Dear Willow: How Do I Strengthen My Weak Leg?

I’ve been an athlete for years and have problems gaining strength in my right leg. What poses or exercises would you recommend to strengthen and balance between the two sides?

Dear Willow,

I’ve been an athlete for years and still have problems gaining strength in my right leg. What poses or exercises would you recommend to strengthen it to have balance between the two sides?



Dear Unbalanced,

Many of us are aware of the role our legs play in our life and the importance of having them, but there are thing we can do to provide greater range of motion and increase performance results. Whether you are a runner, baseball player, swimmer, or CrossFit competitor, this sequence is certain to enhance your activity.

Strengthen the less dominant side of the body and you will inevitably increase equilibrium throughout the body and mind. The nine-pose sequence below is designed to keep you working the same leg for several minutes, without rest. Hold each pose for 5 breaths, approximately 20-45 seconds, depending on how long you can do one full breath cycle. The goal with this sequence is twofold:

First, one goal is to increase your ability to take longer, fuller, deeper breaths, improving oxygen uptake and tidal volume. This brings the inhaled oxygen to the capillary level to energize the mitochondria of each muscle cell. This action will assist both aerobic and anaerobic activities to fulfill oxygen needs in response to the demand put on the muscles.

Second, sustaining these poses for a longer amount of time requires muscular recruitment. The greater demand on the motor units, the more they will fatigue and recruit other units to sustain the prolonged force. More recruited units equals greater carrying capacity or the ability to hold the force for longer amounts of time. This is one of the key distinctions of Forrest Yoga. Poses are sustained to place greater resistance on the muscles and demand on the rest of the bodies’ systems, producing an outcome favorable to athletes wanting to build muscle mass rather than losing it. Consider this static contraction or isometric training.

Additional benefits of this sequence include training the vestibular and proprioceptive systems. These systems are responsible for equilibrium, or where limbs are in reference to the earth and space. The simplified answer: increasing balance.

Leg Strengthening Sequence

Begin with weaker side first. Do the sequence. Switch to the other side. Switch back to the first side to repeat the sequence two times on the weaker side. In all of these poses focus on the back leg and pushing the back foot into the ground.

  1. Horse Stance – 10 breaths
  2. Warrior II – 5 breaths
  3. Reverse Warrior – 5 breaths
  4. Warrior II – 5 breaths
  5. Half Moon – 5 breaths
  6. Lunge – 5 breaths
  7. Warrior III – 5 breaths
  8. Stand by bringing back knee to chest – 5 breaths
  9. Tree Pose – 5 breaths
  10. (Set the foot down, come back into Horse Stance for 5 breaths, then switch to the other side)

Start and end this sequence with the weaker side. The weaker side needs to catch up to load bearing capacity and needs greater attention until you sense both sides are equalized. Also notice how the deeper breathing affects your cardiovascular exercises. The results may intrigue you to continue building this type of well-rounded training into your athletic toolbox.



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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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