Single-leg exercises allow you to get levels of joint torque and muscle activation that are similar to what you can get with double-leg exercise, but with less spinal loading. And if you're weak at single-leg training, any gains in strength will transfer over to bilateral training.
Here's one of the best unilateral exercises to help your squat. It'll also increase single-leg stability and flexibility throughout a larger range of motion.
Dumbbell Deficit Bulgarian Split Squat
- Create a 2-4 inch deficit using boards, mats, or aerobics steps. This is for your front foot.
- Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Standing on top of the platform, reach back and place the top of the foot on the top of the bench. The majority of the weight should be kept over the front foot (around 80%), with the additional weight on the rear foot (around 20%).
- While keeping the torso mostly upright, descend under control until your knee lightly touches the ground.
- Drive through the heel of the front foot back to the starting position. Keep a neutral head, pelvis, and spine throughout the range of motion.
- Don't allow the knee to drift too far in front of the toes or shift from side to side. If you're prone to knee aches and pains, sit back more and maintain a vertical shin throughout the movement.
Avoid These Mistakes
- Using a deficit that's too high, which alters technique.
- Not keeping control throughout the movement.
- Not touching the ground with the knee and skimping on range of motion.
- Using a bench that's too high, which may cause hip flexor/groin pain.
- Rising up onto the toes.