Using the Single Leg Squat to Test Leg Health

What Is A Single Leg Squat?

A single leg squat is a type of exercise which involves performing one or both legs at the same time while keeping your body upright with knees bent and toes pointed outwards. The movement of the feet is performed without any assistance from other muscles such as glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, etc. You may perform single leg squats with dumbbells or barbells.

Single leg squats are often used in rehabilitation programs for lower back pain. They are also commonly used as part of resistance training programs to improve muscle endurance and strength.

The Single Leg Squat Test

There are two types of single leg squat tests: the single-leg squat test (SLS) and the double-leg squat test (DLST). Both tests measure different things; however, they have some common features.

The SLS measures the ability of a person’s hamstring muscles to resist torque produced by gravity during the movement of their foot. If a person has good hamstring flexibility, then he/she will not experience undue strain when performing this exercise. However, if the person does not have enough hamstring flexibility to prevent excessive stress on the knee joint, then it may indicate weakness in that area.

The double-leg squat test measures strength in the major muscles of the thigh, particularly in the quadriceps and hip muscles. A person with a strong leg musculature will be able to perform several repetitions of this exercise without significant fatigue. This is not an indicator of overall physical fitness but rather how strong the leg muscles are.

The SLS is most common test used by physical therapists in assessing the hamstring flexibility. The test can also be applied to measure hip flexibility, particularly in women, who typically have more flexibility in this area.

You will need a flat surface such as a therapy table or floor to perform this test. You may also use a chair if you are performing the seated version of the test and have sufficient balance and strength to do so.

The video below shows a physical therapist performing the single leg squat test on a patient.

Using the Single Leg Squat to Test Leg Health - GymFitWorkout

Norms For The Single Leg Squat:

In order to perform the single leg squat correctly, you must have sufficient hamstring flexibility otherwise you will not be able to perform the movement without putting stress on your knee joint. It is important that you do not strain yourself when performing this test as doing so can cause injury.

This test is often used as an indicator of hamstring flexibility and the results are compared to similar age and gender groups. It is best to seek out a physical therapist or other medical professional to assess your performance in order to prevent injury and to interpret the results correctly.

Physical therapists often use several different types of tests to measure flexibility but the single leg squat is one which can be self-administered by the patient.

In order to perform the SLS, you will need a flat surface such as a therapy table or floor. You may use a chair if you’re performing the seated version of the test and have sufficient balance and strength to do so. Sit on the edge of your seat (or the floor) with one foot flat on the ground, keeping your knee bent at about a 90 degree angle.

Keeping your other foot flat on the ground, stand up on your toes so that your legs forms a straight line from your heel to your head. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat at least 5 times. Set a timer for 1 minute and continue performing the exercise. If you can perform more than 5 repetitions before the time limit then you do not have adequate hamstring flexibility.

Your foot should remain flat on the ground at all times during this exercise. Do not push off with your other foot and do not “dangle” in the air. This could place stress on your knee joint and may cause injury.

If you find that you are unable to perform this test, there are several steps you can take to improve your flexibility. The easiest way is to perform an active stretching routine 2-3 times per week. You can also perform the SLS daily to increase your flexibility. If you continue to have difficulty, seek out the help of a physical therapist.

Physical therapists are able to provide exercises and techniques to help improve your flexibility. If performed correctly, these will help to prevent injury and may also improve your strength, balance and agility.

Using the Single Leg Squat to Test Leg Health - at GYMFITWORKOUT

If you’re uncertain about how to perform the single leg squat test or you experience any pain while performing the test, seek out the help of a physical therapist or other medical professional.

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Disclaimer: This web site is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. All information is intended for educational purposes only. Persons experiencing medical problems should consult with their doctor or other healthcare professional. If you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

Sources & references used in this article:

Effect of sex and fatigue on single leg squat kinematics in healthy young adults by BK Weeks, CP Carty, SA Horan – BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 2015 – Springer

Performance on the single-leg squat task indicates hip abductor muscle function by KM Crossley, WJ Zhang, AG Schache… – … American journal of …, 2011 –

The effect of a hip-strengthening program on mechanics during running and during a single-leg squat by RW Willy, IS Davis – Journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 2011 –

Trunk, pelvis, hip, and knee kinematics, hip strength, and gluteal muscle activation during a single-leg squat in males and females with and without patellofemoral pain … by TH Nakagawa, ÉTU Moriya, CD Maciel… – Journal of orthopaedic & …, 2012 –

Relationship between hip and knee strength and knee valgus during a single leg squat by TL Claiborne, CW Armstrong… – Journal of applied …, 2006 –

Frontal and transverse plane hip kinematics and gluteus maximus recruitment correlate with frontal plane knee kinematics during single-leg squat tests in women by JH Hollman, CM Galardi, IH Lin, BC Voth… – Clinical …, 2014 – Elsevier