I remember when I began lifting I was pretty typical of most teenage guys, I HATED lower body workouts! They are hard, they take a ton of effort, they expose a lot of weaknesses. Fast forward 20 years and these are all the same reasons I LOVE lower body exercises.
I am happy to see a somewhat renaissance of lower body training in fitness. In the past women did them to “firm and tone”, guys did them begrudgingly because they didn’t want to be made too much fun of by their friends. Now we realize that lower body exercises help us accomplish many of our fitness goals.
Due to the large amount of muscles involved, we burn more calories, build more strength, stimulate more positive hormones, and can help us gain our physiques faster than just about any other form of training.
Unfortunately, this revolution has seen us fall somewhat short. Our “bigger is better” culture has caused us to fall in love with squats and deadlifts and think these are the kings of all movements. While these are good lifts, I think they fall much shorter of their promises than most people realize.
Before you think that I never really gave the “big boy” exercises a chance, let me say I should have every reason to believe that big squats and deadlifts are where it is at! I had the good fortune of competing in Olympic lifting and Strongman in the past. They both taught me a great deal about the body and how strength and fitness can vary greatly.
At one point I had over a 400 pound Olympic style squat and deadlifted over 500 pounds. Not
a world record by any means, but respectable for someone 6’4 and with a history of herniated discs. Even then though, I knew I had a severe weakness. When it came to single leg exercises I found myself more than humbled. On certain exercises I could only perform body weight! How humiliating to feel so strong on some exercises and weak on others.
Of course I did what any young guy would do, I ignored them! I deemed them as just unnecessary and focusing on what I was good at in training. Ironically, as time went on, I began to hit more and more plateaus. Not only was I running into road blocks, but my back began to bother me on a consistent basis.
I had the epiphany to make a choice. I could follow the idea of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result,” or I would have to change. I HATED it! It hit me, I had to face facts and decided to do what I was doing everything to avoid. I was going to have to change how I saw and performed my training.
That meant eating a huge slice of humble pie! I began incorporating the single leg drills that made me feel like a beginner. Some I even needed additional support! However, a funny thing began to happen.
My back stopped hurting, I was becoming more flexible, and I had a feeling I was getting stronger. I had to see, I had put any two legged drills at the end of my workouts and made my priority these single leg exercises. I put my theory to the test and I ended up really surprising myself.
Not only had my squat and deadlift improved, but I didn’t find myself wearing a weight belt or knee supports. That means not only did my legs get stronger, but I found my core working better with my lower body as well.
Great, does this have ANYTHING to do for you? Is this my wild one man show?
Before you let the pressure of social media meme’s get the best of you, let me share the experience of some of the best in the industry. Renown Strength Coach, Mike Boyle, has long been a promoter of single leg exercises as a superior means for his elite athletes to train.
“Some of my colleagues have suggested that coaches who push single-leg movements only do so to be controversial. I can assure you this is not the case. We use single-leg exercises because they’re safer, deliver outstanding results, and make sense for athletes. It’s nothing controversial. It’s logical, old school wisdom.”
How could they work better? I mean, the weight you can squat or deadlift is so much more than you can do any single leg exercise! Two words, bilateral deficit. What?! This is a term that researchers have coined to explain what they have been finding with the differences between two and one-legged exercises. In several experiments, scientists are finding that the power from the legs is actually smaller than that of a single let movement. A study by Maarten et al, compared double leg jumps versus single leg jumps. The results? “the work of the right leg was more than 20% less in the two-leg jump than in the one-leg jump”
What should you do? Not just use single leg exercises, but prioritize them! One of the best ways to start is a reverse lunge. The drop step lunge can let you build the balance between strength and stability and allows some very powerful means of loading the body.
How could I also not share how Ultimate Sandbag Training gives you the perfect means to accomplish this goal. The only thing better than the reverse lunge is the way we can load the body in unique ways with Ultimate Sandbag Training. Today’s training video breaks down some of the most powerful methods of using both single leg training and one sided loading of the body. The result? A stronger, more powerful, and healthier body! Try these DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training lunge variations and see what happens to your training!
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