The “Why” of Single Leg Training

Back in our founding days around 2011 when we made the unsexy decision to treat single leg training (SLT) with the same respect in our programming cycles as the bigger, more glamorous lifts, we knew it would be an uphill battle in convincing folks to attend those days with the same regularity and squats, deadlifts, cleans, and the like.

You can’t really PR in single leg movements to the same degree of excitement, the load is not usually something that triggers the dopamine rush of satisfaction, and it leaves you quite, quite sore.

While there is mixed literature on whether or not SLT it directly contributes to strength in bilateral movements like squats and deadlifts, it stands to reason that no one ever got weaker by training the individual parts that make up the sum. If your individual legs get stronger, then working together they must be stronger, as well. So we’re not really here to discuss their contribution to strength.

Where SLT really moves the needle is in its ability to build balance and resilience. For athletes, it is also obviously more functional, as the only sport performed by exclusively producing power off of both legs at the same time is rowing. For humans, we all walk and run. Most of us don’t go broad jumping around town.

The technical component at play in single leg work is that it forces the glute medius (side butt), adductors (inner thighs), and QL (tiny low back muscle important for spinal health) all to be called upon as primary stabilizers. These are very important muscles that usually operate in a very muted manner during bilateral movements. Only when we get into a single-leg position do they get called upon to any degree that is beneficial. If we never work these muscles, we set ourselves up for postural imbalance and subsequent lower back pain.

SLT also teaches deceleration in a way that bilateral movements cannot. If we can learn to be strong and stable through the eccentric component of a lunge, it will go a long ways towards keeping the knees, hips, and low back healthy.

Ensure that you go light enough so that you can be in control of the movement but heavy enough to feel gassed each set. If you are letting heavy weight slam you into the floor, you’re not really stabilizing much, and you lose valuable benefit.

Go all in on SLT this month and try and take careful note of how you feel following this cycle.