Single Leg Strength Training
It was not until I had both my ACL’s reconstructed and had to commit to doing physical therapy everyday for months to regain my strength and speed, I did not realize the importance of Single Leg Training. This part of training is often ignored in programs but I found out is essential to the improvement of speed and the prevention of injury. Single leg strength is the essence of lower body strength. I mean when we sprint, walk up stairs or even walk, we have one foot in contact with the ground; not two. That is why I believe that in most programs whether sports or weekend warrior training that double leg squatting is less functional. A majority of strength programs focus on double leg exercises such as squats, leg presses and nonfunctioning exercises such as leg curls and extensions which add more torque to your knees that anything else. That is why I as the question how many sports are played with both feet in contact with the ground at the same time? almost all sport skills are performed on one leg. Even those that are training for marathons, mud runs, and triathlons, I express the importance of single leg training as this will help your lower extremities become stronger and more powerful as you run and give you more endurance at the end of your competitions.
Single leg training is specific and cannot be developed through double leg exercises. When you are stabilizing and working on core balance the hip stabilizers are different than in double leg exercises. In fact doing single leg exercises causes the gluteus medius and adductor group to act as stabilizers which are important in sports. Single leg strength is being recognized as a key in injury reduction and is becoming a main factor in injury reconditioning and knee injury prevention.
Here at MRSPFitness we use different single leg exercises and advance our clients based on stability, core advancement and technique and try not to do less than 5 reps when doing these exercises.
LEVEL 1-SPLIT SQUATS
This becomes a great exercise for alternative training for anyone with a history of back pain. Here try to contract the glutes of the back leg to stabilize. (Bodyweight, DB, Barbell on Back, Barbell in Front, Barbell in Overhead position)
LEVEL 2-ONE LEG BENCH-BOX SQUAT(RFESS-Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat)
Here there is only one stable point on the floor and a less stable point on a box or bench. This exercise becomes more difficult because of more bodyweight on the front foot and stability is decreased by the back foot position.
LEVEL 3-SLIDEBOARD BACK LUNGE
The benefit of a slide board is that it can be considered a knee dominant and hip dominant exercise. With the front leg you get the hip dominant portion as you have to pull your self up with the front leg (pull foot as if you have gum on the bottom of your shoe). With the back leg you get a stretch in the hip flexor which is an added component.
LEVEL 4-ONE LEG BOX SQUAT (BALANCE SQUAT)
This becomes a balance squat because you take the other leg away and this requires the use of a single leg without the benefit of the opposite leg touching the ground or bench. This works the muscle stabilization in the pelvic muscle which is needed in all sprinting actions. Once you get over the unsteadiness and unbalances after the first few times you will notice a greater increase in proprioception.
This is just my interpretation of the importance of single leg exercises. The practical and functional anatomical evidence is too great to ignore.