A high-impact workout, step aerobics uses a platform bench elevated to your preference for a cardio workout that’s similar to vigorous dancing. The higher the platform, the more difficult the workout; a step class can burn up to 450 calories in 45 minutes, according to Fitday. If you have two left feet, mastering the movements of step aerobics can be a challenge, so be sure to watch the instructor closely and start by taking a slower-paced class tailored for beginners.
Certain movements are the foundation of step aerobics, particularly the movement aptly named The Basic. Either foot can lead -- simply step up on the middle of the bench with one foot and follow it with the other foot. Finish by stepping down with the leading foot, followed by the other foot. The Alternating Basic move starts by stepping up with one foot, followed by the other. The secondary foot steps down first, however, followed by the leading foot.
The “V-step” is similar to the basic, but instead of stepping to the middle of the platform, take a wide step with the leading foot to the corner of the platform. Step with the other foot to the other corner of the platform, then step down to the floor behind the middle of the bench. Repeat with the other foot leading.
Three of the most common leg movements in step aerobics are the knee lift, hamstring curl and kicks. To do a knee lift, step up on platform to the corner closest to the leading foot and bring the other leg through to a hip-high knee lift. Step back down with the secondary leg, followed by the leading leg.
For a hamstring curl, step up on the platform with the leading leg. Bend the knee of the secondary leg, bringing the heel as close to the glutes as possible. Step down with the secondary leg, followed by the leading leg.
For a kick, step with the leading leg and pull the secondary leg through to a low kick. The higher you kick your leg, the harder it works your body. Step down with the secondary leg, followed by the leading leg.
The instructor will often call leg movements Repeaters. This is because you will repeat a leg movement, such as a knee lift or hamstring curl, more than once without shifting weight to the secondary leg. Typically, repeaters are done three times. For example, a knee lift repeater would require you stepping up on the platform with your leading leg, and doing three consecutive knee lifts, only tapping your secondary foot on the floor briefly in between each lift.
Some step aerobics movements require using your whole body to turn. For example, a turn step is similar to the V-step; however, when you step down, your body turns so your side is facing the bench. After the next V-step, it turns the other way. Another full-body movement is Over the Top, which starts with the side of your body facing the step. Step up on the platform with the leading leg, and then with the secondary leg. Step down on the other side of the bench, first with the leading leg and then with the secondary leg. To get your heart pumping, this move should be done as more of a hop or jump up and over the bench.
Using your arms during step aerobics helps get your heart rate higher. Three common arm movements are bicep curls, lateral raises and arm circles. Bicep curls begin with your elbows at the side of your body and palms of your hands facing upward. Bend your elbows and raise your hands toward your chest as if you were lifting a dumbbell. For lateral raises, lift your arms straight out to the side to shoulder height with your palms facing down. Allow your elbows to lead this movement. For an arm circle, move your arms over your head in a circular, clockwise motion. This movement is often paired with Over the Top.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.