Step training has been a staple in the fitness industry for a quarter of a century. Although participation started to wane a few years ago, it has resurged thanks in part to the fusion of traditional and newer classes. Whether choreographed, stylized or athletic in nature, step training remains a great form of exercise.

As with any activity or sport, a proper warm-up is essential and should gradually raise body temperature, heart rate and breathing rate. It should increase blood flow to muscles and allow participants’ hearts and lungs to adapt to the physical demands of the workout, especially in cardiovascular-centric classes.

The warm-up must also prepare the limbs and trunk for biomechanical stresses. Pay special attention to the lower legs and feet, which steppers rely on heavily during class. Familiarize participants with basic step patterns, verbal and visual cuing techniques, and safety tips. Determine skill levels, and look for people who may need extra help or guidance.

Additional Tips:

  • Depending on class duration, plan for a 5- to 10-minute warm-up; 7–8 minutes is average.
  • To help participants determine the distance between floor and platform, perform movements such as foot taps, squats or lunges.
  • Mix step moves and floor moves so that participants discover how much space they have for movement around the platforms.
  • Perform basic patterns, such asa V-step ora wide march on top— to familiarize attendees with the platform’s length and width.
  • Use base movements that you will later include and progress (layered with more complex choreography).
  • Make arm movements simple, natural and complementary to lower-body step patterns.
  • Create symmetrical patterns to avoid prolonged use and overload on one leg.
  • Remember that fitness industry guidelines recommend staying within 122–132 beats per minute to avoid musculoskeletal injuries (Scharff Olson 1998).
Warm-Up #1
Begin facing the step. Counts
3 taps on step R, repeat L (tap, tap, tap, floor; tap, tap, tap, floor) 1-8
Mambo, cha-cha-cha 1× R, V-step 1× L. 9-16
Grapevine on floor L. 17-20
Walk forward (along side of step) with tap. 21-24
Walk backward with tap, grapevine R. 25-32
Repeat above, L lead. 33-64

Warm-Up #2

Begin facing the step Counts
Lunge forward on step R, L. 1-8
Basic step 1×, V-step 1×. 9-16
Step-touch on top 2×, step-touch on floor 2×. 17-24
3-knee repeater 1×. 25-32
Repeat above, L lead. 33-64

Warm-Up #3

Begin facing the step, R foot. Counts
Alternating tap, 5× (each tap is 2 counts). 1-10
6-count mambo, 1× (3 counts, R, L). 11-16
Alternating hamstring curl on top 3×, down, down. 17-24
Alternating shuffle on floor 3×, moving around step, walk, walk (you are back at start position).
Regression: Shuffle facing step only.
Repeat above, L lead. 33-64


Scharff Olson, M. 1998. Reebok position stand on the recommended step exercise training criteria for promoting aerobic fitness in healthy adults.

Fred Hoffman, MEd

Fred Hoffman, MEd, is the owner of Fitness Resources consulting services and the author of Going Global: An Expert's Guide to Working Abroad in the International Fitness Industry. The recipient of the 2019 IDEA China Fitness Inspiration Award and the 2007 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year Award, he holds a master's degree in health education from Boston University and has over 35 years of experience in the fitness and health industry. A member of the ACE board of directors, Fred's expertise has taken him to nearly 50 countries on six continents to speak at more than 200 conferences and conventions. In 2001, he was elected to the International Who's Who of Professionals. Certifications: ACE, ACSM

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