Movement Skill: Stepping Over and Under

How many times during the day do you step over and under things?

My guess is more often than you think.

Examples of stepping over include

  • Stepping over baby and dog gates
  • Walking over toys, pets and puddles
  • Stepping over dangerous critters such as snakes
  • Stepping over a barrier to get to the other side
  • Stepping over obstacles during a race
  • Stepping over people on the athletic field or court
  • Stepping/running over fallen logs during a walk or run

Examples of stepping under include

  • Getting into your car
  • Ducking under a tree branch
  • Getting low to check out your child’s fort
  • Stepping into a crawl space at home
  • Moving under a defensive player on the athletic field or court
  • Stepping under a fence to get to the other side
  • Getting under an obstacle during a race
  • Ducking low to get into a bulkhead or basement entrance with a low ceiling

Stepping is important

Stepping is an important natural human movement skill that we tend to take for granted. Have you ever included stepping in a workout before? No? Well, you should and I stress that you practice this skill as often as possible. A way to do that is to include the over-under exercise in your workouts and daily routine.

If I have coached you during a training session, you are familiar with the over-under exercise because I often include it in warm-up drills, combos, mock scenarios and cool-down circuits. This article outlines why over-unders are helpful and how to perform them.

Over-unders help

  • Challenge proprioceptive awareness and balance
  • Ready the body for practical, real-life situations
  • Engage the core and spine
  • Enhance mobility and flexibility in the hip, knee, and vertebral joints
  • Improve timing and sequencing of events

…Best of all, I (and several of my clients) find them to be fun and challenging!

Over-unders are very scalable, can be performed by varying ability and age levels and can be done anywhere – at home, in the gym, at a playground, etc.

Here’s how to perform over-unders.

Over-unders in action

To see how to execute the stepping over and stepping under exercises, please watch these videos and follow the guidelines below:

1) Stepping Over

2) Stepping under

3) Stepping over and under combos


Guidelines to follow while stepping over and under

While executing these exercises, it is important to adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Posture: Always be mindful of your posture. Whether performing the stepping over or stepping under exercise, your spine should remain optimally elongated. When ducking under, keep the hips level with the head and avoid rounding your back. Keep your head up so that you can see your surroundings at all times.
  2. Breath: Proper breathing will support posture, focus and relaxation. Your breathing should be consistent, yet relaxed. Do not hold your breath!
  3. Timing and Sequencing: When stepping over or under, be aware of your timing and sequencing of the exercises. Try to allow the entire body to clear the obstacle in one smooth step. As you engage your body underneath an obstacle, imagine yourself passing under a solid hurdle (one in which you wouldn’t want to bump your head or spine on). At all times, be aware of your surroundings and know where your spine is in relation to your environment.
  4. Tension and Relaxation: You will need appropriate muscle tension to perform these exercises, but you will also need to relax. Any body part that is not involved in the movement (such as arms and fingers) should be kept as relaxed as possible.
  5. Mindfulness: While performing these natural movement exercises, it is important to practice mindfulness. Mindful practice is essential to movement efficiency. Move naturally, interact with your surroundings and be aware of what is around you. This will keep you safe and help to improve your skills.
  6. Creativity: Allow yourself to get creative with the stepping over and stepping under exercises. Have fun. Adapt these exercises according to your ability by varying the heights, angles and context. Try holding different items while stepping over and under. Hold a heavy medicine ball, a kettlebell, a baby… Make this into a partner drill. When training with a friend, take turns holding a pole (or two) and stepping over and under it. PVC pipes, broomsticks, park benches, fences and  sticks work well. Use what is available to you and most importantly, expand your imagination. 🙂



It is time to play and have some fun! Start practicing the over-under exercise today. Find some things (or people) to step over and under and start moving!


  • Do you use the over-under exercise in your training? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of the over-under exercise?




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