If I had to choose one area in my training that made the biggest difference in enhancing my performance and keeping me injury free during my playing career it would be: single leg training.
Of course I think bilateral (performed on two legs) exercises like squatting and deadlifting are vital, I mean I didn’t get the nickname “Quadzilla” from watching the weights pick up themselves, but it was the single leg work that was the game changer.
Think about it, the majority of life is spent on one leg: walking, running, jumping, change of direction or cutting in sports all happen on one leg. Therefore it only makes sense to train on one leg.
Why you should love single leg training as much as I do?
– Helps to correct any asymmetries or imbalances between the R/L leg. Many of us have some strength imbalances in our legs due to sport-specific training or improper training. Single leg training is a great way to clean up these strength deficits so both legs are working more efficiently.
– Provides a ton of stabilization and balance. When it comes to single leg training we narrow our base of support compared to bilateral exercises. Therefore single leg training recruits more of the smaller muscles in your hip region (ie. glutes, adductors – think groin) which in turn helps stabilize the knee and ankle joints – keeping you injury free for the long haul.
– Improves athleticism. As I mentioned above – most of life and sport is performed on one leg. In addition, we move in multiple directions – single leg training prepares our body to control these movements.
How you implement single leg work might vary depending on your goal or training age but there is no question that it should be a key focus.
With that said here are three of my favorite single leg exercises.
One thing to keep in mind – none of these exercises are overly complicated but you’ll be surprised at how many preform them incorrectly. So master the technique first with only your bodyweight and then work your way up to adding additional weight.
Split Stance Squat
Is a great foundation for all single-leg training.
The Ins and Outs:
- Set up in a 90/90ish stance. Keeping in mind that your front leg should be doing the majority of the work. A good indicator to know if you’re set up correctly is you should be able to feel your whole front foot on the ground.
- Keeping the front foot, knee, and hip in alignment (meaning don’t let the knee cave in or out) and push into the floor.
- Make sure your front foot is doing the majority of the work. Therefore maintain a slight forward lean at the torso to insure you aren’t shifting your weight to the back foot.
- Repeat on opposite leg. Once you’ve mastered the technique with your bodyweight add additional load with kettlebells or dumbells.
- Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps/leg.
The Ins and Outs:
- Start with one foot on a box about knee height.
- Grab a kettlebell in both hands and hold it chest high with elbows underneath the kettlebell. As if you were actually holding a goblet.
- Feel the entire foot on the box and drive through this foot – limiting the amount of work the back leg is doing.
- Don’t allow the knee to keep cave in or out.
- Finish tall and strong by squeezing the glute on the working leg.
- Control the descent on the way back down – making sure you don just “collapse” down.
- Repeat on opposite leg.
- Try 8-10 reps/leg.
The Ins and Outs:
- Grab two kettlebells or dumbells and hold them by your side.
- Standing tall and strong – take a step backwards with one leg. Make sure you can feel the entire foot on the floor of the front foot.
- Drop your knee down and return to the starting position by driving off the front foot.
- Throughout the movement make sure the front leg is performing the majority of the work – don’t shift your weight backwards when stepping back.
- Repeat with opposite leg.
- I generally like 3 sets of 8 reps/leg
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