Dumbell Step-Ups

The Dumbbell Step–Up is an amazing single-leg exercise that strengthens the entire lower body.  This exercise trains an athlete for strength, stability and control.  All of these attributes are essential for basketball players.

A recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that ACL injuries among high school students is significantly higher among athletes who play basketball, soccer or lacrosse.  Single leg movement exercises are extremely important because they help eliminate strength imbalances between the athlete’s right and left legs. Many basketball players have one leg that is stronger than the other due to jumping off one foot more than the other. To reduce the likelihood of injury, we want there to be as little muscular imbalance as possible.

Since this movement trains one leg at a time, it improves leg stability and control, which is particularly important for a basketball player.  This exercise focuses on strengthening the hamstrings, glutes and hips and all of these muscles are important for leg stability, control and injury prevention.

When having our athletes perform the Step Up, we have them pick their foot up off the box and then drive it into the box while they step up. By picking their foot up and driving it into the box on each rep, athletes learn to apply force into the ground.

At the top of the movement, I want the athlete to drive their opposite knee up and hold it for a good two-count. This helps develop single-leg balance and strengthens the opposite hip flexor.

A great progression for the Dumbbell Step-Up is to hold the dumbbells on the shoulders instead of at the side.  This changes the athlete’s center of balance and forces the athlete to keep their chest up and engage their core through each repetition.  A strong core plays a vital role in an athlete’s ability to change direction quickly.

The Cues for the Dumbbell Step-Up are:

  1. Place the entire foot on the box
  2. Think about pushing the foot through the box
  3. Fully extend the leg that is on the box while flexing the opposite hip
  4. The athlete should stay tall through each rep
  5. Hold the top position for a 2 count
  6. Control the body on the way down
  7. Pick the foot up and drive it into the box on each rep

Dumbbell Step-Up Progression cues are:

  1. Hold the Dumbbells on the shoulders throughout each repetition
  2. Engage your core and stay upright through each rep

I hope these exercises have helped you while you train for the upcoming basketball season.

And remember…The best players train the hardest!

Good luck this season!

-Coach Kurtz and Coach Meagher


Bryan Meagher is currently the Associate Head Coach of the 2016 Dick’s High School National Basketball Championship team Oak Hill Academy.  During his coaching career he has coached numerous NBA players that have included Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and Ben McLemore.  In Coach Meagher’s tenure, he has been a part of five high school basketball National Championships.  You can follow him on Instagram for workout tips @Bmeagher22.

Micah Kurtz, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D, USAW, FMS, NASE, is in his eighth year as Director of Strength and Conditioning at AC Flora High School., which has won 12 state championships in the past five years, including the 2016 boys’ basketball state championship. He also serves as Strength and Conditioning Consultant Coach to nine-time high school basketball national champion Oak Hill Academy, which won the Dick’s High School National Basketball Tournament in 2016. Kurtz was named the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Strength Coach of the Year in 2016. He was also named the South Carolina High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in both 2013 and 2014 and is part of the NSCA’s Subject Matter Expert Committee. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @KurtzM3.