Improve Strength and Balance With This Single-Leg Workout

Combine single-leg movements with upper-body exercises in a workout from STACK Expert Jim Carpentier.

Performing exercises on one leg is an underused and underappreciated training method. When you incorporate single-leg movements and upper-body exercises, you build the core strength and balance essential for many sports.

A single-leg, full-body workout:

  • Works lower-body muscles (hips/quadriceps/hamstrings, calves.)
  • Builds core strength.
  • Promotes upper-body strength and size when you perform upper-body exercises on one leg.
  • Produces stronger bone density since all exercises are done standing (weight-bearing upright activities such as jogging, walking or lifting weights strengthen bones more effectively than seated or supine exercises.)
  • Forces the muscles to work harder to maintain stability, revving up your metabolism.

Try these challenging and fast-paced full-body, single-leg workouts on non-consecutive days, allowing for adequate recovery.

WATCH: The Best Single-Leg Exercises for Athletes


  • Moderately heavy kettlebell (KB) – 70 or 80% RM (substitute a dumbbell if necessary)
  • Water bottle


  • Do an upper/lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles and Lunges).
  • Finish with upper/lower-body static cool-down stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
  • Hydrate before/during/after workout.
  • To optimally enhance balance/core stabilization, perform entire single-leg workout, preventing raised foot from touching the ground.
  • Do all exercises in a standing position.
  • Sets/Reps: 3x10; rest between sets, 15 seconds.
  • Rest between exercises: 30 seconds (hydrate during rest). Short rest periods between sets and exercises intensify the workout and enhance endurance—another fundamental sports performance attribute.

Single-Leg Workout

Single-Leg Squats & Overhead Presses

  • Hold KB in left hand atop left shoulder while standing on right leg (knee slightly bent) and left foot off ground.
  • Squat and simultaneously press KB overhead while returning to upright position and slowly lowering KB back on shoulder (2 seconds).
  • Do 10 reps and repeat with right arm for 10 reps while standing on left leg.
  • Targets hips, legs, shoulders, and triceps.

Single-Leg Cross Rows

Excellent lower, middle and upper back and biceps-building exercise that also engages core muscles and strengthens the "pulling" muscles needed for tackling or bringing down an opponent.

  • Hold KB in left hand at side with left foot off ground and right knee slightly bent.
  • Squat with right leg and slowly bring KB down across body toward right ankle.
  • Pause one second at bottom, then quickly pull KB back to start position.
  • After 10 reps, immediately place KB in right hand with right foot off ground and repeat cross-row movement to opposite left ankle for 10 reps.

Single-Leg Press-Outs

Develops "pushing" muscles (triceps, chest) for blocking or pushing away opponents.

  • Hold KB with both hands close to your chest with left foot off ground and right knee slightly bent.
  • Explosively press KB away from chest and slowly return to start (right leg remains stationary with knee bent without squatting).
  • After 10 reps, repeat Press-Outs standing on left leg.

Single-Leg Upright Rows

Another pulling movement, Upright Rows build powerful shoulders and trapezius muscles.

  • Hold KB with both hands below waist level with left foot off ground and right knee bent.
  • Quickly pull KB up toward chest and slowly lower for 10 reps.
  • Immediately switch to right foot off ground and repeat the movement for 10 reps.

Single-Leg Kettlebell Twists

Good exercise for strengthening muscles used for rapid turning/twisting movements during practices and games.

  • Hold KB with both hands at chest level with arms extended while standing on right leg with left foot off ground.
  • Quickly rotate KB to the right and slowly return to start.
  • Following 10 reps, immediately stand on left leg and rotate KB toward the left for 10 reps.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock