From The Trainer’s Room: Single-leg exercises can be used to improve performance
For ages, the squat was the most widely used exercise to improve lower body strength. As the strength and conditioning profession has evolved, the emphasis has switched to single-leg exercises to improve strength, power, stability and performance.
Single-leg strengthening will improve strength in the hips more effectively and this increase in stability will help prevent common injuries such as ankle and knee sprains.
Here are three single-leg strength exercises that are most commonly utilized. All exercises can be performed in 3-5 sets of 6-12 repetitions. Begin the exercises without weight. As you master the exercise, begin using an external load such as dumbbells, kettlebells or a bar.
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat: Stand on one leg with the back leg up on a bench or box. Then lower your body down towards the ground until the thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep rear foot pointed out so it does not assist with the squat, drop the hips back and down to load the glutes and keep the shoulder hip, knee and foot in alignment without any inward translation.
Lateral Lunge: Step out to the side lunging laterally. Keys are to keep the hips back sitting into the lunge and powering back up to the starting position.
Single-Leg Straight Leg Dead Lift: Stand on a straight leg, reaching down to the ground with the opposite arm as the opposite leg remains straight and raises up until parallel to the ground. Keys are to keep the hips level and the exercise should be felt in the back of the leg and hip and not the low back.
Chris Phillips is a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist and a former NHL athletic trainer.