A Leg to Stand On

The squat—in all its guises—can be a cornerstone in any workout regimen because the simple motion works most of the major leg muscles. However, when performing a bilateral (dual limb) exercise like the squat, there are some drawbacks. For example, no matter how intensely you’ve cultivated a mind-muscle link, your dominant leg will do its damnedest to take over. Also, bilateral exercises rely on prime movers or “agonists,” which are muscles primarily responsible for generating the movement.

A unilateral exercise (one limb at a time) engages dynamic stabilizers, muscles best suited for the role of countering the force of the agonist. Enter the single-leg squat, a movement that works three dynamic stabilizers that are not nearly as challenged during a double-leg squat: The gluteus medius, the adductors and the quadratus lumborum.

To add a degree of difficulty and novelty to this equation, execute the single-leg squat using a TRX—a portable training tool that uses leveraged body weight as resistance.

Start with the TRX straps at mid-length. Face the anchor point with one foot on the floor (starting with your dominant leg) while holding the handles and bending your arms slightly. Hold the other leg straight out in front of you. A very subtle lean back will help you maintain balance by keeping tension in the straps.

With your supporting heel flat on the ground and your knee over your ankle, lower yourself down into a 90-degree squat. You should look like you’re sitting down with a straight back (your core braced). Complete the movement by driving back upward through your heel to a one-legged standing position.

Since the aforementioned muscles—gluteus medius, adductors and quadratus lumborum—are engaged as stabilizers, strengthening them teaches you to better utilize your “weaker” side and helps prevent injuries.

Final note:
The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.

In 1997, Suresh Joachim Arulanantham of Sri Lanka set the Guinness World Record for balancing on one foot: 76 hours, 40 minutes.