Sports Medicine

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 164–175 | Cite as

The Physiological Effects of Bench/Step Exercise

  • Michele Scharff-Olson
  • Henry N. Williford
  • Daniel L. Blessing
  • Jennifer A. Brown
Leading Article


Recent investigation of acute cardiorespiratory responses to the current ‘popularised’ style of bench/step exercise has validated its use in improving aerobic physical fitness, particularly in women. However, no marked differences in relative measures of cardiorespiratory demand have been reported between men and women. Instructor data and training investigations further substantiate the effectiveness of bench/step exercise in promoting physical fitness, including upper body strength. However, the energy cost of bench/step exercise can vary dramatically. Important factors include, the selected step height, exercise rate, imposed step manoeuvre, routine format and use of hand-held weights. Hand-held weights may be more useful for men than woman.

During training, bench/step exercise has been reported to yield a high incidence of grade I injury complaints, particularly in the calf and shoulder region. However, nearly 90% of these complaints were attributable to acute muscle soreness. Few serious injuries have been associated with the activity. Biomechanical research has shown that the ground reaction forces (GRF) experienced during bench stepping are lower than running and directly related to the step height and type of manoeuvre. In addition, compared with novices, instructors exhibit a moderation in the GRF pattern generated during landing. This suggests that a learning effect has occurred and that teachers yield a more consistent landing pattern. Finally, the activity may be effective in improving body composition, but a consideration of factors related to energy expenditure (e.g. exercise duration and dietary control) appear to be important in regimens prescribed for modifying body fat.


Ground Reaction Force Heart Rate Response Step Height Delay Onset Muscle Soreness Vertical Ground Reaction Force 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Scharff-Olson
    • 1
  • Henry N. Williford
    • 1
  • Daniel L. Blessing
    • 2
  • Jennifer A. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physical EducationHuman Performance Laboratory Auburn University at MontgomeryMontgomeryUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health and Human PerformanceAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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