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Step Training

Most athletes would like to increase the number of repetitions they can perform for a given exercise, e.g. press-ups, sit-ups. The limiting factor is not your muscles' size but the nervous supply to those muscles. To increase the number of repetitions you can complete, you need to perform the exercise with sufficient volume to allow the body to learn how to improve the neuromuscular pathways when executing the exercise.

Traditional training routine

A regular press-ups session may comprise three sets to failure with 3 minutes recovery. For example, in this workout, you may manage ten press-ups in the 1st set, 8 in the 2nd set and 5 in the 3rd set giving a total workout volume of 23 press-ups.

More volume (repetitions) is required to increase the neuromuscular pathways for the press up. Still, insufficient strength makes this a difficult task, so how do you achieve sufficient volume to improve your number of press-ups?

Press up

Press up

Alternative training routine

A possible solution to increase the volume is "Step Training", and the protocol is as follows:

  1. Perform 1 repetition of the exercise
  2. Rest for 10 seconds
  3. Perform 2 repetitions of the exercise
  4. Rest for 10 seconds
  5. Perform 3 repetitions of the exercise
  6. Rest for 10 seconds
  7. Perform 4 repetitions of the exercise
  8. Rest for 10 seconds
  9. Keep adding one repetition and resting for 10 seconds until you are unable to continue, i.e. you manage 4 repetitions, rest for 10 seconds, but then you cannot manage 5 repetitions
  10. Record the total number of repetitions of the exercise that you have completed. If you only managed 4 repetitions when the target was 5, you have completed 1+2+3+4+4 = 14 repetitions.
  11. This is the end of your 1st set
  12. Rest for 3 minutes and then repeat steps 1 to 10 inclusive
  13. This is the end of your 2nd set
  14. Rest for 3 minutes and then repeat steps 1 to 10 inclusive
  15. This is the end of your 3rd set and the end of the workout

Increased volume (repetitions)

If you now add up the number of repetitions completed in each of the three sets, you will find it is higher than the traditional 3 set method. As you are training for muscular endurance, you require a 48-hour recovery as this is how long it takes to restore your glycogen stores fully. (Piehl 1974)[1].


This is an excellent protocol for increasing overall training volume that can be applied to all exercise and provides a great way of exposing you to a much higher volume of work. It works very well with bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, press-ups, sit-ups and dips.


  1. PIEHL, K. (1974) Time course for refilling of glycogen stores in human muscle fibres following exercise-induced glycogen depletion. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 90, p. 297-302

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2007) Step Training [WWW] Available from: [Accessed