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Single leg strength development

As I explored in an earlier post, humans have a preferred stance, not only when standing but also when practicing some sports with a 'leading' leg (think cricket, mountain biking, soccer, surfing, snowboarding, etc.). By favouring this one leg, over time and repetition it will become stronger.

This in itself is not a problem, but issues can occur when this strength difference starts to create tightness or pain in your body, such as hips and lower back.

One solution is to stretch and foam-roll the stronger and most likely tighter leg, but also developing strength in the weaker leg. This is especially relevant for mountain biking, where the stronger leg doesn't come from pedaling harder, but from holding one foot forward. If both legs aren't equally strong, half the pedal cycle is sub-optimal.

So - here's a few exercises you can do at home, gym or wherever, to develop leg strength symmetry:

Pistol Squats

Start out by holding on to a pole, post, TRX or ring as in the picture. Slowly lower yourself onlo your ankle, keeping tension all the way down.

On your way up, focus on engaging your legs as much as possible, using your arms to pull you up only when the leg can't go on its own.

Do 3-4 sets of 5-8 repetitions on your weaker leg.

Split Squat (loaded)

You can use barbells, kettlebells or anything heavy to add weight to your own.

The weaker leg goes forward, maintain a straight back, drop down slowly, keeping tension in both legs until the back knee almost touches the ground. Then rise up pushing your weight trough the front heel, feeling the leg muscles engage.

Repeat 8-10 times, 3 sets resting 1 minute in between sets.

Box Jumps

Simple - jump one leg at a time (using mainly your weaker leg) onto a raised platform. This type of exercise will develop explosive strength.

Focus on keeping your hips level when taking of and landing (glute engagement!) and start small and progress to taller objects.

Do 10-12 jumps, 3 sets with a minute rest in between.

This is a great exercise to mix into a HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout, it will get your heart rate going!


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