Our Favorite Exercises Part 2: Single-leg variations
Uni-lateral exercises are great for creating balance between the left and right side of your body. Everyone has a dominant side that they use to preform a majority of their activities causing imbalances in the body. Focusing on one side at a time can help to counter act this.
Split squat: Standing with your feet together, take a big step forward so that you're on the toes of your rear feet and planted firmly on your front foot - both knees slightly bent. The movement begins on the front leg as you simultaneously drop the knee down and forward - so that the knee finishes over the toes on the weight is on the ball of the front foot, not the heel. The rear leg bends slightly and finishes just above the floor. Push up through the foot and return to the original split stance. Again, the knee should track over the middle toe, chest is up and shoulders back. All reps should be completed on one leg before switching to the other
Lunges: Are done in a continuous pattern, unlike the split squat - with one leg after another. The fundamental difference is that your drive off the heel of your front foot, rather than the ball. The result is that your knee will not travel very far over your middle toe, if at all, and the stride length is much shorter than a split squat. Steps are taken slowly and under control, keeping a neutral
Step backs: Similar to a lunge, start with both feet together. Take a step backward, dropping that knee to just above the floor under control. Your front thigh should finish parallel to the floor, with the weight through the heel. Drive back up through the heel to the starting position and complete the reps on the same leg. Keep the chest up, shoulders back and core tight throughout the movement
Step ups: Step ups are best done with a barbell to keep the centre of gravity toward the back. The step should be set between mid shin and knee height for most people. Start with one foot on the step, and the other foot on the floor, close to the step and weight on the toe. Lean forward so the weight is transferred into the hip, and most weight is now on the foot on the step. When you feel tension though the glute and hip, drive up through the heel and finish with both feel on the step. Slowly descend, keeping the weight on the starting leg, reset, and repeat on the same leg. The key here is to FEEL the glute and hip of the top leg working - you don't want to 'rock' into the next rep using momentum. Instead, reset each time and drive up.
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