A High-Intensity Cardio Class With Strength and Step Intervals

by Ashley Artese, MS and Daniel Marshall, MS on Feb 15, 2017

Class Take-Out

Offer a nontraditional step class and create new fans.

This class alternates high‐intensity step combinations and drills with strength training exercises, using an interval format to create a fun and challenging workout. Cardio sections include easy‐to‐follow step moves, while strength segments use the step to add intensity. This format is sure to please step fans and high‐intensity enthusiasts.

Step It High, Tone It Down Details

GOAL/EMPHASIS: to provide a total‐body workout with a new take on a traditional step format

TOTAL TIME: 45–50 minutes

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: step with one or two risers, bands and a mat, per person

MUSIC: 132–135 beats per minute

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Emphasize safety and technique when stepping or jumping onto the step. Remind participants:

  • Be sure step is set up correctly, with risers in locked position.
  • Step lightly and place entire foot on step.
  • Adjust step height according to preferred intensity and familiarity.
  • Land with "soft knees," moving from balls of feet to heels, during any jumping or plyometric moves.

Basic Moves Key

Here's an overview of the basic moves used in the combinations and drills.

Starting Position: Behind Step

Run basic: Add run to basic step (up right, up left, down R, down L).

Up‐jack, down‐jack: Step up R, up L, and do 1 jack on step. Step down R, down L, and do 1 jack on floor.

Quick feet: Alternate toe taps on step as quickly as possible.

Jump‐up squat: Jump both feet onto step, and land in squat. Jump up from squat position and return to start.

Power corner knees: Lift knees at corners with added jump. Split lunge: Step up R, up L. Tap R foot back and return to top. Repeat L. Step down R, down L.

Starting Position: Step Lengthwise

Ladder run: Start by straddling step. Step up R, up L; step down R, down L; repeat.

Squats + over the top: Start with R foot on step and L foot on floor, legs hip‐distance apart. Squat. Explode out of squat and travel over step so that L foot finishes on step and R foot is on floor. Squat, and travel back to starting position.

Jump up, jump down: Straddle step. Jump both feet onto step, then jump both feet down to starting position.

Side lunges: Start standing on top. Tap R foot on floor, then back to step. Repeat L. Complete as fast as possible.

Football runs + jump switch: Straddle step at one end. Perform football runs, moving across length of step. When you reach the end, jump, turn 180 degrees and repeat.

Burpee + squat jump: Straddle step. Jump onto step with both feet and squat. Jump off step, bring hands down to platform and do 1 burpee. Repeat.

Wide high‐knee run: Straddle step. Quickly alternate knee lifts while keeping feet wide.

Warm‐Up (5–8 minutes)

Begin with standard warm‐up movements to elevate heart rate. Gradually progress into a few basic step moves, including these:

  • basic step
  • corner knees
  • corner kicks
  • repeater knees
  • V‐step

Work Phase (30–35 minutes)

Cardio Combination/Drill #1

  • run basic: 4× (16 counts)
  • up‐jack, down‐jack: 2× (16 counts)
  • quick feet (16 counts)
  • jump‐up squat: 4× (16 counts)
  • Repeat 6× (3 minutes), alternating lead leg each time.

Strength Segment #1

Start with R side front and do the following:

  • 8 lunges
  • pulse lunge for 3 (front foot on step) + back‐knee lift (8 counts), 8×
  • pulse lunge for 3 (front foot on step) + back‐leg extension (8 counts), 8×
  • 15 jump‐switch lunges (this should allow you to switch sides so L leg is in front)
  • Repeat, L side forward.

Cardio Combination/Drill #2

With feet straddling step, perform the following:

  • ladder run (30 seconds)
  • squats + over the top (30 seconds)
  • hands on step: jump both feet side to side (30 seconds)
  • Repeat twice for total of 3 minutes.

Strength Segment #2

  • Push‐up: Place R hand on step, L hand on floor. Do 1 push‐up and then place L hand on step and move R hand to floor. Do 1 push‐up and repeat, 1 minute.
  • Hold plank and slowly alternate knees to chest, 1 minute.

Cardio Combination/Drill #3

  • power corner knees (4×)
  • split lunge (2×)
  • jump‐up V‐step (4×)
  • burpee (2×)
  • Repeat 6× for total of 3 minutes.

Strength Segment #3

Perform the following with band under step, handles crossed:

  • bent‐over row, 1 minute
  • reverse fly, 1 minute

Cardio Combination/Drill #4

Start with feet straddling step:

  • jump up, jump down (30 seconds)
  • side lunges (30 seconds)
  • football runs + jump switch (30 seconds)
  • Repeat twice for total of 3 minutes.

Strength Segment #4

Perform the following, band under step:

  • front raises, 1 minute
  • side raises, 1 minute

Cardio Combination/Drill #5

  • burpee + squat jump (30 seconds)
  • wide high‐knee run (30 seconds)
  • mountain climbers, hands on step (30 seconds)
  • Repeat twice for total of 3 minutes.

Strength Segment #5

  • biceps curls (band), 1 minute
  • dips (lifting one leg), 1 minute

Core Work (3–5 minutes)

Start supine, lower back pressed into step (use mat for comfort and support).

  • Do upper‐ and lower‐body crunch and then extend arms and legs out to form "V" shapes (keep lower back pressed against step).
  • Do reverse crunch (holding top of step).
  • Perform crisscross crunch.
  • Lift hips while lying on floor, feet on step.
  • Perform 2 sets of 10–15 reps for each exercise.

Cool‐Down (5–10 minutes)

The final strength exercises help to lower heart rates. Incorporate a few light movements if needed before guiding participants to the mat for abdominal/lower‐back exercises and stretching. Include static stretches for all major muscles groups, holding each stretch for at least 15 seconds.

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About the Authors

Ashley Artese, MS

Ashley Artese, MS IDEA Author/Presenter

Daniel Marshall, MS

Daniel Marshall, MS IDEA Author/Presenter