T Nation

Peterson Step-Ups


Does anyone here use this exercise for the VMO?

This is the only decent youtube clip I could find http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR_s1ib1EGY

Is the form used in the video correct?

I have tried a Google search and have found plenty of comments mentioning the exercise, but I can't find very much specific information on correct form, step height, suitable rep range etc.

I tried them for the first time last night and have decided to add them to my training. I'm thinking that doing them twice per week for a few sets of 15-20 with only bodyweight off a low step is probably a reasonable way to start.


the form is pretty much correct except for the foot on the floor..

the foot on the floor should have the toes off the ground (dorsiflexed) to prevent pushing off with the toes. small little detail but it makes a difference.

i use peterson's/other forms of tke for the vmo.. peterson's with a barbell are great.

i like set/rep ranges in 2-3x15-10.



That's pretty good. I prefer to have people step backward on to a step instead of on a step to the side. The link below from my website describes it more. There's a good written description and a static picture but no video. Also, I think it it most effective when executed on a slow tempo like 3 seconds concentric and 3 seconds eccentric.



Thanks for the advice guys

One more question.

If you were going to do some specific VMO work such as Peterson step-ups on a day where you are also planning on doing regular squats, which would you do first?

Is it better to do the peterson step-ups first in order to activate the VMO for the squats, or should the VMO work be left until after the squats.


in my opinion.. that question becomes most important when you have a client/yourself have suffered from some kind of patella/anterior knee pain.. or if you have altered firing patterns between the VL and VMO.. in some people you can see it so clearly that VL fires before VMO when doing some form of TKE. usually in these people they have some kind of knee pain or they are at greater risk to injury to the knee.

so if you or someone you're training has a firing pattern problem i would definitely perform the VMO/TKE work prior to leg strength exercises (squats etc).

i would also finish the session with some kind of tke work if you have some kind of problems..

other than that, i don't think it really matters for people without symptoms. just make sure you get the tke/vmo work in somewhere.


here's a study you might like:

Comparative reflex response times of vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis in normal subjects and subjects with extensor mechanism dysfunction
An electromyographic study
Michael L. Voight, MEd, PT, ATC, SCS

Division of Physical Therapy, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida

Deborah L. Wieder, MS, PT, ATC

Division of Physical Therapy, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Florida

Reflex response times of the vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis were evaluated in 41 normal sub jects and 16 patients with extensor mechanism dys function. The reflex response times for both muscles to a patellar tendon tap were evaluated by electro myography. The latencies of the muscles were statis tically analyzed in both groups. In normal subjects, one- tailed paired-sample t-tests determined that the vastus medialis obliquus fired significantly faster than the vas tus lateralis (P < 0.001). In the patients, the vastus lateralis fired significantly faster than the vastus medi alis obliquus (P < 0.001).

A chi square goodness of fit test demonstrated a dependency between the order of muscle firing and the type of subject (P < 0.001). Two- tailed independent-sample t-tests revealed that the pa tients demonstrated a significantly faster vastus later alis response time than the normal subjects (P < 0.001), whereas the vastus medialis obliquus times were not significantly different. This increase in vastus lateralis reflex response time may indicate a motor control prob lem in the patient with extensor mechanism dysfunc tion.

Results indicate that there is a reversal of the normal muscular firing order between the two muscles in these patients. Patients with extensor mechanism dysfunction may be demonstrating a neurophysiologic motor control imbalance that may account for or con tribute to their anterior knee pain.


I've always gone by whenever you're in the gym, you stay on your heels. This advice may not be as practical in the bodybuilding forum, but in sport you live on your toes, but in the gym you're always on your heels. We're in the strength sports forum so I'm going to say stay on your heel.

Here's a fun link too--

It includes a ton of accessory leg work before squatting, but the program is freaking sweet.


ya but staying on your heels is more posterior chain related.. this is a VMO exercise.... doing peterson's on heels would diminish the effect of peterson's thats for sure.


Thanks for the detailed response.

I don't have altered firing patterns between the VL and VMO. I am just using it as a prehab exercise so I will leave the Petersons until after my main lower body lifts.


That advice is correct for most gym work, but I think Peterson step-ups are an exception to this rule. As adarqui said, staying on your heal would reduce the emphasis on the VMO.

The exercise is done relatively light and with a fairly small range of motion, so it's not quite the same as doing heavy squats with your weight shifted to the front of your foot.


Buddy Morris goes through just about every TKE progression in this interview as well as a host of other good stuff. If you watch all 9 parts it is pretty lengthy but well worth it.


nice vids


Nice find jtrinsey

I will definitely be trying some of those variations at some stage in the near future.