Back squats, front squats, and deadlifts will always be the best exercises for developing strength, improving performance, adding muscle, and improving natural bodily movements. These exercises do provide the most benefit, however they should not be the only exercises you should be performing when training your lower body.
Although squats and deadlifts - and other variations of these - should make up the bulk of your lower body training, single-leg exercises should supplement your main lifts. By supplementing your main lifts with single-leg exercises, you are able to help fix contralateral (opposite) leg strength imabalances, improve hip strength and activation, and also improve sport performance.
Most people have a stronger leg that compensates for the weaker leg when performing squats, deadlifts, or any exercise working both legs at the same time. By performing single-leg exercises you are able to (mostly) isolate one leg and perform the movement focusing on that leg. This allows you to strengthen the weaker leg without having the stronger leg compensate.
Single-leg exercises also work the hips extremely hard. This is important because a lot of people have weak hips due to excessive sitting. Excessive sitting causes the glutes to become weak or even in-active. This is HUGE problem because your gluteus maximus is perhaps the most impotant muscle in your body.
Also, due to the fact that most people do not spend much time moving laterally, their adductors and abductors become weak as well. Single-leg exercises are a great way to strengthen these muscles, even though you might not be moving laterally.
Lastly, when playing sports, how often are you entirely on both feet? Not very often. Sports are played with your weight constantly shifting and moving from one foot to the other. If you play sports where you may spend the majority of your time on one leg, wouldn't it make sense to spend some time training on one leg?
So what single-leg exercises should you be performing?
- Lunges: stationary, reverse, forward, lateral,
- Step-ups: stationary, dynamic
- Bulgerian split squats
- Single-leg RDL
- Single-leg hip thrust
- Pistol squat
- Single-leg plyometric
Variations of each of these exercises can also be performed for who are even more advanced.
The bottom line is, single-leg exercises offer a great deal of benefits. You need to be doing single-leg exercises. Period. Everyone can benefit from them.
Till next time,