Single Leg Exercise 1: The Knee Tuck
The knee tuck is one of the most common exercises performed during single leg exercise routine. This exercise involves pulling your knees toward each other while keeping them straight. You will perform this exercise when doing any type of leg workout routine.
Benefits of Knees Tucking:
It improves flexibility and range of motion in your legs.
You can improve balance and coordination in your lower body muscles.
Benefits of Straight Legs:
Straight legs are considered as the strongest leg muscle group. They are very useful for many activities such as running, jumping, climbing stairs or just walking around the house without falling down.
Benefits of Knees Tucked:
Knees tucked gives better stability in your lower back. Your spine may feel less tight and you might experience better posture.
How to Perform Knee Tuck:
Lie face up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place both hands behind your head and pull your knees towards each other until they touch each other. Keep them together but do not lock them yet! Slowly straighten your legs back out without letting your feet or knees touch the floor first. To return to starting position bend your knees and let them come together again.
Single Leg Training 2: The Hip Tap
The hip tap is a single leg exercise that can be done while you are sitting down. It can be easily integrated into rest periods during your normal weight training routine. It can also be used as a warm up to prepare your legs for more difficult exercises on other days.
Benefits of the Hip Tap:
It relieves lower back pain by strengthening your core. This can enable you to get better posture and have less aching back after a long day of sitting.
It helps improve flexibility in your hip flexors as well as your adductors. This makes them more effective for sports that require a lot of side to side motion such as soccer or hockey.
How to Perform the Hip Tap:
Sit on a chair with your legs straight out in front of you. Your knees should be slightly bent. Place your hands on top of your knees. Now tap your right knee with your left hand and then tap your left knee with your right hand. Next, tap your right knee with your right and then tap your left knee with your left hand.
Continue alternating until you reach 100 reps.
Single Leg Training 3: The Calf Stretch
How to Perform a Calf Stretch:
Stand facing a wall with your feet about one foot away from it. Your toes should be pointing straight ahead. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height. Step forward with your right leg and slowly move your hips forward until you feel tension in the back of your right calf. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds then switch legs and do the same with the left leg.
Benefits of the Calf Stretch:
It helps loosen up your calves before and after exercise.
It can be used to increase the range of motion in your lower legs.
Guidelines for Single Leg Training:
Always use proper form when doing single leg exercises.
Keep your abdominal muscles contracted during all exercises. This helps to stabilize your spine and protect your back.
Breathe naturally as you go through the exercises. Do not hold your breath.
Perform 1 – 3 sets of each exercise before moving on to the next part of your workout routine.
Rest 1 – 2 minutes between each set.
Always use light weights when performing these exercises. You are working one side of your body at a time so you do not need to do too much.
Do not work up a sweat when performing these exercises. Keep the intensity low and the movements slow and controlled.
Not All Single Leg Exercises are Created Equal
There are many single leg exercises that you can do but only a few of them are actually worth doing.
Here are some guidelines for choosing which exercises to do and which ones to avoid:
Avoid all exercises where you are lying on your back and lifting your legs in the air. Besides looking incredibly silly this type of exercise puts too much strain on your lower back.
Lunges, step-ups and calf raises are all great exercises.
When doing abductor or adductor machines make sure to use both legs at the same time or you will not get much of a benefit.
Do not do any exercise where you are sitting and only moving one leg back and forth. This is a useless exercise that will only serve to take up time in your workout.
Stick with these guidelines and you will get great benefits from single leg training.
Single Leg Training 2.0
Once you become comfortable with the single leg exercises in phase one, it is time to move on to phase two. In this phase we are going to begin mixing in some balance drills.
As with the previous phase, I want you to start with one new exercise every week. This way your body has time to adapt and you reduce your chances of getting injured.
The first exercise is the table top. In this exercise you will again be working one side at a time but this time you will actually lift your whole body off of the ground instead of just your legs.
Start by kneeling on the ground and then slowly lift yourself up until you are kneeling on top of a table, bench or any other sturdy horizontal surface that is about knee high.
Remember to keep your back straight and only raise up as far as you can while maintaining good posture.
Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg. When that becomes easy, you can increase the difficulty by raising one leg in the air at a time.
If you want an even greater challenge you can raise one leg and the opposite arm at the same time (left leg/right arm or right leg/left arm). This is very challenging so only attempt it if you feel completely comfortable with the regular table top.
The second exercise I want you to start doing is wall sits. This is another static exercise and just like with the table top start by holding for 15 to 30 seconds and working up from there.
The start position is simple. Stand with your back against a wall and slowly slide down the wall until you are in a sitting position. Your legs do not have to be stretched out in front of you, just whatever position is comfortable.
Once you are comfortable execute the movement slowly and deliberately. As with the table top hold for a period of time and then slowly rise back up. If this is too easy you can raise up one leg or both for an added challenge.
The last exercise I want to introduce in phase two is jumping. I know this may seem out of place but bear with me. Start by simply jumping as high as you can off of both feet.
When that becomes easy, raise one leg at a time until you are jumping off of one foot. This forces your balance to be better and more dynamic than when you were just jumping off of both feet at the same time.
Once you are comfortable with two foot jumps, try three and then four. When you are comfortable with four raise one leg at a time.
After a month or so of doing these exercises you can either move on to the next phase or continue on with this one. It’s up to you and whatever your goals are. If your goal is to be able to run fast and you are past the beginner’s stage then you may want to move on.
If however you are more concerned about long distance running and want to improve your endurance beyond what you could ever achieve with regular running or jogging, then you may want to stay in this phase a little longer.
I should warn you though that if your goal is to improve your fighting ability, then staying in this phase longer will not help you much and you are probably better off moving on to the next phase.
Sources & references used in this article:
The effects of a 6-week plyometric training program on agility by MG Miller, JJ Herniman, MD Ricard… – Journal of sports …, 2006 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
The influence of gender and somatotype on single-leg upright standing postural stability in children by TO Bompa – 1993 – Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press; …
Shortboard performance surfing: A qualitative assessment of maneuvers and a sample periodized strength and conditioning program in and out of the water by G Cook – 2010 – On Target Publications