes: 7 Pro Tips 

Step Ups for Glutes: Variations 

More Glute Resources 

Step Ups for Glutes: FAQs

How to Do Step Ups for Glutes

One of the best benefits of step ups for glutes is that you can easily perform this glute exercise from the comfort of your own home OR at a gym. I’ll cover the at-home step up version later on–but for now–let’s picture you at a gym. 

Step ups for glutes are one of the easiest exercises you could perform at a gym because of the minimal equipment. 

All you need to do is find: 

- An elevated surface to step up on

- Weight of choice if you choose to add weight to your glute step ups

For your elevated surface: you’ve got a few choices. You can use a plyo box or a bench. Just make sure it’s about knee height. 

For your weight: You can use dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a barbell. More about the differences between these options later. 

So, with those 2 decisions out of the way, let’s talk about how to do glute focused step ups. 


How to do step ups for glutes
How to do step ups for glutes


1) Place a plyo box or other elevated surface in front of you. 

2) Hold your selected weight. 

3) Position yourself in front of the plyo box–facing it with your feet hip-width apart. 

4) Start with your weaker leg. Today, we’ll say your weaker leg is your right leg. Place your right foot on the box. 

5) Bracing your core and holding your shoulder blades back and down, lean your body forward slightly. 

6) Then, drive your right heel into the box–lifting your body until your right leg is straight, and you’re balancing on that leg as you stand on the box. 

7) Keep your left leg straight out behind you with your foot flexed and your toes pointed toward the floor. 

8) Pause briefly at the top. Then, control the descent as you lower your left leg back down to the ground. 

9) Repeat for your desired amount of reps. Then, switch legs, so you work it all equally! 


Step Ups for Glutes: Muscles Worked 

When you perform step ups for glutes, you’re mostly working your glutes at the bottom of the motion and then your quads at the top. 

Other muscles that step in to help are: 

- Hamstrings 

- Adductors 

- Abductors 

- Calves 

- Core 

Step Ups for Glutes: 7 Pro Tips

All right, now you know the basics. But one question a lot of people have with glute step ups is: How do I know I’m actually working my glutes and not just walking up and down on a box? 

Not that marching up and down on a box isn’t fun…but you probably want to make sure your step ups are really giving your glutes a run for their money and activating glute growth. 

Here are 7 pro tips for glute focused step ups to make sure you’re maximizing those step ups! 

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #1: Box Height 

step ups for glute box height


As we know by now, you can choose a plyo box or a bench to perform step ups for glutes. But how high should that box be? And why does that even matter? 

As I mentioned above, making sure your box is around knee height or a bit lower is generally a good rule to follow when selecting a plyo box. 

Why does that matter? 

If your box is too high: You really want to make sure that you’re able to keep your leg in an active range of hip extension. What that means is when your box is too high, your hip and knee will actually become angled up too high as well.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your knee at a right angle when your foot is up on the box. If you go a little higher, that’s also fine. But when you go too high, this does not lend itself to natural movement. 

If your box is too low: On the flip side, if you go too low with your box height, you might tend to depend more on that back leg instead of the front, working leg. 

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #2: Use a Support for Balance 

Step ups for glutes are a balance exercise, and if balance is stopping you from keeping proper form–you’ll need to address this. 

Don’t compromise form just so you can keep balance. 

Instead, use a wall or another stable surface to support yourself. You can do this by positioning your plyo box right in front of the wall, leaning slightly forward during the movement, and using an outstretched arm to support you on the wall. 

Eventually, you can wean yourself off of this extra support and build up to balancing on your own! 

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #3: Lean Forward 

This slight form change can make all the difference

When you lean forward during step ups for glutes, you position yourself to place ALL the emphasis on that front foot and not the back foot. 

This also applies to dumbbells if you’re performing weighted glute step ups. Shift the weight in each arm forward slightly as well. This helps keep the weight in front of your body and prevents you from shifting backward or losing your balance during the exercise. 

But don’t lean too far: I know. It’s annoying when there are so many little details to pay attention to, but if you lean too far forward, your working knee will end up coming too far forward AKA not stacked just above your working foot. 

This puts unnecessary strain on your knee. It’s like going too far into a lunge. 


Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #4: Avoid the Knee Wobble 

Notice how stable your knee and thigh muscles seem during your step ups for glutes. 

If you notice your knee caving in or bending out–this could mean that you’re not driving enough weight into that working foot. Picture pushing that foot into the box, avoiding the knee wobble throughout the exercise. 

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #5: Don’t Push Off the Back Leg 

glute step ups form


Probably the biggest mistake I see with step ups for glutes is people pushing off their back leg, and using the momentum from this to throw their body up and down. 

This doesn’t work your glutes because your back leg movement is taking ALL the stress off your glutes. 

While it’s awfully nice of your back leg to step in like that, we’re gonna need it to back down–so we can get ALL the glute activation here instead. 

How to help this? 

1) Again, picture that front foot and heel pushing into the box. Just about all of your weight should be on the front foot here. 

2) And when you lower into the descent with your back leg, go nice and slow. With a speedy descent comes the tendency to spring right back up from that back leg. 

Instead, Work against gravity to really work those glutes. 

3) One other helpful hint is to picture pushing your hips back instead of just stepping back. Keep your pelvis square with the box and stable during the descent. 

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #6: Engage Your Core, and Keep a Neutral Spine 

One other way to avoid just pointlessly stepping up and down is to intentionally keep that core engaged throughout your step ups for glutes. 

With this comes a neutral spine and a pelvis that’s not tucked in or pushed forward. 

All of this extra stabilization helps put the emphasis right where it needs to be: glute work

Step Ups for Glutes Pro Tip #7: Work One Leg Fully - Then Switch 

Doing all your reps on one side before you switch means you’re working those muscles in a more concentrated way. 

This is also helpful for balance because your body will need to reset every time you switch legs–figuring out how to balance yourself out during the move. 

Focusing on one side at a time minimizes the work your body needs to do to recalibrate and help with balance. 

Step Ups for Glutes: Variations 

If you want to switch it up with your glute step ups, here are a few other great options! 

Step Ups for Glutes at Home 

If you’re not into the gym scene, you can absolutely perform step ups for glutes from the comfort of your own home. 

Here’s how: 

Use a staircase: You can totally just use your staircase to help you get into a step up flow at home. 

Use a chair or bench: A chair or bench is another great option for step ups for glutes at home–as long as the chair or bench is sturdy and stable. 

Weighted Step Ups for Glutes 

As mentioned earlier, weighted step ups for glutes are a great way to elevate your step up performance and challenge yourself as you get more confident in the form and balance required for this exercise. 

For weighted step ups for glutes, you can use: 

glute step ups variations


- Dumbbells: Dumbbells provide some more flexibility to help with balance because you can hold them slightly forward during the exercise. 

- A Kettlebell: A kettlebell is also helpful for balance because you hold just a single weight in front of your body as you step up. You can also go one-handed with this step up for glutes variation, so you can support yourself with your other hand on a wall for balance. 

- Or a Barbell: A barbell can be tricky for this exercise because it can tend to shift the weight back behind you–making it difficult to actually step up. That said, a barbell is great for going heavier and activating glute gains. 

Lateral Step Ups

In a lateral step up, instead of facing a plyo box directly, you’ll stand to the side of a bench or box–and step up from the side. 

This is a great glute step up variation that optimizes hip abduction as well as activating your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus

Our Best Glute Resources 

If you want more resources on glute exercises, here are some of our best: 


“How to Activate Glutes: 11 Best Glute Activation Exercises”

“Leg Press For Glutes | How To Master The Glute Focused Leg Press”

“4 Incredible Glute Machines to Discover at Your Gym”


Best Exercises For Gluteus Medius & Minimus (TOP 4)


Gluteus Medius Exercises Before And After [LOWER BACK PAIN KEY]

Banded Glute Bridge Exercise For Lighting Up The Glutes

Glute Massage 

We care a lot about glutes. 

That’s because our mission is to provide people with THE BEST resources on back health.

Glute Massage 

Glute Stretches

AND Glute Exercises…

…all play a pivotal role in lower back health. So, if you want THE BEST glute massage device out there, check out the QL Claw

This at-home massage device is designed to hit all 5 muscles responsible for causing lower back pain in most people–including the gluteus medius. 

If you’re missing massage as part of your glute health journey, check out the QL Claw today. 


Step Ups for Glutes FAQs

Are step-ups good for glutes?

Yup, step ups are one of the best exercises out there for glutes, and they’re easy to perform at the gym or at home! 

Are hip thrusts or step-ups better?

Both hip thrusts and step ups are great glute exercises. Check out how to do a Smith Machine Hip Thrust HERE

How to do glute step-ups at home?

You can easily perform glute step ups at home by using a staircase, a chair, or a bench! 

How to feel step-ups in glutes not quads?

If you push off on your back leg during a step up, you totally miss the glute activation during the exercise. Instead, your quad fires at the top of the motion ONLY. To feel step-ups in your glutes and hamstrings, go down nice and slow in the descent, and do not push off the back leg for momentum. 

How do you fix a poor glute activation?

To fix poor glute activation, check out our BEST glute activation exercise HERE








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