The Value of Single Leg Exercises

Posted by Chad Cardoso in Training
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There’s no doubt that some single leg exercises are a b#@$h to get through. Namely because they’re as much mentally challenging as they are physical to perform. Despite their difficulty however, if you’re avoiding them, you should seriously reconsider.

Single leg, or unilateral exercises have a ton of applications and are really key in building strength, stability, and mental toughness. Not only that, unilateral training allows you to be aware of any weaknesses you may have on one side of your body (asymmetries), which is vital information for injury prevention and breaking through plateaus in bilateral lifts (i.e. squats, deadlifts). The same can be said for your upper body as well.

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By and large single leg work can be categorized into hip dominant (using mainly glutes/hamstrings as prime movers) or knee dominant (using mainly quadriceps) movements. Each movement has its benefits, and there are a TON of variations involving both categories. However if increasing size, strength, or power is your goal, you should definitely be supplementing your workouts with single leg work.

Not sure where to start? Check out the chart below for some ideas.

Hip Dominant Unilateral Exercises (glutes, hamstrings) Knee Dominant Unilateral Exercises (quads)
Single Leg Deadlifts Lunges (Forward, Reverse, or lateral)
Single Leg Hip Thrusts Bulgarian Split Squats (Back foot elevated)
Quadruped Single Leg Hip Extension Single Leg Squat
Lateral Step Ups Step Ups
Single Leg Hamstring Curls Sled Push

 

There are an infinite number of single leg exercises and variations out there—ranging in complexity and difficulty. But single leg work doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to be consistent so that you can see some progress. Try choosing one exercise from each category above and complete for 3 sets of 10 reps per side, 2-3 days per week for 4 weeks. Then watch the gains roll in.

For more info on single leg training check out Mike Robertson’s fantastic article on the subject, here.

If you have any questions about single leg exercises or anything related, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this post. You can also email me directly at chad@balancemotion.com.

Now go lift something.

– Chad Cardoso