While bilateral squats are excellent exercises to strengthen the lower body, adding one leg squat progressions to your fitness program challenges the lower body musculature (i.e. quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, hip abductors/adductors) in a unilateral fashion requiring additional stabilization and balance.
Below are 10 great one-leg squat progressions. Keep in mind that one-leg squats are very challenging and may not be appropriate for those with certain knee or lower back limitations. Always begin with the foundational exercise first and it is recommended to consult a qualified, certified and experienced trainer, prior to attempting one-leg squats, to ensure your safety and effectiveness.
Progression one will provide you with the foundation exercise description progressing to the more advanced and challenging to enable you to choose the best fit for you. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, consult your physician.
• Begin with the head/neck in neutral, rib cage lifted, navel pulled toward the spine, pelvic floor muscles engaged, knees relaxed and weight in the heels, tall torso throughout. Choose one of the progressions and perform 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions on each side, two/three nonconsecutive days/week mastering each progression prior to moving to the next.
Progression 1 - One Leg Squat - Fundamentals - Supported
• Begin standing next to a ballet barre facing sideways, your right shoulder on the outside, left shoulder next to the barre, left hand holding the barre lightly.
• Legs are hip width apart, shoulders/hips/knees/toes are facing the same direction.
• Lift the right leg so that the foot is slightly off the floor, close enough to re-establish balance if needed.
• Hinging from the hip joint, aiming the tailbone to the wall behind you, lower the body down toward the floor, no lower than 90 degrees at the left knee joint, body weight in the left heel (i.e. you should be able to "wiggle" your left toes throughout), left knee tracking over left heel to shoe laces, never over toes.
• Then, drive through the left heel and return to the beginning position.
Progression 2 - Unsupported
• Attempt the one-leg squat at the barre without holding onto the barre.
Progression 3 - Free-standing
• Unsupported, free standing away from the barre, perform the one-leg squat.
Progression 4 - External resistance - unilateral- begin with light external resistance
• Unsupported, free standing away from the barre, add one dumbbell/kettlebell in the hand of the supporting foot.
Progression 5 - External resistance - bilateral
• Unsupported, free standing away from the barre, a dumbbell/kettlebell in each hand.
Progression 6 - Elevated/Supported
•-Standing on a four-inch step, holding the barre as in progression number one, balancing on the step, performing the one-leg squat.
Progression 7 - Elevated/Unsupported
• Standing on a four-inch step, next to, but not holding the barre, balancing on the step, and perform the one-leg squat.
Progression 8 - Increased Elevation
• Gradually elevate the height of the step (i.e. from 4-12 inches, mastering the one-leg squat at each height prior to increasing elevation), balancing on the step, perform the one-leg squat.
Progression 9 - Elevated/External Resistance/Unilateral
• On the elevated step, balancing, holding a dumbbell/kettlebell in the hand of the supporting foot, perform the one-leg squat.
Progression 10 - Elevated/External Resistance/Bilateral
• On the elevated step, balancing, holding a dumbbell/kettlebell in each hand, perform the one-leg squat.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She may be reached at her website at www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net, her blog at www.skyhidailynews.com and her Facebook page at Never Summer Fitness.