Single leg exercises are an excellent way to challenge the lower body, improve stability, prevent injury, and strengthen both legs equally. They are sometimes overlooked and forgotten in favor of bilateral exercises such as the squat and the dead lift, but trust me—this is a mistake!
Whether your goals involve improving your athletic performance or they're aesthetic-based, single leg exercises should be incorporated into your workout programs along with bilateral training. The following exercises are fun, challenging single leg exercises that require minimal equipment. All you need is a set of dumbbells and a step with raisers.
If you're just starting out, you may find you're not ready to add weight to these exercises. So start with your body weight alone, and as your strength increases, you can add more resistance.
1. Bulgarian split squat.
Stand away from a flat bench and lift right the right foot back to rest toes on top of the bench. That's your starting position. With arms at your sides holding dumbbells, lower your (back) right knee until it has almost reached the ground while breathing in. Stand back up to starting position, focusing on pushing through the heel of your left (front) foot while breathing out. That's one rep.
2. Step up.
Start standing in front of a box or bench with dumbbells in hands at sides and left foot resting flat on top of the bench. Stand close to the bench with heel of left foot entirely on the bench. That's your starting position. Pushing through the heel of the left foot, rise up so that both the left and right leg are straight. The right foot is hanging behind you and not resting on the bench. Pause and lower back to starting position. That's one rep.
3. Elevated curtsy lunge.
Start standing on an adjustable step with raisers, holding dumbbells at your sides. That's your starting position. Step your right foot back, crossing it slightly behind your left. Lower your right knee until it almost touches the floor, keeping shoulders facing forward. Pause and push through the heel of your left foot to return to starting position. That's one rep.
4. Elevated stationary lunge.
Start standing on an adjustable step with raisers, holding dumbbells at your sides. Step your right leg back, keeping your weight in the left (front) leg. That's your starting position. Lower your right knee until it almost touches the ground, breathing in. Stand back up to the starting position, focusing on pushing through the heel of your left foot (front foot) while breathing out. That's one rep.
5. Non-alternating walking lunge.
Start standing with dumbbells in hands at your sides, arms extended. That's your starting position. Step forward with the left foot and lower the right knee until it is nearly touching the ground. Pushing through the heel of your left foot, step right leg forward to starting position. That's one rep.
Want more lower body-toning ideas? Here are five moves that will do the trick.
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