The year was 1989. Young MC demanded that we all Bust a Move. Thong leotards (worn over shiny spandex shorts) were totally acceptable gym attire. And Reebok launched “Step Reebok,” a lightweight, height-adjustable bench, which literally elevated the world of aerobics. Suddenly, “step-hops” and “straddle-downs” became common lingo in group fitness classes, and colorful, plastic stacks of platforms and risers lined the walls of health clubs everywhere.
Step workouts dominated for a solid decade, with many enthusiasts using a home model in conjunction with a collection of fuzzy VHS tapes. But the fitness world is fickle, and peppy, bubble-gum choreography slowly gave way to grittier, sweatier trends like Spinning, boot camp and cardio kickboxing. And though (most) women retired their scrunchie socks and Reeboks with the straps (with the straps!), gyms that invested some green in those teetering towers of plastic held on to them, hoping the trend would come full circle and become popular again.
And they were right. The step persists, and aside from a few deluxe models that include storage compartments and fancier risers that allow for incline and decline, their basic construction remains the same. The traditional step workout, however, needed an overhaul to be on par with current trends. In that light, we’ve chucked the bubbly hops, high-impact kicks and complex dance combinations of the early ’90s and replaced them with heart-pumping HIIT and intense resistance training moves designed to build real muscle.