One of my biggest problems with exercising at home is that I do not have access to the variety of cardio machines that are available at the gym. I have my elliptical machine, but it gets old after a while. Since discovering The Firm exercise dvds four years ago, I occasionally include step aerobics for my cardio workout. I just absolutely love step aerobics.
This post is a discussion of how to select an aerobic step for your strength and aerobics for home exercising.
Do you have The Firm Knees?
Have you ever heard of the term “firm knees?” No I am not talking about the muscle tone around your knees, but the ache you get when you do tall box climbs on a 14-inches step when doing one of the older The Firm exercise dvds.
The tall box climb is one of the best exercises you can do for your leg muscles. In this exercise, the tall step is not used for cardio. Instead it is used to strengthen your leg muscles (glutes, thighs, and butt) while you raise and lower yourself on the step.
You stand behind a tall box (typically a 12 or 14 inches aerobic step) while holding dumbbells. You place one foot on top of the box and slowly lift yourself up until you are standing on top of the box. Then you slowly lower yourself down with the same starting foot. This is one rep for the first set. You do about 2-3 sets for each leg.
My problem is that after using The Firm Box or The Firm Transfirmer (the aerobic steps that came with the older Firm exercise dvds), my knees would ache. My butt looks great, but my knees just wags its finger and tells me to stop being stupid. Others on the video fitness forums have similar complaints about aching knees for this exercise.
Height of the aerobic step for strength
It is not the exercise, but the height of the aerobic step that is causing all these aching knees. The angle behind your knees should be at 90 degrees or greater when you are doing the tall box climb. It is normal to shift your weight forward while you use your working leg to push yourself up on the tall aerobic step. However, if you find that you need to lean forward and tilt your upper body, then the height of the aerobic step is too high for you. If you keep using a step that is too high for your height, eventually you will end up with aching knees (or worst).
For someone my height (5’3” – on a good day), my tall aerobic step should not be more than 12 inches. Obviously the default 14 inches of the Firm Fanny Lifter, Box, and Transfirmer are too high for me. As a matter of fact, I find 8 to 10 inches the ideal height for me when doing the tall box climbs.
Height of the aerobic step for cardio
Aerobic stepping allows you to get an intense cardio workout using a relatively small amount of space. For cardio, any increase in the height of your aerobic step directly increases the intensity of your workout. The height of a typically aerobic step is 4 inches (not one of The Firm’s versions of an aerobic step). Each riser adds an additional 2 inches to the height of the step.
Much of the research for aerobic step comes from Reebok. Their suggested step heights are as follows:
4 inches a beginner up to 6 inches a regular exerciser who has never performed step training up to 8 inches a regular step trainer up to 10 inches a skilled and regular step trainer
Notice how the Reebok guideline do not include any information regarding your height. The guideline is useless if you are 5’3” or shorter. I never use more than 6 inches for step aerobics. But sometimes when I am in couch potato mode, I cheat and use only 4 inches (no risers). You should use the lowest aerobic step height that provide the intensity you need to meet your exercise goals if you do not want to risk injuries.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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