10 Single-Leg Exercises to Build Strength and Eliminate Imbalances

Many important movements in sports are performed off one leg. Increase your single-leg strength with these 10 exercises.

No matter what sport you play, leg strength has a big role in your ability to perform. Whether you're making a driving layup in basketball, pushing off the mound in baseball or leaping into the sand pit in track, single-leg strength is vital to an athlete's success. Here are 10 single-leg exercises to build individual leg strength to help every athlete improve his or her athletic performance.

1. Single-Leg Bulgarian Split Squat

This is one of my favorite single-leg exercises, because it incorporates strength, balance and stability necessary for movements in sports. By having your rear foot elevated, you increase the difficulty and further the need for muscle recruitment.

How to Perform:

  • Stand with your back to a bench or box that is knee-high.
  • Get into a split squat position with your back foot on top of the bench or box.
  • Keeping your knee and toe straight and your back upright, squat down in a slow and controlled motion until just before your knee touches the ground.
  • Using your weight-bearing leg (not your elevated leg), push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • When you are squatting, make sure your knee does not extend over your toe. If it does, lengthen your stance.
  • To increase the difficulty, hold a pair of dumbbells, a weight plate or an EZ bar—or wear a weight vest.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

RELATED: 7 Tips to Master Single-Leg Exercises

2. Single-Leg Stability Ball Leg Curl

The Stability Ball Leg Curl is an excellent lower-body exercise that increases strength and stability in your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It is especially good for fixing muscle imbalance-prone athletes who are quadricep dominant, such as soccer players and sprinters.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your hands spread out to the side, palms face down.
  • Put one leg straight on top of a stability ball on your lower calf, near your Achilles.
  • Bend the other leg and bring it toward your chest.
  • Bridge up using the leg on the stability ball while simultaneously curling it toward your butt in a slow and controlled motion.
  • Once the ball reaches your butt, extend your leg back to the starting position.
  • Make sure you are squeezing your glutes and keeping your hips elevated throughout the motion.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.

3. Single-Leg Box Jump

The Single-Leg Box Jump builds explosive power individually in each leg. This is especially important because most jumping motions in sports are off one leg, such as a long jumper in track or a basketball player going up for a layup.

How to Perform:

  • Place a shin- or knee-high plyometric box, bench or step-up board in front of you.
  • Lift one foot off the floor while balancing on the other, making sure your foot and knee are straight.
  • Partially squat down, then forcefully jump up onto the box making sure to drive through your hips and swing your arms for momentum.
  • Land softly on the box in a partial squat position, then stand fully upright.
  • Step back down to the floor to the starting position.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

4. Single-Leg RDL

This exercise helps build stability and flexibility in the hips, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. It is all about balance and resistance while in motion, similar to what occurs during a game.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a light to moderately heavy dumbbell or kettlebell.
  • Lift one foot off the floor while balancing on the other, making sure your knee and toe are straight.
  • With a slight bend in your weight-bearing knee, bend forward at the waist, hinging your hips with your chest out and back straight.
  • Once you are parallel to the floor, extend your hips and lower back until you are upright and at the starting position. That is one repetition.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

RELATED: Why Single-Leg Training Should Be in Your Program

5. Single-Leg Slide Board Reverse Lunge

As mentioned above with the Bulgarian Split Squat, athletes should focus on using their weight-bearing leg to Squat, with as little assistance as possible from their back leg; the slide board is the perfect tool because it forces you to do just that.

How to Perform:

  • Stand in front of a slide board with your back toward the board.
  • Place your leading or weight-bearing leg off the board and your lagging leg on the board.
  • Keeping your back, knee and toe of your weight-bearing leg straight, perform a Reverse Lunge by sliding your back leg until your knee almost touches the ground.
  • Drive through your hips and quadriceps of your leading leg to return to the starting upright position.
  • Make sure your knee does not extend over your toe, and do not overextend or stretch your back leg.
  • Increase the difficulty by adding dumbbells, weight plate, weight vest, or EZ bar.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

6. Single-Leg BOSU Ball Glute Bridge

This exercise is similar to the Stability Ball Leg Curl, but it incorporates some isometric (non-moving) holds that cause your muscles to work harder to adjust, especially when fatigued.

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels close to your butt but still flat on the floor.
  • Place one foot on top of the round side of a BOSU ball.
  • Extend the other leg next to it on the floor.
  • Perform a bridge, making sure to drive through your hips, extend your lower back and activate your glutes.
  • Keeping your straight leg off the floor and in the air, hold that position for 10 seconds, then lower your butt back down to the staring position. That is one repetition.
  • As soon as your butt touches the floor, immediately transition into your next repetition.
  • Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.

RELATED: 10 Balance Exercises That Will Make Every Athlete Better

7. Single-Leg BOSU Ball Pistol Squat

The Pistol Squat is a challenging exercise on its own, building strength and stability in the hips, glutes and quadriceps. Performing them on a BOSU Ball increases the difficulty by requiring you to balance more, so playing on a flat, solid surface will be simple and allow you to produce more force.

How to Perform:

  • Stand on the flat side of a BOSU ball.
  • Lift one leg off the ball and balance on the other leg, making sure your knee and toe are straight.
  • With your hands straight in front of you at chest level and your non-weight-bearing leg straight in front of you, squat down on your weight-bearing leg in a slow and controlled motion.
  • When squatting, keep your back straight and shoulders retracted.
  • Stick your butt out as if you were sitting in a chair.
  • Once you have squatted as far as you can (preferably 90 degrees), drive back up through your hips and glutes until you reach the upright starting position.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

8. Single-Leg Jump Rope

Jumping rope is a great cardiovascular and strength workout. It builds strength and endurance in the calves, quadriceps and shoulders.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a jump rope that is optimal length for your size
  • Lift one foot off the ground while balancing on the other, making sure your knee and toe are straight.
  • Begin jumping rope, hopping on one foot.
  • Stay light on your feet by jumping on the balls of your feet.
  • Maintain good posture by keeping your shoulders retracted and your core engaged.
  • Perform 3 sets of 30 seconds on each leg.

9. Single-Leg Step-Up

The Single-Leg Step-Up is an excellent combination of strength and stability for the glutes and quadriceps. This exercise allows you to produce force while balancing on one leg, similar to in-game movements such as kicking a soccer ball or pushing off the mound to throw a baseball.

How to Perform:

  • Stand in front of a knee-high plyometric box, bench or step-up board.
  • Place one foot on top of the box with your knee and toe straight.
  • Keeping good posture, explode up by driving your hips and glutes using your weight-bearing leg on the box.
  • Stand completely up, bringing your lagging bent leg forward and up toward your chest.
  • Step back down to the starting position, but keep your foot on the box the entire time.
  • As soon as you step back down, immediately transition into your next repetition.
  • Increase difficulty by adding dumbbells, weight plate, weight vest or EZ bar.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 repetitions on each leg.

10. Single-Leg Calf Raise

The Single-Leg Calf Raise builds strength in the calf muscles, which are essential for propelling you forward and up when you jump or run. This muscle provides power for the push-off phase of your stride, making it a prime mover in most sports motions.

How to Perform:

  • Stand on top of a plyometric box, bench or step-up board with your heels off the edge and the balls of your feet on the box.
  • Lift one foot off the box.
  • With your weight-bearing foot, flex your calves by raising your heels and pushing off the ball of your foot in a slow and controlled motion.
  • Imagine you are standing on your toes.
  • Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
  • Increase difficulty by adding dumbbells, weight plate or weight vest.
  • Perform 3 sets of 15 repetitions on each leg.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: LOWER BODY | BOXING | EXERCISES | BENCH | DUMBBELLS | LIFTS | LOWER BACK | JUMPING | BOSU BALL | STABILITY BALL