To get the most out of your training, you can’t restrict your leg training to just squats and deadlifts. The best single leg exercises will bring a new dimension to your training, and will make you a stronger and better human.
Why Do I Need Single Leg Exercises?
- Balance – Most people have a strong side that does more than it’s fair share during bilateral (double leg) exercises like squats. By training the legs individually you give yourself a chance to bring up the strength of this lagging body part, which will make you way stronger in the long run.
- Stability – I resisted the urge to say balance twice. But this time I’m talking more about the ability to balance yourself on 1 leg, which is important for foot strength and ankle stability. By strengthening the ankle and lower leg’s ability to support your whole body weight, you can avoid a lot of injuries in the long run.
- Cardio – Legs have some of the largest muscles in the body, and by having to do the left leg, and then going straight to the right leg, you’ll be working the cardiovascular system hard, as well as the muscles of both legs. Don’t believe me? Do a set of 15 weighted step ups on each leg.
So below I’ll share with you my favorite single leg moves, and variations you can do of each. It’s hard to separate these into quads vs hamstrings vs glutes, since they all work in conjunction when executing a full squat. Here it goes though.
What are the Best Single Leg Exercises for the Quads?
Start on a TRX or with a slight heel lift. Find your balance with one leg and both arms extended in front of you. Slowly lower yourself down to where your thigh is at least parallel to the ground. Pause for one sec, then explode back up.
Find a bench or a box that allows you to have your thigh parallel to the ground when your foot is on it. Make sure most of the pressure is coming from your top foot, and you’re not pushing off the bottom foot to get up.
Load this with dumbbells or a barbell to make it super effective.
What are the Best Single Leg Exercises for the Hamstrings?
TRX Single Leg Hamstring Curl
Lay on your back with your TRX in single hand mode. Put your heel into the straps, lift your hips off the ground, and then with your hips straight, pull your heel to your butt and press the hips to the sky. Lower slowly and make sure to extend your leg all the way before going for another rep.
This one is nasty. Get your brain right
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Start by planting your left foot, and holding a dumbbell in your right hand. With your back flat, reach down with the right hand toward the planted foot, until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Push the hips forward and squeeze the glutes to return to a standing position.
You can do this with a single dumbbell or kettlebell, a barbell, or a cable. The cable version is very effective because in addition to pulling your down, it’s also pulling forward, making this one really good for balance.
What are the Best Single Leg Exercises for the Glutes?
Bulgarian Split Squat
This one also really works the quads, but if you’ve never done this before, you’ll wake up tomorrow with some SORE glutes. That’s why it gets tossed into the glute category.
Set up in front of a bench, and put the top of your foot on the bench behind you, so that the bottom of your foot is pointing toward the ceiling. Now drop the back knee down to the floor, making sure that your front foot stays in contact with the ground the whole time – no lifting up onto your toes.
Keep the front knee directly over your shoe laces, and keep a strong tall core. Drive through the front heel to bring yourself back up to the first position.
Zercher Reverse Lunge
This exercise will turn boys to men, and men into wolves. It’s that intense.
Start with a barbell set up at mid height, and pick it up with the crook of your arms. If you need a pad, no big deal.
Holding it with your elbows, brace your core, and step back into a lunge. Step up and repeat with the opposite leg.
Try some of these out on your next leg day. Single leg training is no joke, and to leave it out is to leave a lot of strength and muscle gains on the table.
Do you have a favorite that I missed? Did I make or ruin your workout? Let me know in the comments.