Step-ups. They're a thing.
And if you fancy yourself any sort of hiker, they're absolutely a great thing for you to be throwing into your training from time to time.
But Coach, can't I just go for a hike?! Sure. When it's nice out, or when there's not a wreck on the interstate, or when there's not a worldwide pandemic making people stay home to save lives. Sure, you can go hike.
You can also find something to step up on and keep your legs strong for when the smoke clears.
So should I buy a box? Great question!
Realistically, most "functional fitness" gyms use a one-size-fits-all approach to boxes. Men use a 24" box, and women use a 20". This is the classic box at most gyms (30"-24"-20").
That's great if every man is 6'5 and every woman is 5'5. But that's not exactly the case is it? It doesn't make any sense that a man or woman should step up on a different size box. The terrain doesn't change when we're hiking based on the sex of the hiker...
Over the last decade our coaches and athletes have been experimenting with box step-ups, and our consensus? It depends. Typically, for our benchmark tests at Axistence, we use a 16" box for both men and women. Often we have the men load up with a 45# sandbag, and the women load with a 25#. This isn't to say that they couldn't go heavier or lighter, it's just that we've found those are great starting points. We actually built a couple of 16" benches in the training center which double as a training tool when when we program step-ups.
Sure you could use a 20" or 24" box, but not only does this not really carry over to real life (It's highly unlikely that you're doing a hike where every step is 2' high) but the form begins to break down very quickly into the training.
We've even found that a 12" box can still generate a great adaptation for those on the more vertically challenged side of things. In an ideal scenario, we would scale the step-up height to the individual, and seeing as how that's unrealistic (especially in group classes) we've opted for the 16" height for the majority of our Adventure Athletes.
Fun fact, a typical weightlifting bench is also 16" and that works just fine.
If you're looking to buy a box (or better yet acquire the skill of building a box) for step-ups, we'd recommend a 16" box for step-ups. The only real issue with a 16" box for training is that you'll eventually want something to jump on as well...and 16" just won't cut it for most people. This is the reason that most gyms use the 20" x 24" x 30" boxes. If you have room, get two boxes :)
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