Medicine is good for you but might leave a nasty taste in your mouth; that pretty much sums up single leg training!
Some of you may remember from a couple of years ago that I don’t agree with Coach Mike Boyle when he said that he didn’t think it was necessary that his athletes Squatted; what a shock that must have been to everyone! But I do agree in the need for most of us to perform a good 1 legged exercise, for reasons of health, balance, and greater overall strength.
Now please don’t confuse good 1 legged exercises with 1 Leg Extensions, 1 Leg Curls, or 1 Leg Presses (not quite as bad) as one of my lifters at Darkside once did, although I think he realised his error as soon as the words “I do 1 leg training, I do Extensions at such and such gym!” Needless to say he received a torrent of abuse as soon as these words had left his mouth.
No, 1 Leg Extensions are not what I’m talking about, the 1 leg movements we should be doing are:
Step Ups and their many variations
Lunges and their many variations
And Bulgarian Split Squats (BSS)
Obviously I’m not going to cover all of these variations here, but I recommend that most beginners start with the Step Up. This is because Step Ups are easy to perform and they have a steep learning curve; by this I mean that within 3 sessions the trainee should be able to use a challenging weight, whereas if a beginner were to perform Bulgarian Split Squats usually after 3 sessions they would be falling all over the place still trying to get their balance.
I think most will agree; nicer than looking at me perform a Step Up!
Having said this I am in agreement with Coach Boyle when it comes to more advanced athletes; with clients who have a greater training age I love giving them BSS; they develop strength in the Quads, Glutes, and Hamstrings, in addition to really stretching out those pesky hip flexors.
In this video I perform rather sloppy BSS with my rear foot in a TRX, one of many variations – thanks to Muscle Russell for the commentary.
I’m not so hot on Lunges. I find that most people who perform them do so poorly. Call me lazy but I find that it takes a lot less time to teach these trainees to do good Step Ups than to correct their Lunges. If you can do Lunges well and pain free then knock yourself out, but I find that Step Ups are both easier to learn and quicker to progress. Remember there are very few, if any movements which you should go through pain in order to perform, there’s usually a really good alternative which won’t hurt and is 98% as effective.
So that’s a snapshot of single leg training; just to reiterate single leg work should be performed after your main max effort exercise. It’s great for balancing up weak areas thus enabling you to work harder on your main lifts. They also are good for health as they promote good range of motion through the knee and especially the hip.
If you’re new to single leg training start with Step Ups; if you’re an experienced lifter then have fun trying BSS. If Lunges don’t hurt then mix these into your routine from time to time.
Time to get to it.