Single leg strength is an often neglected component in many people’s training programs. Single leg exercises can help improve your strength on bilateral movements but also improve your mobility and stability in your ankles, knees, and hips. Most single exercises can be used as a regression or progression for bilateral movements and they can benefit all trainees from novice to advanced.

Here are my top single leg strength exercises…

The Lateral Lunge

The lateral lunge is definitely a forgotten and neglected movement pattern for many people. It provides extra benefit by strengthening the quads and glutei while working in the frontal plane of motion (lateral -> side to side movement) which most people are lacking in their movement diet.

The lateral lunge should be performed by starting with the feet together, from the starting position step on leg out as wide as you while bending the knee, keeping your chest up, and pushing your hips back. Be sure to keep your non-moving leg straight as you step out (you don’t want your knee to bend.) From here, press your foot on the working leg into the ground and extend the knee and hip so you can step back in to the starting position. Complete 10-15 reps on one leg, and then do the other leg.

View this post on Instagram

Single leg exercises are imperative if you're looking to strengthen, stabilize, and bulletproof your ankles, knees, and hips from injuries. While they're not movements suited towards super heavy loading, they still deserve a place in any strength, power, hypertrophy, or general preparation exercise program. _ Today we are going over the lateral lunge, which is one of my favourite movements for hip stability. It's also unique and tremendously beneficial because it allows you to work in the frontal plane of motion (side to side) instead of sagittal (forward and backward.) Working in different planes of motion can help with developing good motor skills, overall athleticism, and preventing joint overuse – making it a great choice for nearly everybody. _ To perform the lateral lunge, start with your feet together. Step out laterally, while keeping the planted leg straight. From there push off of the travelling leg and bring the feet back together. Repeat as desired. This movement can prevent some unique challenges in terms of coordination and flexibility, I've found that most people with a little bit of practice are able to perform it correctly. With the lateral lunge, it's best that beginners start without external load and then progress to using external load as they develop strength and proficiency. _ Have you tried the lateral lunge before? If not try it out, and let me know how it goes. _ Are you ready to be strong and stable in your ankles, knees, and hips? Send me a direct message to get started with coaching by yours truly.

A post shared by Coach Maja (@majathestrong) on

The Split Squat

The split squat is one of my “GO TO” exercises for novice trainees, especially those that struggle with the traditional squat. It can help to ingrain proper movement patterning for bilateral movements and it provides a great stretch through hip for those that are overly tight.

To do the split squat, get into a long and wide stance. Think of your stance as wanting to be standing on train tracks versus standing on a tight rope. From here, while keeping the torso upright, push the knee forward and down as far as you can on the front leg while bending the rear leg to accommodate this movement. Do not rest or kneel on the floor at the bottom position, from the bottom press your toes and heels from the front leg into the ground as hard as you can and return to the starting position. Perform 8-12 repetitions of this exercises. Start by doing the movement unloaded and then progressing to loading it with cables, dumbbells, and barbells over time.

View this post on Instagram

The split squat, while technically not lunge, falls into the category of single leg quadricep dominant leg exercises, and thus is included in my programming as a "lunge" type movement. _ The split squat is an amazing exercise to help develop stability of the ankles, knees. and hips. And even for myself has always been a staple in terms of managing structural balance in my hips to prevent inflammation and pain in my sacroiliac joint. _ To perform the split squat, you are going stand in a long split stance with some width between your feet. Think you want your legs to be separated like train tracks rather than standing on a tight rope, this will help you maintain your balance. The front leg is going to be firmly planted in the ground, and the heel on the rear leg is going to be elevated, make sure to keep the hips and shoulders square during your set up and as you perform the exercise. To do the split squat, lower yourself down by bending both knees, and driving the knee on the front leg forward. Once at the bottom (just shy of touching the ground.) Press through your toes and heel on the front through the ground to extend the knee and return to the starting position. Complete all your reps on one side, and then proceed to do the require reps on the alternate side. _ Similar to the other single exercises, these movements are best used with higher repetitions and light to moderate weights. Sure, you can load a split squat as heavily as humanly possible, but that's usually better left for bilateral movements like squats and deadlifts where it makes more sense to work at higher intensities. I find that split squats are best performed for 8 to 12 repetitions depending on my clients goals and needs. _ Have you done split squats before? If not, you're in for a treat. If you ready to have a strong and stable body, click the link in my bio to fill out my online coaching application.

A post shared by Coach Maja (@majathestrong) on

The Reverse Lunge

The reverse lunge is one of my favourite exercises for developing the glutes, it is even more beneficial if you perform it with a deficit starting position. To perform the reverse lunge, start by standing with your feet together. From the starting position, step one foot back while bending the front knee. Lower yourself so you stop just shy of the floor. Exhale and return to the starting position. You can feel free to alternate your legs, or perform as all the reps on one leg and then on the other for each set. Perform the reverse lunge for 8-12 reps per leg. Add additional loads as you see fit – but don’t be too eager to make this exercise too heavy.

The Cossack Squat

The Cossack squat is one of my favourite movements for developing hip mobility and stability. It does require a good foundation of mobility in order to perform with a full range of motion, but partial ranges can be beneficial as well. I usually do not recommend performing Cossack squats with external load, but you can use your discretion when deciding if you like to add additional weight.

Set up for the Cossack squat by getting into a very stance with the knees extending and toes turned out. Lower yourself down into a squat position on one side making sure to keeping the knee inline with your middle toe. Once you’ve hit your bottom depth, your torso should be relatively upright. Press the foot of the bent knee into the ground while also using the stretched/straight leg to pull yourself back to your starting position. Alternate legs on each repetition. Perform for 8-12 reps or as you see fit.

By placing the arms in front of you while doing the Cossack squat you create a counter balance, which can be helpful in regard to staying more upright during the movement.

View this post on Instagram

The Cossack squat is a great exercise that can be used as part of warm-up or directly in a program to strengthen the hips and legs while working in the frontal plane. While the exercise will strengthen the the muscles on the leg that bends it will simultaneously stretch the muscles on the straight leg. _ To perform the Cossack squat, set up in a wide stance with the toes turned outward. From here squat down on one leg as low as you can while maintaining an upright torso position and keeping the opposite leg straight. From the bottom, press the foot of the working leg through the ground and exhale as you straighten the knee to return to the wide standing position. From here alternate legs and repeat the process on the other leg. Alternate back and forth until you complete your sets. Make sure that when you are squatting down, to prevent the bending from track inwards you want purposefully rotate the knee outward and keep it inline with your toes. _ I find the Cossack squat is best when utilized between the rep ranges of 8-12, but of course there are situations where working outside of these rep ranges could be beneficial as well. With my clients, I’ll generally use the Cossack squat in their warm-ups or as a single leg strength exercise for accessory to their other lower body movements. I also find that working on exercises in the frontal plane, such as the Cossack squat, can be great for developing the glutes. _ Have you ever included Cossack squats in your programming? You may find that they’ll leave your hips stronger and more stable while developing some mass on your glutes. _ Do you want to grow a robust pair of glutes? Reach out to me via direct message to get started with online coaching. 📩

A post shared by Coach Maja (@majathestrong) on

Now that you have at least four exercise to add into your single leg strength work, you’re well on your way to getting stronger and having more stable ankles, knees, and hips. They key is to use them at the right time for the right purpose 🙂

If you need more help on your fitness journey, please feel free to reach out via the “Coaching” page on this website to get in touch in regards to personal training (downtown Toronto) or remote online coaching.

Share: