One of my favorite exercise progressions that's been pretty much a cornerstone in the Knees Over Toes program that I've been doing for the past eight months has been the progression from the Patrick step to the Poliquin step to the Peterson step. In order to do this exercise progression I have been using The Slant Stack from the Tib Bar Guy. This has been such a game changer and I have absolutely loved it.
Before I dive into the difference between those three different step ups I mentioned, I want to talk about why it's important to do these exercises in the first place. What it comes down to is putting that knee into that forward motion where we're putting a lot of force into front of the knee. A lot of the time we've been taught to not have our knees over our toes like that. But, in reality, if you think about how we go downstairs, or how we take a step off of something, or even as athletes how we have to move forward and decelerate and land from jumps, we're constantly in that knee-over-toe position. That’s why the progression of these step-ups is a key component of promoting knee longevity and performance. As you progress through the 3 step ups, you’re actually hitting various targets in ankle mobility, knee & calf strength, knee stability and ankle stability.
The Patrick Step
The first exercise in this progression is the Patrick step. The Patrick step is really great for not only building strength in your quad and your VMO, but also for gaining mobility in your ankles. If you do not have very mobile ankles, this is going to be a great starting point. You can start doing the Patrick step on the floor and having your working foot flat on the ground, your other foot is going to be stepping out in front of you tapping the heel in front and your hips are going to stay stacked over the working ankle. This is going to be a great starting point to just get used to this range of motion.
Once you feel like you can conquer that at about 10-15 reps of just your body weight, you can increase that step height using the slant stack. You can start with a two inch stack and increase that. Then once you feel like you can manage that with your ankle mobility, you can continue to the next stack up and go into four inches and then to six inches.
Once you've made your way up to six inches on the stack and can master doing 10-15 reps per side comfortably and with good ankle mobility that will be your sign that you can move over to the next movement in this progression, the Poliquin step.
The Poliquin Step
With the Poliquin step, you're basically doing a Patrick step, but with a slant. Your working foot is going to be on a slant board (which comes along with The Slant Stack), and you're going to be stepping down again, with your hips stacked over your working ankle and your foot reaching out in front of you. Then you're just tapping that heel down to the opposite foot, and then making your way back up.
You’ll first start with just the slant, until you’ve mastered that. Then you can start to incorporate more height.
Thankfully, The Slant Stack makes it super easy to stack on more and more height at two inch increments.
What a Poliquin step actually does is it actually helps you to develop more strength in and around the knee, in the quadriceps, and in the VMO. We're not necessarily needing to focus on ankle mobility here because you've already worked through that with the Patrick step. This is a fantastic exercise to help develop knee strength especially if you’ve gone through ACL surgery like myself, have patellar tendonitis, or even jumper's knee. This part of the step up progression is where you're really forcing your knee and your quad to gain a lot of strength. So again, you're going to want to build upon this starting with just the slant, then you’ll do the slant plus two inches, four inches, and six inches. Then once you can comfortably do that for about 10-15 reps per leg at just your body weight you can move on to the next step, which is the Peterson step.
The Peterson Step
With the Peterson step, you're actually taking the slant board out of the equation now, but you're still going to be creating some of that forward motion into the knee by way of your own ankle movement. You're actually going to be lifting your own heel of the working foot, while dropping the other heel down. Then as you come back up, dropping your working heel back down onto the platform.
This is actually really great for combining work with ankle mobility as well as stability and strength through that lower leg complex and knee joint. It’s very challenging to balance all of those but once you get to this point it's going to be really important to gradually work your way up in height. Then you can start to add weight to this equation. This is going to be really important for athletes to start to build upon this motion and get comfortable with stabilizing their lower leg, their calf, and their ankle while building that strength into the knee.
Using the Slant Stack For The PPP Progression & MORE
The slant stack from The Tib Bar Guy makes it so easy to move through this progression really well. I love that you can adjust the Slant Stack throughout the entire process of moving from Patrick to Poliquin to Peterson.
Okay, so aside from those three exercises, the Slant Stack can be used for SO much more. This thing is amazing for just doing squats or heel elevated squats.
It is a great alternative instead of using plate weights behind your heels where it could kind of be uncomfortable or it's not quite even, and sometimes your heels can slip off them. The surface on the slant stack has great traction, so you don’t have to worry about losing your footing on the slant.
You can use it for something like the split squats to create a little heel lift as well if you don't quite have the full ankle mobility to drop the heel down. It even comes in handy for things like deficit deadlifts and Jefferson curls. Even from a stretching standpoint, you can use it as a calf stretch board and Achilles stretch board. I love just how multifunctional it is!
I highly recommend this piece of equipment if you are trying to better the health of your joints, knees and ligaments - and especially if you are doing any of the Knees Over Toes style training.
Written By: Victoria Dorsano
Check out more about Victoria on her website here.