Single Leg Training For Athletic Performance

I was recently reading the journal article titled ” Single-Leg Training for 2-Legged Sports: Efficacy of Strength Development in Athletic Performance” that was written by Juan Carlos Santana in the Strength and Conditioning Journal in 2001 and there many great take away messages that I thought I would share with you.

Some of the key messages include:

  • The vast majority of strength and conditioning programs focus on bilateral exercises to produce strength and power.
  • If we look at the biomechanics of many sports, the vast majority of these require force production on one leg i.e. running and change of direction.
  • We must respect the physical laws of inertia, momentum, ground reaction and understand that we must be able to move through 360 degrees of movement.
  • Specificity of training often is the driving principle behind performance and based on this, sports that require one to load and move unilateral should incorporate exercises that focus on strength and power through range of motion on one leg.
  • Whilst single leg presses, lunges and step ups are good single leg exercises, we must also think outside the box and be mindful of prescribing exercises and variability within these exercises and other single leg exercises i.e. different foot placement positions, distances, depth, speed and load on a anterior, lateral, rotation lunge etc will facilitate this.

From a clinical prehab/rehab and exercise prescription point of view, I agree very much with these comments as the key is to developing strength and mobility through varied movement patterns.  Whilst one might incorporate some max loading on a deadlift and/or squat to produce power (speed * load), we should incorporate multi directional movement and unilateral loading exercises into our program.

This article was written by osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy.  Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD and Docklands leading osteopathy clinics.  If you would like to find out more about the clinic and/or book an appointment online, please go to