by Adelle Smener, DPT
A large part of the population probably works on squatting as part of their regular exercise routine, but can we say the same for single leg squats? Maybe we don’t see the point? Or maybe they're too hard? Or maybe the thought has never even crossed our mind? But that's all about to change!
There are so many great benefits of the single leg squat, making it one of my favorite exercises as a clinician. Similarly to a double leg squat, it can help with quad strengthening, but rather than 50% of your bodyweight on one leg, you have 100% of your bodyweight on one leg, increasing the demand two-fold on the involved muscles of that leg. It's also a great exercise for your glutes - and who doesn’t love a good glute exercise! The best part about this glute exercise is that it’s functional. Unlike the go-to clam or bridge, the SL squat demonstrates the ability of your glutes to work in real-life situations. Your gluteus medius should be working hard to keep your pelvis even and your knee in line with your ankle and hip. Your gluteus maximus should be working just as hard as your quads to help stand up tall at the end. Last but not least, it tests your balance. Single leg squats challenge dynamic single leg balance, which is essential in all sports.
From a clinical/PT perspective, not only is this a great exercise for strengthening, balance and control, but it's a key objective measure in the clinic to assess readiness to progress to higher level activities that require single leg stability and strength, such as jogging, running, cutting and other return-to-sport training.
Single leg squats may sound intimidating if you’ve never done them before, but just like any other exercise, they can be modified and progressed to suit you. The variations below will help you master your SL squat! Just keep these fundamental principles in mind:
Knee in line with hip and ankle
Single Leg Sit to Stand (assisted and unassisted)
Stand about one step in front of a steady and safe surface like a chair, bed or couch. With the opposite heel resting on the ground, sit back, tap the surface and return to standing. When you feel comfortable, lift the opposite heel off of the ground and try again! If the surface is too low, use pillows/cushions to elevate it.
Single Leg Squat w/ Swiss Ball
This is a fun variation to challenge your core and address any compensatory side-to-side leaning during your single leg squat. This exercise will still provide you with some support while forcing you to stay centered over your base. For an added challenge, change up the position of your other leg.
Single Leg Squat w/ Sports Cord
This variation is perfect if you’re trying to work on the depth of your single leg squat. The change in resistance of the band will add more assistance at the bottom range versus the top, allowing you to get deeper. Plus, it’s fun!
Single Leg Squat Like a Boss
Last but not least, the good ol' single leg squat. This oldie but goodie will challenge your core, glutes, quads and balance. Ready to up it? How many can you do?
Feel free reach out for further guidance or to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist.