The importance of single leg exercises

I have had this topic come up with clients recently

The fact is, we feel a workout is so much more intense when single leg exercises are done. Single leg work/exercises - also known as unilateral work/exercises. You may ask why. Think about how all the effort is only being performed by one side of your body. So it becomes that much more concentrated. There is nowhere to run (or compensate). And your stronger side cannot take over and make it easier on the weaker. Each side of the body has to work equally as hard.

There’s a bodybuilding saying that goes,

“the squat may be the King of leg exercises, but even Kings needs courts”

And this applies to unilateral leg work. These kinds of exercises engage the smaller muscles which aren't matched with both your legs. Gaining more balance and strength this way is not uncommon. Think about the pistol squat, when you remove one leg from the movement you lose your stability base. It becomes so much more difficult than your normal squat. Even in a movement like the Bulgarian lunge. The back foot is placed on a surface, it doesn’t have any major effect in assisting with the movement.


Have I convinced you enough yet?

An added benefit would be that it is perfect for post injury rehab. A rather safe option, provided you focus on slow and body-weight movements.


Here are some of the best unilateral exercises to use:

-Single leg deadlifts
-Bulgarian lunges
-Step ups
-Single leg press
-Side lunges (try these with your Fit Band)
-Pistol squats

In fact, do this as a workout for your next leg day.

I would recommend only 3 sets of each for 10-15 reps depending on your strength.

Let us know how it goes, though I know you will love it.


Isilda Da Costa is a personal trainer and women’s fitness specialist who, if she isn’t at the gym training, is busy researching the most up to date information for growing those muscles. She has combined her love of everything healthy by being a health coach in her own health shop in Swaziland. Follow along on @izzy.healthandfitness

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