When most people see someone back squatting with 300 pounds compared to a single-leg squat, they assume the back squat is a more effective exercise because you can move a heavier load. But when that same person tries to do a single leg bodyweight squat, he can’t. By choosing the unilateral option, as in a squat with one leg, you create a greater stimulus to the working muscles that you don’t use when performing a two leg squat, the gluteus medius, the adductors, and the quadratus lumborum. Which results in you burning more calories during your training.
Single-leg exercises also cause less spinal compression, because less loading is utilized with unilateral movements; thus, making them safer on your spine. Also, when your legs are split, a more upright torso can be maintained, therefore decreasing stress in the lower back.
There is a flipside to this, although the spine may be exposed to a reduced stress, the knees and hip flexors can suffer far more. So be mindful, don’t push the lbs too soon. A good rule of thumb is this: if a particular exercise decreases stress in an area of the body that is involved in that movement pattern, then another joint involved may receive an even greater amount of stress.
The Best Unilateral Lower Body Exercises:
- Single-leg RDL
- Reverse lunge
- Split squat
- Single-leg back squat
- Single-leg front squat
- Bulgarian split squat
- Slider or suspension trainer leg curls
- Step up
- Rear foot elevated deadlift
- Single-leg deadlift