Leg workouts: once they were at the bottom of your list, a matter to be put off for another week. Once you said, “I don’t need to do leg day; it’s my arms I want to get bigger” and then as your lats, chest and delts expanded, that top-heavy look taught you to make leg day a staple of your overall development. Now you relish the challenge, you’re pushing your maximum squat record, adding plates to the leg press. And now you want more.
Single leg workouts are the answer. You just didn’t know it yet.
Okay, so when you get to the point in your training where you are looking for a bit more diversity, some variety to your healthy life, it probably means you’re advancing as an athlete, weightlifter of keen gym enthusiast. However, it is so much more than a simple ‘step up’ in your leg training.
The issue with barbell and fixed range machine training can be balance, symmetry and posture. Think about it: without realizing, many of us have a favored limb, a stronger arm, stronger leg. When performing your standard two-legged lift, be it the squat, deadlift or press, you may from time to time – even if it is ever so subtly – lean to one leg to bear the brunt of the weight. This could be due to an injury or bad positioning of your feet. But by doing so, one leg will get that slightly more intense workout than the other. It is the knock-on effect of this that is the problem. This misalignment can afflict your back, leaving you with aches or even pulls and tears. Your balance can be affected if both legs are not equally strong. Then there is overall symmetry, with one leg’s muscle definition and volume being different to the other.
Sure, these may be far off concerns that you are not worried about, but if you want to ensure symmetrical strength and balance, not to mention a bit of variety to your leg workout, you might consider these single leg exercises.
Single Leg Bulgarian Split Squat
Start by standing with your back to a platform, such as a bench or knee-high box. Place your back foot on the platform and commence the split squat position. Squat down slowly until your knee touches the ground, then slowly push yourself to the starting position again. As you get the hang of balancing and the movement, advance by adding weight.
Single-Leg Stability Ball Leg Curl
Lying on your back with your arms spread in a T position, place your leg on a yoga ball by your Achilles. Bring your other bent leg to your chest. Arch your back, using your leg on the ball. With your foot, slowly roll the ball towards your torso. When it gets to your glutes, roll it straight again.
Single-Leg Slide Board Reverse Lunge
Standing with your back to a slide board, place one leg on the board. Perform a reverse lunge from the board until your knee lowers close to the ground. As with the Bulgarian split squat, as you develop you can add weights to your lift with a weighted pack, barbell or dumbbells.
Single-Leg BOSU Ball Glute Bridge
Lying on your back with your knees bent, place one foot on the rounded surface of a BOSU ball and extend the other next to it on the floor. Arch and extend your lower back using your glutes to drive you and hold your straight leg off the floor for a minimum of 15 seconds. Lower your glutes to the floor again and return to the starting position. Then repeat on the other leg.
Single-Leg Box Jump
Set up a stable platform, such as a plyometric box or bench in front of you. Raise one of your knees at a right angle so that you are balanced on the other. On this leg, squat slightly, get your balance, and then jump up onto the platform and place both feet down. Then step down and repeat this on the other leg.
These exercises are recommended because they are compound lifts, engaging several muscle groups, joints, and most definitely your core in each movement. A good tip is to keep your core and glutes tense at all times to ensure that you are working as you should be. Don’t be tempted to bring your arms in to help you balance: these are leg exercises.
You can also hit the single joint exercises for the extra pump and fatigue training. One legged calf raises, leg extensions and curls are equally effective as the two-legged version, only you will lower the weight and should hold the lift an extra second to ensure you are not rushing and catching the lift rather than performing it with purposeful, effective movements.