Lower Body Training and the Need for Developing Single Leg Strength

Post Attributed to Glenn Steele MA, ATC, CSCS and FAST Facility Manager at the South Gilbert Location.

Lower body training has changed significantly over the last decade. The most important change seen in this field has been the advent of single leg exercises, in addition to traditional double leg exercises, in lower body training programs. The most important change seen have solely relied on double leg exercises; some still do. Yet, it is a recent revelation that these exercises actually have little to no transfer to athletic sports. The movement patterns practiced in double leg exercises do not often transfer to the athletic movements needed to play these sports. I believe in the benefits of using some double leg exercises. For example, the Sumo squat, also known as the Goblet squat, and hex bar deadlift are two of my favorites, but I focus a majority of my lower body training programs on single leg exercises such as the single leg RDL, split squat, single leg squat, and multi plane lunges.

Why single leg strength exercises? Simply put, how many sports are played with both feet in contact with the ground at the same time?

Sprinting, cutting, and most jumping during the course of an athletic event are single leg dominant tasks. Single leg strength is very specific and cannot be developed with double leg exercises because the stabilizing muscles of the pelvis (the gluteus medius, adductors or inner thigh muscles, and the quadratus lumborum) are stressed differently when performing single leg movements than when performing double leg movements. These pelvic stabilizers are necessary to the development of the sports skills mentioned above, but their stabilizer function is not used when performing double leg exercises.

These exercises, when performed with female athletes, can also greatly reduce the likelihood of ACL tears because they focus on developing the main stabilizers of the knee, which traditionally tend to be very weak in high school aged female athletes: the glutes, the hamstrings and the adductors

At the Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training Gilbert location, we start most of our athletes off with body-weight loads for the split squat, single leg RDL, single leg squat and lunges, then progress to gradually heavier loads as their stabilization strength increases. We have seen great improvements in our athletes and clients overall lower body strength, balance and power output as a result of focusing on single leg training.

Glenn Steele

MA, ATC, CSCS | South Gilbert

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).