Updated: Jan 22
I love back squat, it is a great move to build strong legs, a big back, tax the neurological system, and develop some grit. This article is not saying Nashville athletes should abandon back squat.
This article is about why the athlete should be doing single leg squats IN ADDITION to traditional bipedal squats. But don't just take my word for it, you can read about this from Olympic Strength Coach and Coach to numerous NCAA Champions, Dane Miller, The Best Squat Variations for Athletes.
Keep scrolling at the bottom to see how I implement single leg squats in my training and how it carries over to a simple band-resisted sprint.
Here are three reasons single leg squats are great for sports and athletic development.
Helps bring about parity in leg strength
Everyone has a dominant side they work best with. Doing single leg squats can help identify which leg is the dominant leg and which leg is not.
It also can help identify additional weaknesses in your legs. Perhaps you've got bad internal rotation on one leg and that's why it's not as strong. Perhaps you're glute or foot isn't working properly on one side. The single leg squat can help bring these issues to the surface and help prevent injury by helping balance the strength and mobility differentials in the leg.
If you're always favoring one side in sprinting, jumping, and cutting, eventually that side will get tired and not perform as well, causing other problems up and down the body.
Is similar to how the leg functions in sport
Very rarely in contact sports do you operate solely on both feet. In football for instance, a lineman blocking MAY BE on two feet, but not for long as he is either driving forward to run block or stepping back to pass block. A defensive player making a tackle will SOMETIMES load up with both legs to drive in to the tackle.
In sport, you're sprinting, cutting, swiveling on single legs. Single leg squats help mimic the drive needed through the glutes and extension of the quads in a full sprint. In a single leg squat, the leg is a more natural sprinting position. In a bipedal squat, the feet are wider. A person doesn't sprint with their feet wide, but close together and in a linear motion.
Mimicking that motion helps the brain and nervous system function better, mimicking that pattern in the field of play
Helps develop balance, stability, and neurological connection in foot, knee, hip and midsection.
When you're on one foot, tons of other muscles have to work that much harder to stay balanced. Your foot muscles turn on, your groin is working, your glute fires, your opposite side oblique fire to help maintain connection with the hips and the non planted side of the body.
Those little firings are helpful to teach the body to use those muscles, building a neurological connection, and increasing the connection of the nervous system. Put another way, those muscles communicate faster with the brain when they're used more frequently. Faster communication equals faster athlete.
In this video, you'll see the alignment of ankle, knee and hip, and the angle of those joints which similar to the band-resisted sprinting seen below (except my sprint is admittedly horrible as a have a weird lower leg kickout when under resistance, not sure if it happens when I'm not under resistance)
Each leg is firing one at a time, requiring stabilization throughout the body to maintain balance and forward drive. The foot, knee and hip should be in alignment (mine is admittedly horrible and I'm losing energy w/ inefficient sprinting patterns), but this is all the more reason I should try to nail my single leg squats to help make my movement patterns more efficient.
The angle of Chad's forward leg is similar to when he did his single leg squat -- foot, knee, hip all in alignment, big extension of the hamstring as the leg is brought up in to flexion by the hip flexor, then the SINGLE LEG DRIVE to push the ground past your body as you sprint forward.
This is me and my terrible form, for some reason my leg wobbles out to the side. But the leg drive positioning is similar to the single leg squat.
Want to have your high school athlete be more explosive, more stable, and be faster than the competition -- hit me up for one-on-one training so your youth athletics child goes from a good player to a STUD of an athlete!