My Troubles with Single Leg Exercises

January 24, 2009

Today since I’m in a sort of “homework groove”, I feel like I have some ammo for a blog post…we’ll see how it goes…

Among proponents of functional training (REAL functional training, not that bosu ball, stand on one foot with your eyes closed crap), single leg training is a significant part of any strength training program. But for the sake of program design balance this is too simple; there’s different classifications of single leg exercises that we need for different reasons in a program.

Dont confuse functional training with this!!!!!...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't confuse functional training with this!!!!!...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t want to get too complex since this isn’t a full article, so a simple distinction is that some single leg exercises can be classified as supported single leg exercises and obviosuly on the flipside, you have unsupported exercises.

In supported exercises the working leg is supported by having the non-working leg in contact with the ground too. In unsupported exercises, only the working leg is in contact with the ground.

From the description, you can see that one will require more of a balance component (unsupported) than the other (supported).

So back to the title of this post…

My troubles lie in the unsupported exercises…in one leg only (my right). Knowing my history of playing baseball for all those years, it really isn’t that surprising considering the lower body mechanics of throwing and hitting from one side: one side always is the stabilizing side and the other is the power producing side.

Rear-foot elevated split squat

Single leg supported exercise: Rear-foot elevated split squat

Relating this to unsupported lower body exercises, my left leg, having a high stability demand from all those years of playing baseball, doesn’t have a problem with these exercises. I can keep my balance easily and as such, its pretty easy for me to ensure that I’m actually performing the exercises PROPERLY.

Over to my right leg…he’s a fickle lil’ bugger! For whatever reason (there’s more than just baseball), I have pretty poor balance. This makes proper execution of the exercises tougher since at times I’m more concerned with being able to maintain my balance.

With all that said, what have I done to work on this/my “tips”??

1. Work your less stable leg before your stable leg. Regardless of what kind of single leg exercise I do, I always do all reps of a set with my right leg first! Thsi way your not fatigued yet, so that little bit of extra focus can be applied.

2. Do what you suck at — OFTEN!!
What I’ve done in my program now is put single leg deadlifts two days a week, that way I’m creating an increased need for adaptation for my body. What I’ve noticed is that my balance has started to come around rather quickly, compared to when I would try the lift for only one day a week and never seem to get anywhere.

Avariation of the single leg deadlift

On top of these two tips, a little persistence goes a long way. You should never just drop an exercise because you’re not seeing results right away — especially if its a motor control adaptation you’re looking for.

If you have played other sports, or if you haven’t played sports at all, have you or haven’t you noticed problems performing single leg exercises?? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the weightroom!!

Happy Saturday!!


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