6 Best Single Leg Squats | UNILATERAL STRENGTH

January 26, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

6 Best single leg squats to develop unilateral strength in your legs. Single leg exercises are great for strength, balance and stability.

Single leg squats (unilateral squats) are a great alternative to two leg squats (bilateral squats). Unilateral squats work very well when it comes to developing leg strength, mobility and power.

Bilateral squats work and are great for developing the lower body, but single leg squats can do the same while also offering many unique benefits.

Benefits of unilateral squats:

  • Balance & stability: your inner thighs and many other muscles like glutes need to work hard for balance.
  • Structural balance of the legs: single leg squats will reveal whether your one side is stronger or weaker than another. 
  • Hip mobility: split squats will stretch and mobilize the hip flexors, whereas unilateral squats like pistol squats will allow you to squat much deeper compared to bilateral squats.
  • Athletic ability: stability and balance will come helpful in sports, martial arts and movement. Most athletic movements are single leg dominant by nature.

Other good single leg exercises for legs are single leg deadlifts which will develop balance and stability better than any exercise out there.

In addition to squats and deadlifts, you also need to train other functions of the legs such as the hip rotation, abduction/adduction and learn how to control all muscles of the legs. Movement 20XX has very high level leg training because we will target pretty much everything there is to target. 

One of the big mistakes people do is that they use too much weight and do the exercises with a bad form. Bodyweight is more than enough to make amazing progress if you just do the exercises right. More weight doesn't necessarily equal more progress. 

Single Leg Squat Exercises

Split Squat

split squat exercise

Split squat (also known as the static lunge) will primarily target the glutes, hamstrings and quads while also stretching the hip flexors of the rear leg. 

The movement should be up and down.

Leaning Split Squat

leaning split squat

Leaning split squat is a quads dominant version of the split squat. You lunge by leaning forward and then push yourself back with the strength of your quads.

The movement of this exercise is forth and back.

Bulgarian Split Squat

bulgarian split squat

Bulgarian split squat is a front leg dominant variation of the split squat. By elevating the rear leg you will increase the stretch on the hip flexors while placing more weight on your front leg.

Bulgarian Split Squat (bottoms up)

bottoms up bulgarian split squat

Bottoms up bulgarian split squat will take weight off your rear leg and shift more weight towards the front leg. This makes the exercise harder because you will be focusing even more on the front leg.

Shrimp Squat

shrimp squat exercise

In the shrimp squat all of your weight is on one leg at the time. The leg alignment is also different and more centered compared to split squats.

You can use counter weight to make the exercise easier. Shrimp squat will primarily hit the glutes and hamstrings while also working the quads.

Pistol Squat

pistol squat progressions

Pistol squat is one of the deepest squat variations you can do because the hip position allows you to go as low as it is humanly possible.

Pistol squat is a knee dominant exercise which is why your quadriceps will play a bigger role. Lifting yourself up from the bottom will also fire hard your hip flexors.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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