The single leg squat is one of the most underutilised and underrated exercises of all time.
With the comeback of barbell squats and deadlifts, stabilisation variations have left the public focus.
Why are single leg squats so important and what can they be used for?
- Rehabilitation purposes
From ‘runners knee’ to reducing axial loading on the spine while conditioning the legs, the single leg squat is a multipurpose exercise in rehab.
- Deloading weeks
In athletic program design, deloading weeks are an important and integral process for achievement. Reducing the intensity percentage of training for a designated period of time can help athletes improve their strength and power due to the recovery involved in the central nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Single leg squats can be used to great effect instead of the punishing barbel back squat with an emphasis on function.
How to perform the single leg squat:
1. Ankle and calf mobility/flexibility is essential here. If you don’t have the movement ability it’s impossible to do as you will likely fall backwards, so work on this first if need be!
2. Like the above video, straightening the leg that is off the ground out in front of you like a pistol grants better balance, posture and focus. Hamstring flexibility work may be needed.
3. Focus on a firm base of support with the foot on the ground with around 70 to 80% of your weight going through the heel and the rest going towards the balls of your feet. What you don’t want to do is have your heel come off the ground, this can result in instability for the exercise and pressure on the ACL.
4. Gluteus maximus, hamstrings and quads will be doing most of the work here. They are the prime movers. Stabiliser muscles like the piriformis and gluteus medius will also be under load while stabilising. Point being, due to the fact that many people aren’t used to using the gluteus maximus correctly (because of sitting down all day at a desk or Netflix), you may need glute conditioning before attempting this exercise.
5. In terms of the movement itself, it’s important to control the eccentric downward motion so that you don’t bounce off the bottom position into the concentric lift. I would suggest a two second downward motion and one second upward motion to begin.
Most importantly, have fun!