If you could add one exercise to your routine, that could be done anywhere and would improve your sports performance, strength, balance, flexibility and joint mobility the Single leg squat would definitely be a contender. Sometimes referred to as the Pistol the one legged squat works the body in a whole new way as it requires co-ordination and movement that are non-existent in bilateral movements.
During daily life we rely on using one leg at a time for balance, quick shifts in movement and pretty much everything we do.
Why then do we train our legs together all the time? Obviously bilateral movements (Squats, Dead-lifts) are great to build compound strength but unilateral movements are neglected especially when it comes to the lower body. This is a shame as we miss out on all the benefits that come with unilateral training, which are especially important for the legs which rely on being used individually.
So what exactly is a pistol? You basically stand on one leg, with the other leg out and in front of you. Hands are kept out to the side to maintain balance. Next sit back down, as if sitting on a low chair. At this point your hamstring/glute should be resting on your calf. From here stand up again….. Easier said than done, therefore most people will need to progress with this movement even if at an advanced level of fitness. Here is the progression of the Pistol I like to use:
Single Leg Step Up
Single leg swiss ball pistol
Progression to full movement
For most people the full pistol is out of reach for the time being and it will take dedication and time to work towards it. This doesn’t mean that the more supported versions are not of use. If you take one thing from this post it should be the importance of working each leg as an individual as well as bilaterally.
Sets of 8-12 reps using the Single leg swiss ball pistol as shown in the seconds video can be demanding for anyone, if you need more resistance you can add some light dumbbells in each hand. Also take note that the Lunge is somewhere between both types of movement.
Give the single leg squat or its variations a try on a consistant basis – try to progress the movement as far as you can or as close as you can to doing a full pistol. It may take some dedication but the pay off will be great as you will see your performance in almost everything you do improve. Also try to throw a few of the variations into your training routine for a dynamic approach to lower body training.
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