Developing explosive power for athletes should logically entail pure single-leg exercises. Simply put, when you’re in a sport, any sport, you are usually creating power and taking off from one leg anyhow. In fact, most everything we do is transitioning from a single leg to another. So, if you want to have great leg strength, be able to jump with power, create force and momentum in your movement, you can do so much with single-leg exercises.
10 Explosive Single-Leg Exercises
Here is my top 10 list of single-leg exercises that I have successfully applied to athletes and trainees at all levels. You can see them all from the 3:27 minute mark in the video above, where I explain my approach to doubling leg strength, one leg at a time.
- Weighted Box Step-Ups: These are simple enough to do as you can see from the video above. Just remember to watch yourself on the way down and maintain control and good form. You’re not looking to put extra strain on the lower joints.
- Single-Leg Glute Bridge: When you are watching the video on this exercise, pay attention to the toes. They point out. Maintain that tension when you do it and create the clean lines in the bridge.
- Elevated Single-Leg Glute Bridge: The key thing here is to keep the toes pointed and make sure you get a high enough raise in your glutes. It’s going to be challenging and you’ll definitely feel it in your hamstrings.
- Stability Ball Leg Curl: Getting into position and maintaining position is going to be awkward so, don’t worry about that. Actually, it’s not as simple as it looks.
- Single-Leg Stability Ball Leg Curl: Switching to one leg only is going to add a multiplier in terms of awkwardness and difficulty in this movement. Again, don’t worry about that and accept that it requires concentration and focus to maintain form, despite the lack of resistance.
- Dumbbell Split Squat: CrossFitters will hit that knee to the ground. It is best to have a pad or something soft to cushion that area, for sure. However, you will probably just graze the ground. As long as you have tension and control, you’re good.
- Walking Lunges for Runners: From the video, it may seem like an exaggerated lunge and it is. You’re trying to show that knee raise. That’s why we call it a lunge for runners. It gives you good depth and muscle memory in the process, too.
- Bulgarian Split Squats: We try this exercise with the top of the foot flat on the bench and with the back foot on its toes. Either is fine. On the toes will put some extra emphasis on the quads but it is entirely up to you. Just make sure you set yourself up properly and you have the necessary flexibility to perform this movement accurately.
- Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL): Even the best of you is going to be put off-balance doing this exercise. It’s not about how far up your back leg goes either. Keep your back solid and straight. Your back leg will go up as much as it does. The key is the position of your torso and the balance you maintain.
- Weighted Wall Sits with Hurdle Jump: I developed this approach to creating explosive leg power because sometimes when you have to jump in and train a group of athletes, you don’t have time to teach them cleans and Olympic weightlifting movements if you want to create that explosive power in their running and jumping. This exercise combo works, and you can see immediate results without asking the athlete to learn any complicated technical lifting movements.