One of the foundational aspects we incorporate in our training at Bold Base Performance is the emphasis of single leg training to increase speed, strength and performance. There are several reasons we believe training on single leg will increase your performance, decrease your risk of injury and improve you time in the gym.
80% of walking and 100% of running are done on one leg. In order to mimic the demands of your sport and everyday life, your training needs to resemble similar demands. This is a big reason doing machines for lower leg training are not as good as free weights. Without one foot on the ground, it is hard to mimic the demands of what you need to do on the court or field.
The phenomena of the bilateral deficit is well documented in the literature but not commonly taught or practiced in the current state of training. The bilateral deficit refers to the neurological confusion the body undergoes when trying to use both lower extremities at the same time to produce maximal force. A great example of this is seen in the videos of me jumping.
The first video shows me jumping off of two legs. I can graze the top of the rim with one hand using this approach.
The second video shows me jumping off my left leg. Although this is my weaker leg, I jump higher off of it. This is common in most basketball players, and a topic for another day. What is more interesting is how high I get on the net compared to jumping off of two legs. There is less than a few inches difference between jumping off of one leg and two legs. Without the bilateral deficit, jumping off of two legs should be twice as high as any one leg. As you can see from the picture comparison, this is clearly not the case.
The third video confirms this even more. Jumping off my right leg, the leg I don’t like jumping off of, gets almost as high as the first two jumps.
What does this mean for you? You should be training single leg in order to maximize the production of your brain, body and workouts.
Higher Strength Capacity
If you are still confused about single leg training and the bilateral deficit, this next section will continue to explain why it is important.
Let’s take for example you can do a 300 pound squat for 3 repetitions. This would equal 150 pounds of weight per leg. Comparing this to a rear elevated foot split squat, where you can do 160 pounds (two 80 pound dumbbells) for 3 repetitions. Would you rather lift 150 pounds per leg or 160 pounds per leg for the same repetitions? Training at a higher level of your true maximum capacity will result in faster speeds, higher verticals and better strength gains. For those that worry your grip strength will limit you in such exercise, there are several ways to get over this. One, you can improve your grip strength, which has been related to better overall health. You can wear a weighted vest. You can also load your back with a barbell. Many solutions to the problem.
The goal of any training system is to maximize the risk:reward ratio of exercises to improve the performance of the person to get to their goals faster and healthier. Single leg exercises can increase your performance, allow you to reach your goals and prioritize your health all at the same time.