Everybody wants to squat big weight, and they want to do it all the time. Eventually however, if an athlete reaches a plateau, isn’t recovering, or depending on where they are in their season of sport, working single leg strength can have massive benefits by moving relatively heavy weight while taking load of the CNS. These are three of our favorite movements to throw in between squat cycles or help push past plateaus.
Forwards Backwards Lunges
- Exactly like they sound, forwards backwards lunges are great for attacking relatively heavy loads.
- Unrack the barbell on your back (like you would for a back squat) and make sure you have plenty of room behind and in front of you.
- Start with loading up about 40% of your one rep back squat and try doing a set of 3 reps on each leg (forwards/backwards counts as one).
- Once you get a feel for it, you can program reps and sets just like you would for regular squats, however it is probably best to stick with sets of a 2 rep minimum. The heavier the load the more careful you need to be with the impact the lunge may have on your knees and the benefits of this lift come with moving weight fast and explosively.
Weighted Step Ups
- On a box, bench, or something sturdy, step up and then step down. Simple.
- Weighted step ups are great because they are easy to control and develop strength as well as balance.
- Depending on the equipment you have and what you are going for, you can load a barbell in the back rack, use dumbbells or kettlebells, or even a sandbag. Modifying the height you are stepping up to will also change how hard the movement will be.
- Much like the Forward Backward lunges, moving fast and explosively is key and will have more benefits than doing overly heavy and sloppy step ups.
Single Leg Deadlifts
- Simple and very effective. Balancing out the posterior chain with the anterior can be essential for max strength gains.
- Setup like you would for a regular deadlift, lift one foot off the ground, and pull.
- Single leg deadlifts can throw you off balance and off guard if you have never done them before so start with a very easy warm up weight.
For working sets start at 35-40% of your one rep max deadlift and try a set of 6-8 reps. If that goes well, from there you can increase the load. Keep in mind that the time under tension on a single leg is very important, so bigger sets will most likely have more benefit than a single or double.