Build Balance & Strength With the Single Leg Squat

The move that builds strength, power and coordination

Caucasian runner stretching on remote road
Mike Kemp/ GattyImages

Adding single leg squats to your training program is one of the best ways to develop strength, balance, and coordination, and reduce the pain of runner's knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome. This exercise will develop stability and core strength, as well as prevent injury and improve performance.

The single leg squat is the kind of exercise that you need to start slowly. You may find that you cannot control your body, your ankle starts to wobble, your knee rotates and your upper body sways.

You may find out your balance is not what you thought. Over time you will be able to do a single leg squat with grace and ease.

It's OK if you're struggling. In fact, a lot of people do. Most people struggle with the single leg squat... in the beginning. If this is the case, start by balancing on one leg until you can stand on one leg for 30 seconds. By starting with this exercise, you will start to develop the smaller stabilizing muscles. You will find your balance improves tremendously over time.

How to Do a Single Leg Squat

If possible, perform this exercise in front of a mirror in order to maintain good form. Over time, you will be able to leave the mirror behind.

  1. Stand on one leg with your foot pointing straight ahead and your knee slightly bent. Keep your weight centered over the ball of your foot.
  2. Keep your upper body erect with your head facing forward. Tuck your pelvis under and roll your shoulder blades back. Don't round your shoulders.
  1. Keeping the knee centered over the ball of the foot, lower into a squat position. Start with shallow squats and work your way closer to the ground.
  2. Repeat three sets of 10 squats on each leg.

Once you develop your strength, coordination and balance, feel free to add hand weights or hold a medicine ball to build additional strength.

Over time, consider doing the squat on an unstable or smaller surface such as a mini trampoline or balance beam.

The Benefits of Doing Squats

The single leg squat seems like a basic exercise, but it isn't easy to do. It delivers multiple results and works the entire body using just body weight alone. No equipment is necessary, making it the kind of exercise you can do anytime, anywhere. Incorporating squats into your exercise routine will keep your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes strong. It's also a really effective core workout because it demands so much in terms of posture and support.

Doing the single leg squat, or any squat for that matter, is an effective way to tone the legs and glutes, strengthen the core muscles and increase flexibility.  This is an ideal exercise for athletes of all sports and skill levels, but it's especially useful for runners. The single leg squat works the same muscles used for running: the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus maximum and calves.

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