We try to get at least one single leg exercise into everyone’s program each day. This is an important part of our program – something that builds strength, improves mobility, reinforces good movement and carries over to everyday life. In sports and in life, a lot of moving (producing and applying force) occurs with predominantly with one side being loaded more than the other. That’s why it is a staple in our strength and conditioning programs.
Just like we view the squat as an essential movement pattern that everyone should strive for, the ability to make this shape on one leg is equally important. These shapes are movements like step ups, lunge variations, split squat and single leg squat variations as well. The same logic applies to the hip hinge, the deadlift shape.
The benefits of single leg training:
More stability. Standing on one leg requires you to create more stability in the body, to resist rotation caused losing a point of contact with the ground. Stabilizing and not allowing your knee to cave in or your foot to turn is the same skill as screwing your feet into the ground when squatting. Without this, you won’t be able to do the exercise effectively.
Progressions. There are hundreds of different ways to make a single leg exercise more difficult, allowing for endless refinement of the skill. We can start out with a shortened range of motion, like a low box step up, then progress to a higher box, then add external load, from there you can off-set the load, increase the range of motion even more and so on. With so many different variations, there is always an appropriate exercise to find.
Easy to learn. For some people, especially those with back issues, single leg loading can be a more approachable movement. It can allow those with restrictions to get into some deeper ranges of motion early on in training too.
Hips! Since one hip is going into flexion while the other one is in extension, you’re getting a unique effect on your body that you don’t get when squatting or deadlifting, when those actions happen at the same time. You can imagine walking – one leg steps in front while the other pulls back.
Transfer. It has to transfer, or what’s the point? Single leg exercises are great to build strength, improve mobility and work on balance and stability. All of these things makes for a great exercise that can transfer to other movements in the gym.
We see these shapes outside the gym, so why not practice them? It will make you move and perform better.