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My Top 5 Single-leg Strength Exercises

Written on May 11, 2011 at 6:18 am, by Eric Cressey

Single-leg work has been a pretty controversial topic lately.

Some folks say that it’s the only safe way to train the lower body for the long haul and that bilateral exercise is the devil. Others insist that you can’t possibly build size relying on unilateral lower body strength  exercises and that they’re a cop-out for those who don’t want to squat and deadlift heavy in a strength and conditioning program.

What’s my take?

Continue Reading…

10 Responses to “My Top 5 Single-leg Strength Exercises”

  1. David Butterworth Says:

    Hi Eric,

    I’m a strength & conditioning professional, CSCS – just moved from Northern California (where I had a small training business)to Austin, TX.

    About a week in a half ago, just before lockout on my last set performing deadlift singles (460lb), I ruptured my left distal bicep tendon – boom! Pop! Craziness! Most deformed left arm ever (where did my bicep go?!?!)!

    I had surgery on Thursday last week to repair – & have begun the rehabilitation process. Now my intent here is not to tell you a busted-bicep story. It is this:

    I’ll be blogging about my journey to regaining & surpassing previous strength levels with a few things in mind…

    1. Uncovering the mystifying “why did this happen to me??” question. I’m 29, highly trained, experienced in powerlifting & olympic training/technique, former collegiate baseball & football athlete (University of California at Davis), etc. Why this freak injury occurred is playing mind games with me – not losing sleep though, all part of the process.

    2. Creating some kind of resource where other athletes / fitness warriors can go to ease them through the process of complete rehabilitation.

    3. Incorporating outside-the-box training methods into my now limited arsenal. The sky’s the limit here.

    Big fan of your work – have instituted an array of your shoulder health work with my athletes, especially the baseball & football guys.

    Thought this was of some relevance to your latest post, especially because a heavier dose of unilateral work is in my near future with the bicep rehab.

    David Butterworth


  2. Eric Folmar, MPT, OCS Says:

    I have a fairly athletic background myself. However, I will speak purely from a therapist standpoint here. Undoubtedly bilateral exercises are more beneficial for overall strength gain purposes. Single leg exercises are far and away superior for most sports from functional strength standpoint. As we all know most things happen off of one foot…. and most injuries occur from there as well. Speaking both from a training and therapist standpoint, when my patients are struggling to push through a plateau in strength training (squats, deads, etc) I always have them move toward unilateral activity for a bit and then move back to the bilateral stuff. Keep up the great work.

    Eric Folmar
    Easton, MA

  3. Alex Scott Says:

    These are some awesome variations for classic unilateral exercises. I can’t wait to try the SA Bulgarian from a deficit, looks evil. Keep up the good work, I really look forward to reading each new post from you.

  4. Superdave Says:

    What do you think of performing the barbell lunge at 33Degree angles vs 90Deg ( straight forward) like you showed in your demo. Good, bad, waste of time????

  5. brian Wardle Says:

    Enjoyed reading and watching the videos, thanks Eric

  6. Eric Cressey Says:

    @Dave – I don’t think it’s necessary or advantageous.

  7. Eric Cressey Says:

    @Eric – great contribution! I appreciate you chiming in.

  8. Eric Cressey Says:

    @David – given your athletic background, I can definitely see a long history of eccentric trauma to that biceps tendon. Ignore an elbow flexion deficit for too long and this kind of thing can happen. Of course, there are a lot of other factors to consider….soft tissue quality, Vitamin D status, etc.

    Good luck w/your rehab!

  9. Tim Wolff BPhty BExSc MMSPhty Says:

    Hi Dave,

    Sorry to read about your rupture and repair, but as you’ve indicated you’re now looking to make the best out of it.
    I am an Australian Musculoskeletal & Sports Physiotherapist, that uses a very unique process to solve pain and injury. Pain, injury, tears respond in the most dramatic fashion once the primary contributing factor (PCF) to a problem is found and treated. 20% of the time the PCF is close or near the area of dysfunction, in your case your biceps, 80% of the time it is quite remote and seemingly unrelated, like your l medial calf, or in another r T4 rib, or another r sup tib fib joint.
    If your R sup rib fib joint was your PCF, the cause of your mystifying biceps rupture, it may not be that relevant whether you trained, bilateral, unilateral, eccentric or concentric for the most dramatic gains possible. To improve your ability in the future could be simply to look after your PCF, once it is found, and focus on your training with much more confidence.
    This unique paradigm is only practiced by very few physiotherapists in the world, but has challenged our thinking about pain, injury and healing by achieving amazing results.
    So you’re right, some out of the box thinking is likely to give you’re your best result.
    Please feel free to email me should you have any questions regarding the above information,
    All the best with rehab

  10. Robin Says:

    Hi, Eric. I’m gonna Ask you a few question about on-leg strenght. Can you tell me 4 exercise when you just train 1 one leg?

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