Split Squats & their variations...
Now we love a good squat at Paramount Fitness.
Some argue its rightful place, but as long as you can squat comfortably with good form without injuring yourself, then yup squats should be part of your programme.
There is more than just the squat, deadlift and erm leg extension / leg curl you know?
Lets not forget about the uni-lateral component too.
Single leg training can really add to a lifters arsenal, as developing single strength leg will help you in your bi-lateral lifts but not necessarily to the same extent the other way round.
Training single leg (unilaterally) will add a different component to your workouts and challenge you in a different way. You can hit similar levels of recruitment and workload while reduce spinal loading, you may be able to increase the range of motion you work through to attain more mobility and take muscular development even higher than usual.
But what other moves can we include to "round out" leg development?
For optimal development it is a much wiser decision to include multiple lower body moves into your training.
Your target for the best moves to include may differ dependant on the muscle you want to improve.
Do you want more developed quads? Theres moves to target them. The hamstrings? yep them too. And the glutes? yep, plenty of moves for them too.
For starters we are going to look at the single leg variations for lower body development but what benefits can we derive from throwing in the single leg variation?
Improving or Learning Quality Movement
They are a great tool for well versed trainees and beginners alike. For beginners, body weight split squats and even Bulgarian split squats can be a vital learning tool for proper technique as well as the great benefits of helping to improve mobility at the hip, knees and ankles too.
Injury or Niggle Spot Workarounds
You have some great options if for some reason you can't squat or deadlift. The single leg variations can provide you an alternative to allow you to continue training around or to rehabilitate from an injury or just a niggle.
Targeted Muscle Development
Depending on your foot position, line of movement and how you drive the movement can determine which muscles of the lower leg get the most loading.
We know muscular development is driven via more than one factor so its important we hit the muscle from multiple angles and using multiple styles. We need to load them from their stretched positions but also their shortened positions. We need to create high tension so we work maximally to create maximal tension and thus increase muscle damage. But we can also drive development via metabolic stress too, and use moves that really create a pump type environment in the muscle.
Single leg variations allow us to play on these mechanisms by placing different muscles under tension at differing angles.
With that in mind, here are some of my favorite single leg moves to programme in.
Bulgarian (rear foot elevated) Elevated Split Squat
A great move that not only works as an assistance to the squat but is formidable in its own right. Its a great teaching tool or a progression into the back squats as it allows you to work hard as it can eliminate various factors that can make squating an issue. Since the torso is generally taller during a split squat than a back squat the limiting factor is the legs and not the torso or "core muscles".
Racked KB Deficit Reverse Lunge
Hitting reverse lunges like this cranks up the work load for the upper back and anterior core. Stepping off a small step into a deficit really emphasises the stretch through the glutes to maximise muscular tension, it also allows for increased range of motion at the hips while decreasing load at the knees, so it's a great exercise for those with tender knees.
Bridging, Single Leg Hip Thrust
With simply a couple of benches you can recreate one of the most useful glute exercises.
This move teaches how to hinge at the hips, helps train posterior and anterior core, single leg stability and create a cracking set of walnut crushing glutes!
Doing them raised with your shoulders on one bench and feet on another increases the ROM that the hips must move through meaning the recruitment of the glutes and hamstrings and also lower back is further increased as opposed to doing them on the floor.
Versatility, efficiency and effectiveness!
No other move provides so much within a limited time frame and with such little complexity. You can get down and deep into all sorts of the best protocols, but you simply can't get it wrong.
The nature of the prowler push means it is known as eccentric-less - basically it doesn't have a down phase like a lunge or a squat does - it is all press, press, press! The eccentric portion of the lift is generally the most damaging portion of a lift and leads to the most muscle damage and soreness following the training session. But as the prowler is eccentric-less it can be used multiple times to add workload without overdoing the need to recover.
The actual movement of the prowler means it is far more full body than a single leg move. The high range of motion and triple extension of the ankles, hips and knees mean all muscle groups of the lowerbody share the workload on the prowler as well as massive midsection recruitment and upper body stability.
A prowler can justify its place on almost any list of exercises.
--->>> Try this workout on for size <<<---
- Prowler Pressing (enough weight that stops you sprinting it) up 4 x 25-30m (adding load each set)
- Hack Squat 3 x 8
- Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 8
- Single Leg Glute Bridge 3 x 8-12
- Reverse Hyper x 20 super-setted with walking lunges x 20 per leg
Try adding a sprinkle of these after you have had your serving of squats or Deadlifts to compliment your ongoing quest for lower body development.