Single Leg Squat Technique/Progression

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Best Exercise To Improve Speed & Strength

Ever feel weak and slow? Well, there is an exercise that can be used to improve speed and strength. The movement targets the glutes and hamstrings together and works like a cheat code for organizing the entire posterior chain. A lot of athletes who struggle with strength and speed also lack dynamic trunk control. Lacking dynamic trunk control can lead to injuries long-term and diminished performance in sports. 

Bulgarian Split Squat

First, let’s talk about how the single-leg squat is not Bulgarian. The terminology is based straight around marketing in my opinion. Put a hard-nosed country in front of a movement and become a little bit cooler. I’m not buying it.


It’s the single-leg squat.

Single-Leg Squat

The single-leg squat uses the erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and even the quads to a point. The movement sustains and helps dynamic trunk control which leads to a substantial transfer to competitive performance in sport. 

To begin, we want to have about 70% of our weight on the front leg. The other 30% of our weight is in the back leg. We drive the back knee down and have the front knee track forward slightly. It is a very challenging movement. A lot of athletes will say it isn’t the weight. Well, actually, it is the weight if the athlete struggles with stability. As an athlete performs the movement more frequently and improves, their stability increases, their ability to produce strength and force from a unilateral position increases, and in turn leads to better speed and even better jumping ability.

Foot Position

The front foot position can be changed to target different aspects that correlate to speed and performance. For instance, putting the front foot tighter to the knee pad, we want to see the knee track well to target dorsiflexion in the ankle to help in the drive phase or coming out of the blocks. The closer foot position targets the quads slightly more. A longer stride position targets the hamstring–put the front foot about 8-10” in front of the pad.

posterior chain exercises

If coaches have athletes doing single-leg squats, have a roller. It is a piece of equipment to help the back leg get comfortable and be more stable to load the bar more. A word of advice, if the athlete's foot comes off the roller more than one time, we terminate the set. 


Remember, the single-leg squat is a great movement to target the quads and functions as a cheat code to enhance how the posterior chain communicates. The exercise lights up the back so the erectors lead into the glutes which fire alongside the hamstrings as the hips are extended at the top. The movement improves the ability to accelerate and decelerate, which is key to cutting and agility. 

Absolute Strength

I load the single-leg squat as an absolute strength movement when done with a barbell on the back. I will use the single-leg squat as an accessory movement with higher reps when done with a goblet weight, farmer’s carry hold, or a front rack to target any problem areas seen in various athletes.


As a rule of thumb, test for a three rep max on each leg. The three-rep single-leg max should be around 80% of an athlete’s max back squat. 

Recap

There are a ton of benefits that occur with the single-leg squat within sports performance. The movement makes athletes faster, more agile, and able to jump higher. The single-leg squat, not going to call it the Bulgarian split squat anymore, is also great at developing stability, enhancing coordination, and drastically improving an athlete’s dynamic trunk control. The benefits of the single-leg squat as an absolute strength movement or accessory movement are profound. Program the movement for a substantiated period and reap the benefits from its vast transfer of training potentiality. 

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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