There is always a huge debate in sports, athletic and bodybuilding training about the benefits of single leg training as opposed to double leg training…for example, should you do regular barbell squats or are lunges better?
Do single leg exercises have greater carryover to sports and athletics or is an athlete better off using an exercises like squats that you can load more heavily in order to build overall strength then use athletic practice to develop specific strength.
I’m not going to get into that whole debate here…my approach is to do BOTH. They each have their benefits and their place in training.
THIS exercise, however, gives you the advantage of serious loading on the target muscles AND doing it one leg at a time to develop that functional strength we’re looking for. It’s also a great core strength workout as the tension is going to be going primarily through one side of your body.
It’s the Single Leg Lockout Partial Squat.
This exercise, when you really load it heavily like I do, should ONLY be done in a power rack. I would also highly recommend getting a piece of squat training equipment called the Manta Ray (click here to read to my full review of the Manta Ray).
Ideally, you should also be familiar with lockout partial squatting with both legs before working with the single leg version.
I HIGHLY recommend you start with a lighter weight (like your around 80% of your normal 1 RM on a regular squat, for example) in order to get used to the exercise and how it loads your body before you start moving up in weight.
This exercise is completely safe when you perform it within your own ability level, which is why I recommend starting nowhere the weights that I use when I do the exercise You need to develop the unilateral leg and core strength and stability to be able to handle bigger loads before actually tackling the bigger loads, even if you feel you have the leg strength to push higher.
Do your first trial of these with weights BELOW your 1 rep max for sets of 10 to 12 reps or so. Then see how it feels, let your body adapt and gradually move yourself up from there.
I’ve been doing these for a long time and doing partial squats for a long time so I’m able to push the weight to a pretty substantial level here without any problems (675 lbs/7 plates on the bar in the pics here), doing sets of 6 reps.
How to Do Single Leg Lockout Partial Squats:
You’re going to set the rails in the power rack to just below the lockout position of your squat. You only want to hit the top few inches of the range of motion with this exercise.
Get yourself under the bar like you were going to do a regular squat.
Now get your left foot directly under the mid-point of the bar. This is important! You want your working leg to have a directly line of push through the weight.
Your other leg is going to be set out to the side for balance, like the outrigger on a canoe…it doesn’t contribute much directly to the upwards movement but is used for balance and support. That other foot should on the balls of the foot, almost like the top position of a calf raise. This will allow it to be more active in helping with balance.
Now you’re ready to start. Get yourself locked under the bar and make sure you’re pushing from the HEEL of your foot, not from your toes, on that working leg. That’ll activate the glutes more strongly, which help power this exercise.
Take a big breath and HOLD IT for the duration of the up and down, until you set that bar back down on the rails. This is a very short movement and you don’t need to breathe whilel doing it. Breathing will just destabilize your core. We want a rock-solid, fireplug-tight core while performing this exercise because of the unbalanced tension going through your body while doing it.
Push the bar off the rails, straightening your leg, then set it back down. You don’t need to hold the lockout at the top – there’s no real advantage in doing it. Just get it off the rails, straighten you leg then immediately come back down and set it back on the rails again.
Repeat this for all your reps on the first leg then switch to the other leg.
Remember to hold your breath all the way up and down and make sure you set your working leg right under the center of the bar.
This is a GREAT exercise for developing serious unilateral strength in the lower body and great core strength for sports.
Even though it’s relatively lighter than regular lockout partial squats, you can still load it pretty substantially so make sure you do it smartly, starting with sub-maximal weights in order to gauge how your body responds to this type of training.