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Legs Workout (17) – Single Leg Squat

December 27th, 2013 · No Comments ·


I just learned about single leg squat few months ago.  Initially, I thought it was just an alternative to barbell squat.  But after doing it for weeks, I realized that it should be the other way round.  Yes, even without added weight, single leg squat build strong muscular legs.   Though most leg exercises involve two legs, like leg raises, leg extensions or leg curls, most sport skills are performed one one leg.  If you take a closer look at jumping, running or kicking ball which you will use one of the legs at one time to push yourself.

Why Do Single Leg Squat:

  • You do not have to worry about back injury.  In barbell squat, if you do not do it with proper form and therefore forcing your back supporting the load instead of your legs, you may hurt your back.
  • You can do it anywhere, at gym, home or even office.  You do not need a barbell either.
  • If your leg muscle size is imbalance, with the right legs bigger than the left one, single leg squat can be used to develop each leg independently.  With a symmetrical leg strength, you build a better functional body shape.
  • It is challenging to stand with only single leg, what is more with squatting on only one foot.  The more unstable the environment, the more muscles have to work to stabilize your body.  Your core muscles (abdominal and back) will work hard to stabilize the movement.  Exercise, which core muscles are involved, is always good in help shaping a nice six-pack.  Also, single-leg squat force your butt muscles to act as stabilizer too.



Small range of movement for beginner


  1. Stand straight.  Lift your left heel up and put it behind you.  Lower left leg should be roughly parallel to the ground and your left knee aligned with the right.
  2. Look straight ahead.  Keep arms by your side or front to help balance yourself.
  3. Now, lower your butt towards the floor.  Keep your chest up.
  4. Lower yourself to the point where it becomes difficult to maintain your balance.  Pause and then return to the starting position.  Do this motion in a controlled fashion.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions on each leg, alternating between right and left leg.

Other Variations of Single Leg Squat:

  1. Single-Leg Touchdown:
      • Slowly lower your butt towards the floor while reaching toward the outside of your right foot with your left hand.
      • Pause and then push through your heel and squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.


  2. Pistol with Leg In Front:
    • In this squat, you will have your leg in front instead of having it at the back. Make sure you stretch your legs before you do this squat.


  3. Holding a medicine ball on your chest or over your head.
  4. Holding dumbbells by your sides to add the weight.


  • For beginner, you may tend to swing left and right with lateral movement.  Try to minimize to stay firm and maintain your balance.
  • In fact, if you just begin to squat, use a flat bench as support.  Put one of the foot on the top of the bench when you squat.


  • Another good way for beginner to build the confidence is to do it with step, box or bench.  You do not actually sit down on them, but they act as a support in the event you fall.  In fact, the box is used as a way to measure your squat depth.  Once you butt touches the box lightly, you should then come right back.  As your strength increases, you will use lower box. Keep on trying to lower the box until you have got yourself a full range motion.  A a small increase in the range can make things significantly harder.


  • Alternatively, you can do single leg squat with the assistance of a door frame.  Face sideways in a doorway and grab the door frame.  I started with this method before I used the above box method.


  • Some people have strong legs, but find it hard to balance when you go down.  One great assistance method is to use a light dumbbell.  Hold it in front of your center of balance may help things tremendously.


  • No matter whichever method you try, make sure your knee does not go beyond your toes when you lower or rise your butt.
  • Do not lock your knee, which means straighten it at the top of the movement.
  • Once you have mastered the move, to make the exercise more difficult, hold your balance for about 10 seconds before you push back up.  That moment of being static is not easy, but it will help you keeping focus.

I have seen people, who are able to do barbell squat with 250 pounds, failed to complete even 5 repetitions on single leg squat.  Trust me, everyone has a steep learning curve.  Next time if you see someone doing single leg squat, do not belittle him.  Single-leg squat is the frequently ignored in strength program yet it is so good.



Category: Legs

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