Single Leg Strength Training For Strength And Power
Single leg strength training variations for strength and power.
Bilateral movements, 2 legged, are important in training to increase maximal force production but we need to ensure we are performing single leg strength training movements so that we can transfer this maximal force into maximal running speed. Read on to learn 5 single leg strength training variations to increase force production and improve your speed and power.
With each progression, we move along the force-velocity curve, starting with a movement which, is technically simple and allows us to be able to load heavy to build strength and stability. The movement becomes more technically complex and performed at a higher velocity than the movement before it to develop power.
THE VIDEO: Single Leg Variations for Strength and Power
5 single leg strength training variations for strength and power
- The Split Squat
The split squat is a staple in many of our training programmes as it is a basic movement pattern which, can be used with beginners all the way up to the advanced athlete. Start in a standing position with your feet directly underneath your hips. Imagine you are standing on skis and everything points forwards. Now, take a step forward with your lead leg and one step backwards with your trail leg. This should put you in the centre of your stance with even pressure on the front and back foot. Ensure there is enough room in your stride to fit your legs between your feet. If you are too close, you will be cramped up. If you are too far, it will feel like a stretch. Now, keep your body upright and lower your centre of mass until your back knee touches the floor. When it does, drive through both feet to stand up. When you have completed your set, repeat on the opposite leg.
You have built some strength in the split position. We need to become more dynamic and learn how to absorb and produce force from that position. Start in a standing position like you did before and pick one knee up whilst standing as tall as possible. Lean forward and fall into your split squat position. Continue your momentum down so that the knee touches the floor and drive through the front leg back into your standing position.
- Walking Lunge
You now have the basic principles of training in a split stance and lunging but all the force has been absorbed and produced vertically. For our strength and power to transfer into running speed, we need to produce horizontal forces. The walking lunge is a great way to learn how to create horizontal forces and overload the muscles that are responsible for propelling you forwards as you run. Stand at the end of a track or somewhere that allows for around 10m of free space. Start by stepping into a lunge. As you stand, drive your trail leg forwards so that you step onto your front leg. Drive your knee up as if you are running. Repeat by alternating your legs as you lunge down the track. You can use dumbbells to load the movement. Alternatively, if you have the space in your gym, you can use a barbell to load the movement even further.
- Step up
By now you should have performed movements in a vertical plane and a horizontal plane so the next progression is to combine these force vectors into one movement. The step up provides us with both vertical and horizontal force production as we step forwards and upwards onto the box. Start by placing once foot on a box. The box height depends on the height of your hips and shin length. Choose a box that allows the thigh to be horizontal when the foot is placed on the box. When your foot is in position, drive into the box whilst stepping up and forwards, driving your knee through and picking the toes up into a flexed position. Reverse the movement under control and repeat on the opposite leg. You can load this with dumbbells and progress onto a barbell as you become more comfortable.
- Dynamic Step Up
The step up is great for loading your running mechanics and creating stability in key positions. This will help you create lots of force into the ground which, will propel you further with each step. However, maximal force is not enough. To be fast you need to train fast and with powerful movements. The next progression incorporates the step up in a much more explosive fashion to create power and increase the rate at which you can produce this new-found strength. Start in the same position as you did for the step up. This time, stagger your arms as if you are running. If your right leg is on the box, the left arm should be forwards. Drive into the box as hard and fast as you can and leap into the air above the box as high as possible. Drive the trail leg forwards and upwards as your swing your arms like you would be when running. Try and hold your running position in the air and land with the same foot on the box, swinging the free leg back into your starting stance. The key here is to jump as high as possible on the box. This will create the intent to produce a high amount of force as quickly as possible.
As you get more familiar with these single leg strength training variations, you can combine them. For instance, a walking lunge into a step up on a box will increase the technical complexity of the movement and allow you to produce force through both legs within the same motion. We do recommend going through the progressions from start to finish over a block of 10 weeks. Spend 2 weeks performing each movement before moving on to the next progression. This way, you will build strength and learn the motor skills to progress without progressing too soon and compromising your results.