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Mastering Single-Leg Movements

Perhaps two of the most difficult exercises at the gym are the split squat and single-leg deadlift. You have to balance, they put lots of pressure on your legs, and you somehow wind up panting after each set (even if you’re not using heavy weights). What makes these exercises so difficult, and how can you master them?

Single-leg exercises are exercises that focus on one leg at a time. Squats and deadlifts, on the other hand, have an even distribution between both legs. That means single-leg exercises put more strain on your leg muscles. Plus, you have to work both legs, which means you’re doing more reps (8 reps each leg vs. 10 total in a squat).

All this strength needs to be coupled with zen-like balance. When you’re only on one leg, it’s much harder to balance. The weight you’re using is also tipping you over to one side or the other. Put all these challenges together and you have one heck of an exercise.

There are ways to make your life easier. Check out these coaching cues for the split squat and single-leg deadlift that you might’ve already heard in your workouts at TS:

How To Master The Split Squat:

  • Lean forward slightly and put as much weight as you can into your front heel. This activates the hamstring and glute on the front leg, which are powerful muscles.
  • Relax your back leg. If you tense your back leg too much, you’ll burn out the muscles. When it comes time to switch legs, you’ll already be fatigued. Prevent this by relaxing the back leg as you lower yourself down.
  • Pick an object in front of you to stare at. If you look around too much, it disrupts your balance. Keep your eyes focused on an unmoving object.

How To Master The Single-Leg Deadlift:

  • Keep your weight in your heel, pinky toe and big toe all at the same time. Grip the ground with your foot and evenly distribute the weight by focusing on these three points of contact. This will help your balance.
  • Pick a spot on the ground and stare at it. Since you’re lowering the weight down towards the ground, you want to look down rather than forwards. Focusing on one spot will help you balance.
  • Bend the bottom knee. The goal of this exercise is to work the leg muscles of the bottom leg, and if your knee is totally straight you end up using more of your back to lift the weight.
  • Lift your rear leg up higher. The rear leg acts as a counterbalance in this exercise. Lift it up high to balance out the weight of your torso.

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