Single-leg exercises can be difficult for young athletes who lack stability and strength. But they're important because they increase muscle mass in the right areas.
Here are five hacks to get athletes moving the right way when doing Split Squats, Reverse Lunges and even Bulgarian Split Squats.
1. Activate the front core muscles
Proper form is crucial to performing these exercises correctly. After the position is in place, make sure that you activate your anterior core. If not, you may present in a gross lumbar extension pattern—or your core may not fire reflexively to help you push weight.
The idea behind many lower-body strength exercises is to develop power in the legs by putting force into the ground and translating that force through the midsection. This helps with force development for games—especially useful for football, baseball, and hockey players.
2. Slow down the movement
When introducing these exercises, it may be good to intentionally slow them down. That way, you learn how the movements work with proper alignment and your muscles firing correctly.
Also, by introducing the eccentric portion of the lift, you contribute to the hypertrophy of your lower half—an awesome bonus to those looking to gain both strength and size.
Another variation is the Slideboard Reverse Lunge. This is useful because you have constant contact with the floor or board. Also, by taking out the sudden impact of the foot seen in a traditional Reverse Lunge, you can control the speed on the way up and down as well.
3. Prevent knees from shifting
One thing often heard when discussing squatting or lunging is to keep the knees from moving over the toes. While strength coaches should worry about the position of the knee during this exercise, sometimes it is best to make exercises easy in a systematic way. The most self-limiting way to perform this movement is to incorporate a bench and block your knee from traveling forward as you perform a reverse or static Lunge.
That way, if your knee travels forward, no harm done—it's blocked by the bench, and the only other way to move is backward.
4. Use a band to prevent knee valgus
One of the most difficult variations involves using a resistance band to pull the knee of the front leg further inward. The idea is not to make them perform the exercise with such a provocative motion, but rather to bring awareness to the faulty movement pattern.
5. Increase frequency by adding more "practice" during static movements
If you simply need more practice with an exercise, you could add half-kneeling variations to encourage more of a single-leg stance position—even with a program that is heavy in volume with a single-leg stance.
Combine any or all of these tips to address a lack of single-leg stability. Do a Slideboard Reverse Lunge with an anterior knee block. Or perform a Goblet Reverse Lunge with a medial band pull to activate both the front core and glutes.