Single Leg Training – A Must Do – No Excuses

A question that often comes up is the need for single leg work. Years ago, it was thought that squats and deadlifts were all there were needed to keep the body strong and for the athletic community, all that were needed to build strength and power. Strength training has primarily been on two limbs and in the sagittal plane (moving front to back). With the increased knowledge in how our bodies work and how the muscular system functions, training methods have also changed. It is now known that single leg training is of great benefit and involves working more muscles resulting is greater strength and stability. Single leg training should be included in everybody's fitness program.

elephant balance

Very little in life or sport happens with two feet on the ground. With all movements, there is always one foot on the ground and one in motion. Simple walking is a case of single leg movement.

walking gait

When performing double leg exercises, we are using the prime movers mainly (quads, gluteus maxiumus, hamstrings). With single leg squats for example, the stabilizing muscles (glutes medius, adductors or inner thigh) and spinal stabilizers must all come into play to maintain a stable pelvis.

single leg squat

Some examples of single leg exercises are: step ups, lunges, split squats, rear foot elevated split squatand one leg squats. With all of these single leg exercises, all but one have the non working foot supported. With lunges, the non working foot is still on the ground.

With rear elevated split squats, the non working or rear leg is supported on a block. The only unsupported single leg exercise is the single leg squat. With this squat, the non working foot does not touch the ground.


"Having only foot in contact with the ground forces the hip structures, the abductors and external rotators, to stabilize against movement in both the frontal and transverse planes". (1)

It is known that one way to prevent knee pain is to strengthen the muscles that control the hip, the knee and the foot. This can be accomplished with single leg training.

Another group of exercises done as a single leg is the deadlift. The single leg deadlift is primarily a hip hinge movement. But, the spinal erector muscles as well as the lower trapezius and rhomboid muscles of the back must work to stabilize the spine and shoulder. The glute (or hip rotators) and pelvic muscles must work to stabilize the pelvis and keep it in the sagittal plane. The single leg deadlift takes the load off the lower back and loads the glutes.

single leg deadlift #2

So, even though single leg work can be demanding and even a little frustrating at times, it is vital to our overall health and well being. Single leg squats and deadlifts are excellent examples of strength training exercises that will allow you to stay healthy and enjoy all the many activities that you do outside the gym.

Till next time,

1. Advances in Functonal Training, Michael Boyle. On Target Publications 2010

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