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February 11, 2022 15 min read

NOTE: I have formatted this article exactly how it should be formatted going forward.

 

EDIT: Formatting. Although this article is informative and interesting, there are large blocks of text that makes the article quite boring to read and make the readers eyes gloss over. A few bolded sentences acting as subheadlines to focus on important points would do this article well. (example below: It increases contraction of the muscles involved, leading to increased muscle tension necessary for muscle growth.)

 

EDIT: Formatting: When using a semi colon (:) followed by a bulleted or numbered list, to highlight benefits or food to avoid, etc, that sentence with the semi colon should be made a subheadline and bolded, so the reader understands it as important. (Some benefits of single-leg squats are:)

 

EDIT: Bold benefits and tips (example below: Correcting muscle imbalances:)

 

EDIT: All 'How To' or 'To-do' sentences need to be subheadlines, bolded and on their own line in every article. This creates some contrast for the eye as the reader scrolls.

This sentence is way too wordy (I'm using this as an example, but there are many like it that need revision and and example of editing for clarity): From the loss of calories to the strengthening of the core and toning of the hams, calves, hip, and glute muscles, the basic squat helps you to win on all fronts.

- From burning calories to strengthening your core and every muscle in your lower body, the squat helps you win on all fronts.

 

 

 

 

Squats come in different variations designed to soothe your fitness needs. Each of these variations is a wonderful addition to your fitness routine, depending on your fitness goal.

The single-leg squat is a squat variation that is performed on only one leg. It is a splendid exercise to target your posterior chain muscles and improve overall balance and stability. Wondering how to perform this exercise? We have highlighted everything you need to know.

What Is The Single-Leg Squat?

The conventional squat is performed on both legs and provides many fitness benefits. From the loss of calories to the strengthening of the core and toning of the hams, calves, hip, and glute muscles, the basic squat helps you to win on all fronts. Although it is performed differently, the benefits of the basic squat are passed on down to the single-leg squat. Like the conventional squat, the single-leg squat is a full-body exercise at heart. It is a staple in many athletes’ workout routines as it works the major muscle groups and breathes life into stability exercises.

The single-leg squat is of higher intensity and is often left to the veteran gym-goers or more experienced athletes. 

As if standing erect and balancing on one foot is not challenging enough, this exercise tests your body as you lower into a squat while standing on one leg.

For many, this is the ultimate test of balance, coordination, and stability.

While adding the single-leg squat to your routine might spice up your sessions, this exercise is not meant for every Tom, Dick, and Harry at the gym. It is saved for those gym-goers who have successfully mastered the basic squat.

If you have not learned  how to do the conventional squat with proper form, you might have to sit this one out. Like many other gym exercises that do not need bulky equipment, the single-leg squat can be done in or outside the gym. 

Muscles Worked In Single-Leg Squat

The basic squat is a tremendously enjoyable and beneficial exercise that targets the body's major muscle groups. It stimulates the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and all the works performed while standing on both legs. The single-leg squat is no easy feat and takes you one step farther. Standing on one leg might be no easy stunt, but it packs a punch to great exercise.

It increases contraction of the muscles involved, leading to increased muscle tension necessary for muscle growth.

Since balancing requires significant muscle activation, adopting a one-legged stance to do your squats also improves your mobility, balance, muscle coordination, and, most importantly, core strength. The benefits are apparent and almost endless. The single-leg squats activate the hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteal muscles, calves, and other supporting muscles like the upper and lower abdominal muscles.

The  degree of activation of these muscles depends on the position of the non-stance limbs during the single-leg squat performance.

The quads are activated during the descent phase of the single-leg squat. Because you balance on one leg, the tension is greater and more demanding on your quads during knee flexion. The quad muscle is the large, fleshy, and bulky muscle part that covers the front and sides of the thigh. It is further divided into four parts or heads with different functions. Combined with other supporting muscles, the quads are in charge of movements of the legs and stability of your knee joint.

It doesn’t matter if you are standing, walking, or running; your quads are involved in all of these movements.

Because you are highly dependent on your quads to get around, these muscles require strength to assist you in daily activities. Weak quads are prone to injuries that can severely limit your leg movements. The single-leg squat fixes this by strengthening and growing the quad muscles. The quads control the bending and straightening of your knees and are engaged throughout the single-leg squat when done correctly.

The single-leg squat also targets the hip muscles and the other connecting muscles like the gluteal muscles and the hamstrings. The glutes, also called the buttocks, provide the bulk of the assistance necessary to balance your body during the movements. The exercise solely relies on the glutes and abdominals for stability, so it is no surprise the glutes receive the bulk of the focus.

The single-leg squat provides better engagement of the gluteal muscles than the split squat, which is an equally effective variation of the traditional squat. 

Unlike the traditional knee-dominant squat, the single-leg squat stimulates the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. Together, the glutes help with posture, stability, and extending and rotating the thigh at the hip joint. Your body uses these muscles during the single-leg squats to maintain proper form.

This leads to the strengthening of the glutes, not only leading to former butts but also a better posture and full-body stability.

The hamstrings are also connected to the glutes and help control the hip during the flexion for descent and extension for rising. The hamstring lies behind the thighs and connects the knees to the hip. This muscle is a big part of the movement and often suffers from injuries that vary from weakness caused by too little movement and long hours of sitting to injuries due to overexertion. The single-leg squat targets and activates the hams during the entire duration of your single-leg squat session, leading to stronger hams and better mobility in the legs and hips.

Your calves are equally involved during the single-leg squats.

The calf is made of two distinct muscles named the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles; these muscles are significant players in the descent phase of the single-leg squat and also work in conjunction with the hip, glutes, and hams to raise your body during the ascending phase. The calf muscles are great supporting muscles that aid any movement that includes the use of the legs. They work with ankle muscles to propel you, help you jump, lock your knees, and flex your feet. The single-leg squats stimulate the muscles in your calves and lead to the strengthening of these muscles.

The single-leg squat depends on the strength of your abdominal and core muscles.  

Squats are one of the top exercises for honing core strength which would propel you towards your fitness goals. Core strength is not only a fitness requirement, but it also increases your performance in your daily activities. Your core helps you to stabilize your body, provides you with proper balance, and allows you to move in any direction with adequate balance. Your core is what prevents you from falling all over the place while on your feet, controls your posture, and safeguard you from muscle injuries and awkward and painful falls.

Your abdominal muscles support your trunk during the single-leg squat.

Other than the superficial abdominal muscles seen as the six-pack muscle, the deep abdominal muscles work in conjunction with the core muscles to facilitate movement, twisting the trunk and protecting the back. The single-leg squat is a full-body at heart. It is a unique exercise that targets all major muscle groups of the posterior chain and builds them for a healthier body with meter mobility.

Benefits Of Single-Leg Squats

There are various benefits of the single-leg squat. From muscle growth to toning, coordination, and balance, the single-leg squat is a killer exercise that is bound to take you from zero to hero.

Some benefits of single-leg squats are:

  1. Correcting muscle imbalances: One common mistake gym enthusiasts make while on a fitness journey is focusing on one muscle group rather than the other. This is often evident in bilateral exercises like the conventional squat, focusing on the leading leg. Muscle imbalance can also result from repetitive movements that work for one muscle group harder and longer. This might cause other physical issues like pain and limited mobility. Unilateral exercises are a great way of combating muscle imbalances. The single-leg squats help to work the muscles of each leg once at a time. This helps to give them equal attention without spending too much time on a particular leg. As long as you perform an equal number of reps on each leg, the single-leg squat is the perfect workout routine for you.
  2. More significant muscle response: A comparison study shows that  the single-leg squat provides greater hamstring and gluteus muscle response than the basic squat. While the conventional squat commands a more significant quad response, the single-leg squat is your best bet if you are in search of stronger, firmer, and more toned glutes and hams. The glutes and hams are essential to muscle groups for balance and mobility. Strengthening these muscles would significantly impact your movements and muscle coordination.
  3. Less spine involvement: Depending on the level of injury, the single-leg squat might be an excellent option for people who suffer from a back injury. The single-leg squat offers an impressive full-body muscle response while reducing the load placed on your spine. This reduces spine involvement and drastically depletes the stress placed on the back and muscles, which does not occur during the basic squat. 
  4. Improves balance: Unlike the basic squat, the single-leg squat challenges your balance. Standing on one leg is no small feat and involves the engagement of your abdominal and core muscles. The continuous engagement of the core and abdominal muscles not only helps you to stay balanced during the performance of the single squat but also improves your balance well after the exercise.
  5. Reduce risks of injury: Balance and motor coordination get you safely through the day. It prevents you from making clumsy yet costly mistakes that can lead to minor or significant muscle and bone injuries. The single-leg squat improves muscle balance and control, thereby reducing the risks of injuries and musculoskeletal damage during sports performances. If you are looking to stay safe in and outside the gym, it is essential to add the single-leg squat to your list of to-do balance training exercises.
  6. Increase performance: The benefits of the single-leg squat are evident in your daily life and your performance as an athlete or fitness enthusiast. The posterior chain is an essential part of your body that assists in providing leg drive power. The single-leg squat strengthens the muscle of your posterior chain, increasing your mobility, flexibility, and stability as you go. All these are factors that are important in and outside the gym.
  7. Can be weighted: So you have mastered the single-leg squat, and you crave a little more intensity and challenge. The single-leg squat can be done with the added advantage of weight. Grab a dumbbell or weighted plate for your following routine, and you are good to go. If the single-leg squat is not hard enough, the weighted single-leg squat will give you a run for your money. 
  8. Great physique: Needless to say, toned and muscular legs are the in-thing. The single-leg squat is an excellent exercise for stimulating hypertrophy in your legs to produce stronger and toned leg muscles. 

How To Do The Single-Leg Squat


The single-leg squat is a very demanding exercise. To recruit the right muscle groups, it is necessary to pay attention to your form throughout your session. This would go a long way in reducing the risk of muscle injury. 

The single-leg squat requires strict adherence to form.

The slightest nuance in your form will activate the wrong muscle groups and increase your risk of injuries. Getting the perfect single-leg squat form can be draining. However, we have provided step-by-step instructions on how to perform the single-leg squat in ideal conditions.

To do the single-leg squat:

  1. Stand erect with your back straight and shoulders back. 
  2. Spread your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Keep your arms at your sides.
  4. Ensure that your neck is neutral and your gaze is forward.
  5. Start with your right leg by lifting your left leg in the air and stretching it in front of you.
  6. Keep your left leg straight as it hovers an inch in front of you and root your right foot firmly into the ground.
  7. Engage your core.
  8. Initiate the lowering phase by bending your hips and pushing your glutes back slightly.
  9. Immediately begin bending your right knee and lowering yourself while keeping your back straight.
  10. Go as low as you can or until your knee is at a 90-degree angle and your right thigh is parallel to the floor.
  11. Feel free to stretch your hands in front of you for balance.
  12. Pause for a second at the bottom of the movement.
  13. Stand by driving through your right leg to the standing position. Keep your chest proud and your shoulders back during this motion.
  14. Squeeze your glutes as your knees straighten.
  15. Stand erect with your shoulders over your hips.
  16. This is one rep. Complete as many repetitions as possible.

Tips To Help You

Holding correct form during the single-leg squat can be draining. Keeping proper form is, however, crucial to muscle response and the safety of your body. Performing the single-leg squat with the correct form helps you target the appropriate forms and allows you to reduce your chances of injuries. To help you hold your form for longer, we have brought you tips and tricks to stay on track.

Some of these tips are:

  1. Warm-up: The single-leg squat is quite demanding and can place an incredible amount of pressure on your leg muscles. This is a bad idea if your leg muscles are already in a bad, underworked shape. Before getting right into the single-leg squat, it is advisable to warm up with stretches and leg exercises. This would prepare your muscles enough to take on the single-leg squat. Warm-up with 15-20 minutes of a mixture of cardio, hamstring stretches, bodyweight squat, and ankle exercises.
  2. Use assistance: As much as you would to, the single-leg squat cannot be mastered in a day. Depending on your fitness level and mobility, you might find the execution of the single-leg squat easier or more challenging to perform than other gym-goers. Do not judge your ability with another athlete’s, as this would set you up for failure. Before going straight into performing the single-leg squat, first practice with assistance. Grab support such as a chair or bench and repeatedly lower and raise yourself until you can continue this movement without support.
  3. Don’t round your shoulders: When performing the single-leg squat, it is easy to give in to the temptation of rounding your shoulders to overcompensate for your stance. This poor form can, however, lead you to put the bulk of the tension on your lower back. Loading your lower back would lead to lower back pain and decreased mobility. To counter this, always remember to keep your back straight, and shoulder blades pinched together. This would help you to maintain an upright form.
  4. Stay still: When performing the single-leg squat, endeavor to keep the rest of your body still. Don’t lean to the side, sway, or turn in any way. Your body should move as one component, and your leg should do all the work.
  5. Nutrition is essential: Nutrition is as important as exercise for continuous fitness progress. The single-leg squat, like many other full-body exercises, works the major muscle groups of the body. This would lead to a stimulation of all these muscles in a bid to break down and repair them. Nutrition, especially protein, plays a big part in muscle fiber repair and growth. Through protein synthesis and the use of amino acids, your muscles make a full recovery from the slight tears sustained during the workout. Your carbs, vitamins, and minerals are equally crucial for the smooth function of your musculoskeletal system. Eat foods rich in nutrients to help you with your fitness routine. If you'd like to increase your protein intake even more in a quick and delicious manner, VEG-PRO plant-based vegan protein powder is packed with protein and fast-absorbing essential amino acids guaranteed to increase muscle density and tone. 
  6. Take time to recover: The time taken for your muscles to recover from your workout determines how soon you see results from the single-leg squats. Sufficient recovery is essential for restoring torn muscle fibers. This would not only ensure that your muscles are now stronger but will also stimulate growth for an increase in muscle mass.

Single-Leg Squat Variations

The single-leg squat can be modified to suit your workout routines however you like it. If the single-leg squat is too tricky for you, some modifications can help you achieve the same results but to a lower intensity. Some modifications, however, ramp up the intensity of an already tricky single leg lift to cause more muscle response. Some popular variations of the single-leg squat are:

1. Single-Leg Box Squat 


     

    Like the basic single leg squat, the single-leg box squat is a powerful full-body exercise. Unlike the single-leg squat that uses just bodyweight for execution, the single-leg box includes the use of a plyo-box in its performance. The mechanics of the single-leg box squat is the same process as in the single squat. However, in this variation, you will squat down until your glutes rest on the box. 

    2. Single-Leg Goblet Squat To Bench


    The single-leg goblet squat to the bench is a variation of the single squat between a combination of the single-leg bench squat and the goblet squat. This variation is a weighted exercise and has a higher impact than the basic single-leg squat. It requires a strict following of the form to activate the right muscle groups, reduce injuries, and delay muscle fatigue.

    To do this variation:

    • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a bench.
    • Hold a dumbbell in front of your chest with both hands. 
    • Grasp the dumbbell long ways or vertically under your chin. Cup the upper part between your palms so that your elbows are pointing down.
    • Keep your back straight, and shoulder blades pulled back.
    • Push your chest out.
    • Lift your left leg one inch off the floor and balance your right leg.
    • Plant your right foot firmly on the floor.
    • Engage your core and exhale.
    • Push your hip back and lower yourself as if preparing to sit in the chair.
    • Complete the rest of the movement with your knees while keeping your back straight.
    • Ensure that your left leg follows your movements without overextending.
    • Sit on the edge of the bench and immediately carry one with the rising phase by driving through your right foot.

    3. Pistol Squat

     

    The single-leg squat is often incorrectly referred to as the pistol squat. While these exercises might look alike, they are not identical. The pistol squat requires much balance, coordination, and flexibility in degrees, even more, significant than the basic single-leg squat. The most obvious difference is a pistol squat is a form of deeper single leg squat. The pistol leg is an impressive shoe of flexibility as so is often scorned by some bodybuilders who consider this exercise nothing more of a circus feat.

    To do the pistol squat:

    • Stand erect with your arms at your sides and your feet hip-width apart.
    • Pull your shoulder blades back slightly.
    • Shift your body weight to your right foot.
    • Once balanced, lift your left foot an inch off the floor.
    • Stretch your arms in front of you for balance.
    • Keep your back straight and your core engaged.
    • Bend at your knee and lower your hips like you would in a single-leg squat.
    • Continue to lower yourself until your hip is below parallel and close to your heel. Keep your butt and left leg floating in the air.
    • Pause this movement.
    • Drive through your right foot until you return to the starting standing position.
    • This is one rep. Complete as many reps as you can fit in a set.

    The pistol squat is a considerably tricky exercise and should only be attempted when you get comfortable with the basic pistol squat.

    4. Shrimp Squat


    The shrimp squat is a single-leg squat variation that uses a different method and range of motion. While it remains a single-leg squat, it is done quite differently from its predecessors.

    To do the shrimp squat:

    • Stand proud with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders directly over your hips.
    • Bend your knees slightly.
    • Keep your neck neutral and tuck your chin.
    • Distribute your weight between your feet.
    • Pretension your shoulders and engage your core.
    • Tuck your hip slightly.
    • While standing upright, kick your left foot behind you and grab the top or ball of your foot with your left hand.
    • Reach your right hand out and ball your fist to create tension in your upper body.
    • Bend slowly first at your right knee and then your hip. Lower yourself to the ground.
    • As you lower yourself, include your right ankle in the movement and maintain a neutral spine.
    • At the bottom of the movement, which is about until your right thigh is parallel to the floor, tap your left knee on the floor behind you.
    • Pause at this position and begin the rising phase by pushing your right foot into the floor.
    • Stand with your chest forward, spine straight, and shoulders over your hips.
    • Squeeze your glutes and ham on the way up.
    • Repeat as many repetitions as you can.

    Get Right Into It

    Single leg squats provide a ton of benefits. From training your major muscle groups to improving your mobility, flexibility, and stability, traits which are necessary to maneuver everyday activities in and outside the gym.

    Single leg squats are a great addition to lower body exercises regardless of your fitness level.

    Want more lower body exercise recommendations? Check out our list of  10 best exercises for a splendid lower body workout.