This 2-in-1 Cardio Step and Strength Workout Will Get Your Heart Pumping and Muscles Burning

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Step aerobics may seem retro, but the fact that people have been knee driving, step-kicking, and V-stepping it out for more than four decades is just a testament to the fun and effectiveness of this cardio workout. Even if you didn’t grow up with leg warmers, a step platform, and a positive attitude, you can get in on the heart-pumping modality with this new step aerobics workout for beginners.

Step’s benefits come from the fact that changing your elevation is a great way to jack up your heart rate (think about the challenge of hiking up a hill or climbing up stairs), and all that stepping up and down provides an extra challenge to your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. It's a natural cardio and strength one-two punch. Plus, stepping requires coordination and balance, and gives you a mental workout with all the combos you move through. If you don’t incorporate jumping, it’s also a low-impact way to get the heart-racing benefits of a more high-impact workout.

Experts In This Article

If that sounds intimidating, fear not. Well+Good's Trainer of the Month Club teacher Lonnie Poupard, who is a Lululemon Studio instructor, has everything you need to master a step aerobics workout for beginners. He’ll guide you through the combos at different speeds, until you’re ready to let your stepping loose.

“We're just taking this time to find the beat to kind of get into that rhythm, get our energy up,” Poupard says from the start.

A strength block right after a step cardio warm-up will help your muscles snap to attention, and rounding out the workout with a combo will challenge your dance moves in a way that’s totally doable. Poupard says you can always come back to a simple march if you need a breather or a mental break. But the built-in recovery times, plus repetition of cornerstone step moves, will have you stepping to the beat like a pro.

“Don't stress,” Poupard says. “If there's any part of it that feels like it's a little unmanageable now, all you’ve got to do is keep trying.”

Ready to give your step skills a shot? Follow along in the video above to conquer this step aerobics workout for beginners.

A step aerobics workout for beginners (with bonus strength blocks!)

Format: A 19-minute sweat session featuring a step cardio warm-up, a couple strength blocks, a step aerobics combos, and a cooldown.

Equipment needed: A step and a set of light-to-medium weight dumbbells

Who is this for?: Anyone who wants to get their heart pumping with some beginner-friendly step combos, plus get a dose of full-body strength training.

1. Step cardio warm-up

  1. March in place (30 seconds)
  2. Add in an alternate tapping one foot on the step at a time to your march (1 minute)
  3. Alternate stepping with one foot onto the step and lifting the opposite knee (30 seconds)
  4. Continue alternating step ups, but add in arms: Raise your arms to chest height, bring them in front of you, then with bent elbows bring them back while squeezing your shoulder blades together (30 seconds)
  5. Continue alternating step ups, but rather than stepping up on the center of the step, switch off going from corner to corner (30 seconds)
  6. Return to alternating tap up (30 seconds)
  7. Return to alternating step up with knee lift (30 seconds)
  8. Return to alternating step up with knee lifts in the corner (30 seconds)
  9. As you step up in the corner, add in a front kick with the lifted knee (30 seconds)
  10. Catch your breath and come back to center with a march (30 seconds)
  11. Do a V step move, stepping out wide onto either side of the step, and stepping back to the ground with your feet coming together. (30 seconds)

2. Strength block A

  1. Holding your dumbbells racked at your shoulders, alternate sides as you step back with one foot into a reverse lunge, and twist over toward the side of the front leg (30 seconds)
  2. Standing in a hip hinge position with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, butt pushed back, and slightly bent over, bring your elbow back into a single arm row once on each side, and then lift arms up and to the side into a reverse fly two times (30 seconds)
  3. Holding the weights racked at your shoulders, do two squats at a faster tempo, and then one slowed down squat (1 minute)
  4. Standing upright with your dumbbells at your sides, bend your arms at the elbows into a bicep curl, and then rotate your wrists so you can push the dumbbells up above your head into a press, then reverse the move (30 seconds)
  5. Drop the weights, and using just your body weight, step one leg out into a side lunge as you press your butt back, then return to standing in the center and repeat on the other side (30 seconds)

3. Step combo

  1. Tap ups warm-up (30 seconds)
  2. Step up with a high knee once on each leg.
  3. Step to each corner and kick out with the opposite leg once on each side
  4. Step to one corner and raise your opposite knee three times.
  5. Come back to center and do two V steps
  6. Catch your breath with tap ups (30 seconds)
  7. Repeat combo (steps 2-5) two times, alternating the lead leg and the corner you step to in move 4
  8. Catch your breath with tap ups and knee ups (30 seconds)

4. Strength block B

  1. Place your hands on the step and step your feet out behind you in an elevated high plank
  2. Lift one arm up over your head as you rotate into a side plank
  3. Return to plank pose
  4. Lower down into a push-up and lift back up into your plank
  5. Hop your feet in and stand up
  6. Switch sides, and repeat two times

5. Repeat step combo three times on each side

6. Cool down

  1. Stand with your legs a couple feet apart, and bring your arms out to the side. Lift one arm up and over your head, as you bend over to the opposite side, creating length on the side of the body with the lifted arm. Hold (15 seconds).
  2. Rotate your body to face the leg of the bent side, and place both hands on the leg you’re facing, and walk your hands down your leg. Bend and straighten the back leg (15 seconds). Return to center then repeat on the other side.
  3. Bring your legs wider, then drop down into a wide-legged squat. Place your forearms on the tops of your thighs and rock side to side (30 seconds)
  4. Straighten your legs and roll up to return to standing. Interlock your fingers behind your back, punching down and opening up your chest. Hold (15 seconds)
  5. Release your arms and swing them crossing in front of you (15 seconds)
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