Quantifying Bilateral Joint Contributions during Three Variations of the Step Exercise

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Sean P. Flanagan
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Kara M. Kessans
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George J. Salem
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Information regarding how the mechanical demand differs with variants of the step exercise may be used by clinicians to more appropriately prescribe lower-extremity exercise.


To quantify the joint torque contributions of the lower extremity during three different step exercises: forward step-up (FS), lateral step-up (LS), and step-down (SD).


An experiment with a repeated measures design.


Biomechanics laboratory.


18 healthy subjects (9 men, 9 women, age 25.67 ± 4.23 years, height 1.73 ± 0.10 meters, mass 72.73 ± 10.67 kilograms).


Participants performed three sets of three repetitions of each exercise while instrumented for biomechanical analysis.

Main Outcome Measure:

Mechanical effort of the hip, knee, and ankle of both limbs during each exercise.


The greatest contribution from the hip was required during the FS, while the contribution from the knee was required during the SD. The greatest contribution from the ankle was required during the LS and SD.


Choice of step exercise results in different distributions of mechanical demand across the lower extremities.

Sean P. Flanagan is with the Department of Kinesiology at California State University, Northridge 91330. E-mail: sean.flanagan@csun.edu. Kara M. Kessans and George J. Salem are with the University of Southern California Department of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, Los Angeles, CA 90089.

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