Step aerobics originated in the 1980s and continues to be a fun way to workout, but now leg warmers and headbands are not required. Step aerobics uses an adjustable-height platform onto which you step, jump and dance to get your heart racing. It's ideal for any fitness level because the routines can be varied to include low- or high-impact. Ending your step exercise with abdominal exercises sculpts the lean, toned abs that look great.
Step Aerobic Workout
Set your step to the height appropriate for your fitness level. If you've never stepped, it's better to choose a low height to avoid tripping. If you're comfortable on the step and are feeling fierce, set the platform higher to make your heart and lungs work harder, and burn more fat. Make sure the bench is on a flat, non-slip surface.
Choose music that makes feel like moving, but is no faster than 128 beats-per-minute to avoid tripping and injury. You can purchase music created specifically for step aerobic workouts in nearly every genre including rock, pop, country and hip-hop. If you don't have aerobics music, choose music that is a constant speed and gives you plenty of time to safely step up and down on the platform.
Warm up for five to 10 minutes doing easy moves, such as basic steps on the bench. The warm up is a good time to practice the steps you intend to do during the workout only at a lower intensity. Once your muscles are warm, you're ready to rock.
Combine a variety of steps to increase heart rate and make your step routine fun for 30 to 40 minutes. Step classes are usually designed around 32-count segments with a variety of steps used during each segment. For example, right basic for eight counts, alternating ham curls for 16 counts and one knee repeater for eight counts. After performing a segment on the right lead -- stepping with the right foot first -- repeat the segment on the left lead. Add extra abdominal toning by doing knee lifts with a torso twist to reach the opposite elbow toward the lifted knee.
Cool down and stretch. Help your body adjust to the change in intensity by doing basic steps or step-touch on the floor. Stretch your legs to help in muscle recovery and increase flexibility for better stepping in the future.
Perform 12 to 15 bicycle crunches. The American Council on Exercise ranks the bicycle exercise as best for the rectus abdominus -- the muscle on the front of your body that is a challenge to suck in. Lie on your back lacing your hands behind your head. Lift your legs bending them at the knees. Pedal your legs as you twist your torso to reach your elbow toward the opposite knee. If you have back strain, pedal the legs toward the ceiling. As you get stronger, extend the legs parallel to the floor.
Do 10 roll-ups. The roll-up is one of several Pilates exercises that studies showed were more effective than the basic crunch in working the rectus abdominus and obliques -- muscles running along the side of your torso and often referred to as muffin top. Lie on your back with your legs extended on the floor and arms over your head. Slowly and with control, lift the arms up as you roll your torso up to a sit. Don't allow your feet to lift off the floor as you roll up. When you reach the sitting position, reach your arms forward toward your toes, then roll back to the start position.
Hold in forearm plank for 30 to 60 seconds. If you could do only one exercise, planks would probably be your best choice because they work the entire core including the abs, back and shoulders. Lie face down with your forearms on the mat. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows. Extend your legs behind you with toes on the floor. Lift your body off the floor so that it's supported only by your forearms and toes. Don't allow your bottom to poke up or your abs to sag toward the floor. If you have difficulty, modify the plank by keep your knees on the floor.
- Get your doctor's approval before starting an exercise program.
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.