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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 the size of your muscles 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 increase the neuromuscular pathways when executing the exercise.

Traditional training routine

A traditional session of press-ups may comprise of 3 sets to failure with 3 minutes recovery between each set. In this workout, for example, you may manage 10 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 but 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. So, if you only managed 4 repetitions when the target was 5 then 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 3 sets you will find it is greater than the traditional 3 set method. As you are training for muscular endurance then you require a 48-hour recovery as this is how long it takes to fully restore your glycogen stores. (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

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • WILLARDSON, J. M. and BURKETT, L. N. (2005) A COMPARISON OF 3 DIFFERENT REST INTERVALS ON THE EXERCISE VOLUME COMPLETED DURING A WORKOUT. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19 (1), p. 23-26
  • RAHIMI, R. (2005) Effect of different rest intervals on the exercise volume completed during squat bouts. Journal of sports science & medicine, 4 (4), p. 361
  • HOOD, M. S. et al. (2011) Low-volume interval training improves muscle oxidative capacity in sedentary adults. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 43 (10), p. 1849-1856

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

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: