Best Single-Leg Exercises

The Two Most Challenging Single-Leg Exercises


Skater Squats and Reverse Step-Ups

Build size one leg at a time. Add these tough unilateral lifts to any training plan.

We do most athletic things one foot at a time. So, why do most lifters neglect single-leg training? Gym bros usually say, “You canโ€™t get strong doing lunges.”

Theyโ€™re wrong. You can get very strong and build size with single-leg training. Here are two of the hardest single-leg exercises to beef up your leg days:

1. Skater Squat

Strength comes from the ground up. Get in a good stance and โ€œrootโ€ your whole foot to the floor. Think heel to butt. Bend your free leg and bring your heel up toward your butt. You should feel your hamstring engage. Squat and reach. As you squat down, reach forward with your arms and try to touch the wall in front of you.

Make it easier with the anterior lunge variation. This is basically a reverse lunge, except your back leg stays straight and provides assistance. You can also do an assisted skater squat by holding onto TRX straps.

Progress to wearing a weight vest or chains. At first, use a foam pad to reduce the range of motion. Over time, remove the pad.

Programming

Do them first. Place skater squats at the beginning of your workout and make it the priority exercise. Form breaks down when fatigue kicks in, and skater squats are too “risky” to do when you’re completely gassed.

  • Week 1: 3 x 5 each side
  • Week 2: 3 x 6 (same weight as previous week)
  • Week 3: 3 x 7 (same weight as previous week)
  • Week 4: 3 x 8 (same weight as previous week)
  • Week 5: 3 x 5 (add 5lbs from previous week)
  • Week 6: 3 x 5 (add 5lbs from previous week)
  • Week 7: 3 x 5 (add 5lbs from previous week)
  • Week 8: 3 x 5 (add 5lbs from previous week)

2. Reverse Step-Up

With your free leg straight, keep your ankle dorsiflexed by pulling your toes up toward your shin and pushing your heel down to the floor. Squat and tap your heel on the ground. This keeps you from “springing up” with your free leg. The emphasis is all on the working leg.

Make it easier by using less weight or a shorter platform. Make it harder by doing the opposite.

Programming

Do them first. Use reverse step-ups as the main priority movement or supplemental exercise. Stick to lower rep ranges (sets of 5) for strength gains and medium-rep ranges (6-10) to build the legs.

  • Week 1: 3 x 6
  • Week 2: 3 x 7 (same weight as previous week)
  • Week 3: 3 x 8 (same weight as previous week)
  • Week 4: 3 x 6 (increase range of motion; squat from a higher platform)
  • Week 5: 3 x 7 (same ROM and weight as previous week)
  • Week 6: 3 x 8 (same ROM and weight as previous week)
  • Week 7: 3 x 6 (add weight, use the same ROM as previous week)



1 Like

Love skater squats. One the exercises I would do in between work shifts. Need to start doing them loaded at the gym.



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