The importance of single leg training by Coach Albert Kehoe

The importance of single leg training is often overlooked in strength training, and it is a major flaw in my opinion.

If you think about it, most of our movement outside the gym is single leg dominant. Walking, Running, climbing, crawling etc, are all done by placing one leg after the other. Having stability and strength in our single leg actions make for more dynamic and capable athletes. In the Physiotherapy clinic, I would say one of the most common deficiencies I see in strength and balance, come from weakness in single leg hip activities. This leads to a myriad of compensations upstream and downstream in the kinetic chain.One of the best things you can do to create strength and stability in your hips is to integrate some single leg RDL’s, Bulgarian split squats, lunges, step ups, Cossack squats etc into your training. Couple these with some additional accessories, like fire hydrants, clams, single leg bridges and you will bullet proof your hips in no time.

Bulgarian Split squat

But I hear you say, thats boring, and too time consuming, so I will give you one to focus on. The Bulgarian split squat. Of all the aforementioned exercises, I personally feel the Bulgarian split squat gives you the best bang for your buck. Start light, and get your balance in check. Then add weight, observing a strict rep scheme of 8-12 reps per leg @ tempo 30X1 for 3-4 sets. When you can get this to 1/3 bodyweight held in each arm, you will be ready to progress your Barbell backsquats above Bodyweight without buckling under the weight. I know I know, your thinking its boring and hard doing Bulgarian split squats. Don’t be impatient and decide to add weight fast, and let form go out the window. Note the high rep count, and stick to the task, they are not to be loaded to a heavy 3 rep max, this is not a maximal strength exercise!

Integrating Split squats into your training

Beginners should integrate them into their backsquat workouts as an accessory at the end of their back squat sets, to help balance and strengthen up the weak sides. Begin with no weights, and add weight slowly week to week. For those who have already progressed their back squat above bodyweight, test yourself for side to side symmetry in the split squat, and integrate these into training instead of barbell squats on occasion, especially if you notice a deficiency in side to side comparison (or the inability to lift 1/3 BW each arm for 8 reps (total load 2/3 BW))

For Extra difficulty add more range of movement, by raising the front foot – called elevated Split squats as shown in the second image attached.

Here is to healthy hips, and single leg animals!