11 Single-Leg Workouts to Construct Power and Stability, and Work Your Abs, Too


From running to walking to climbing stairs, much of life happens on one leg. That’s why it’s helpful to include single-leg exercises in your training routine, especially if your goal is well-balanced functional strength.

Single leg exercises are crucial to achieve this, Ava FaginCSCS, athletic performance coach at Cleveland State University, tells SELF.

Also called unilateral exercises, single leg exercises are movements that are performed with the strength of only one leg. Compared to bilateral exercises (like a squat or deadlift) that require both legs to be worked simultaneously, single-leg exercises (like a lunge or a split squat) require more balance and stability. As mentioned, they also more closely mimic everyday life, making them an extremely important functional part of virtually any exercise routine.

Ahead, everything you need to know about single-leg exercises, including their benefits, how to incorporate them into your strength training routine, and what to do if you notice a strength imbalance between your legs, which we’d just like to highlight. , This is perfectly normal ! We’ve also rounded up 11 great single-leg exercises you can try in your own workout routine.

Why are single leg exercises so important?

Single leg exercises are really functional. That’s because they run strongly parallel to everyday life (and most sports, too), which means regular one-leg work can help you move more efficiently and with less risk of injury in tons of scenarios.

Single-leg exercises also require balance and stability, which translates to core engagement, as your core muscles are key to keeping you stable and avoiding tipping sideways or bending over. So while single leg kicks primarily work your lower body, they also provide some sneaky work for your abs and the surrounding abdominal muscles.

Another benefit of single-leg exercises is that they can help you identify any asymmetries that exist from side to side. Now, most of us have strength imbalances between our legs, meaning one leg is stronger than the other, Fagin says. And while these imbalances occur naturally, it’s a good idea to work to improve them because significant strength differences on either side can lead to injury. This is because the stronger side can overcompensate for the weaker side and end up under too much stress.

And a way to effectively remedy the imbalances? Yes, you guessed it: single leg exercises. “Single-leg exercises really allow us to even things out,” says Fagin. (More on how, exactly, they do it in a minute.)

How can you use single leg exercises in your workout routine?

Fagin suggests incorporating single-leg exercises alongside bilateral exercises whenever you lift weights or do other forms of resistance training. “I would prioritize leg strength work as much as possible,” she says.

In a five-exercise lower-body workout, for example, Fagin suggests doing three single-leg and two bilateral moves because “one-leg work is really important,” she says. That said, bilateral exercises, like squats and deadlifts, are also important, which is why you don’t want to spend everything your time doing single leg work. As with many things in exercise (and in life!), balance is key.

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