Stop Skipping Single Leg Exercises

I live my life by a set of rules.

Don’t be a hypocrite.

Treat people well.

Don’t brag on Facebook.

Don’t feed the gremlins after midnight.

Don’t trust people with skinny legs.

In honor of the first rule I should explain that I have pretty darn big legs.  It wasn’t always the case.  I used to catch flack for having literally no butt.  Now my tree trunks are pretty enviable.

So how do you build solid legs?

Well, you learn how to squat properly and then you squat often.

Then you add a lot of single leg work into your program.

A single leg exercise is an exercise in which only one leg bears weight or generates force.  I’m sure you couldn’t have figured that out on your own. Single leg exercise are a great, often under-utilized tool in the fitness arsenal.  Single leg exercises can be used and programmed to great effect in programs designed to burn fat, add muscle and build athleticism and balance. 

No matter what your goal is you should be including some form of single leg training in your program.  My personal program includes single leg work at least 3 times a week.  Legs are just that important to me.

There are some similar cues that you should keep in mind while performing these exercises.  The front heel is always bearing the weight, you should not be rolling onto your toes while performing these exercises. 

If you struggle with your balance at first, it's okay.  Just take some time to practice the heck out of the first two exercises using only your body weight.  As you get stronger and more familiar with the movements your balance will improve.  

All of these exercises are knee dominant.  They require a deep knee bend to fully reap the benefits.  Don’t worry if your knee slightly tracks over your toe- if your heel remains on the ground it’s all good.

The quad is the primary mover in these exercises.  You will feel it in your butt, however your glutes are only secondary movers.  Concentrate on pressing that lead heel through the ground.

Here are my two go to exercises for clients and my personal favorite.  They are presented in order from "Oh! Not that bad!" to "Holy Crap I' can't feel my legs!"

Forward Lunge

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't let your knee slam against the ground, make it a light "kiss:.

  • Try to keep your chest up(not rigidly), however your hip mobility might force you to fold at the waist. If that is the case take some time to work on your hip flexors.


Weight Placement (in order of difficulty):

  • Single DB or KB held at the chest, Goblet style.

  • Two DB or KB held at the side

  • Loaded Barbell held Front Squat Style

  • Barbell behind the back.

Reverse Lunge

Things to keep in mind:

  • Step back with a smaller stride than you are used to. Balance and hip mobility are a bit harder working in the opposite plane.

  • Don't freak out if you wobble, just take a deep breath and concentrate on feeling the movement.

  • Keep your head and chin up.

Weight Placement is the same as the Forward Lunge. Start with the Goblet, a single weight at your chest will not test your balance as much as two weights at your side.  Always start slow and then progress.  Never jump in the deep end right away. 

Bulgarian Split Squat

Things to keep in mind:

  • There are three foot positions for your rear foot (on the bench). I opt to put my toes on the bench, most will not find this comfortable. Most people also work out with shoes on (freaks!). The other two positions are with your laces flat on the bench, and with your entire foot on the other side of the bench so only your shin is resting on the bench. This last option is only preferable with thin benches or if you are using the padded portion of a leg extension machine.

  • Put a pad under your knee at first. Allow your knee to gently kiss it, this will hammer home the proper range of motion.

  • Keep your chest up and eyes forward, this will greatly help your balance.

Weight placement is the same as the other two.  The same recommendations apply for this.  


Including these three exercises in your program will finally allow you to wear those tiny shorts you've always wanted to.  Don't go crazy and include all of them on your first day in the gym.  Take it slow, start with the first and only add the others when you feel confident and strong enough to perform a Forward Lunge perfectly.  

Sky's out, thighs out. 

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