I am totally obsessed with single leg work right now you guys. I’ve always been a fan, but recently my love was rekindled.
The MFF team was tasked with a little educational assignment last month. We all watched some video content put together by a guy named Mike Boyle about all things training related. Mike is a really smart dude and his facility, Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, trains tons of incredible athletes each year. They also train lovely folks of all ages and walks of life looking to get healthy and hot.
After watching these videos, the entire MFF team came away with such excitement about sharing this stuff with you, our beloved Ninjas. We had a long chat in our team meeting and the overwhelming consensus about what was important to share was, you guessed it: SINGLE LEG WORK!
What Is Single Leg Work and Why Should I Care?
I’m so glad you asked! Single leg work is simply doing an exercise on one leg. You can also think of it as doing an exercise where your weight is not evenly distributed on two feet. Think single leg deadlift, rear foot elevated split squat, pistol squat, etc.
Now, why should you care about it? The answer to that question is something that lines up directly with our values as Ninjas: health and hotness, my friends! The great news is that single leg work really nails BOTH.
Single Leg Work for Health
I’ve been thinking about overall health and longevity a lot lately. It’s one of those things that is so easy to take for granted when you have it. But when you think about it, it’s such a gift to be healthy and have a body that shows up for you every day. And as we all know, that shit takes maintenance. Like Brian Patrick Murphy says, you gotta pay that rent!
I don’t know about you, but I am playing that good, long game when it comes to my fitness. What I mean by that is I wanna be throwing my grandkids around and teaching them how to do kettlebell swings when I’m in my 80s… for real! That is something that is really important to me.
There are lots of statistics out there showing that falling down is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older Americans. Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall. Those stats are pretty crazy to hear because falling does not have to be an inevitable result of aging. Increasing strength and balance significantly reduces those odds.
When it comes to training on one leg, the thing I hear most often is, “I don’t like these because my balance isn’t good!” Mike Boyle said it and I’m gonna scream it, “THAT’S EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT!”
Balance, like strength, is something that can absolutely be improved with some regular practice. So do those single leg exercises because I want you to have the most amazing awkward dance parties when you’re 85! #BESTLIFE
Alright, let’s get nerdy. We’re gonna talk about something called bilateral deficit. The science-y definition: “Bilateral deficit is the difference in the summed force between contracting muscles alone and contracting contralateral homologous muscles in combination.”
More simply put, if I take the amount of weight I can lift on one side (unilateral) and add it to the amount I can lift on the other side, that number will be greater than what I can lift with both sides at the same time (bilateral).
The reason for this is that contracting bilaterally is confusing to the brain and the body is less efficient when you ask both segments to work at the same time.
Now let’s talk about why this information is so magical! The magic lies in the fact that I can lift less weight, which means less wear and tear on my joints in the long run, and get the same if not better results. FUCK YEAH!!!
If I am doing a squat with a lot of weight, there is inevitably a certain amount of compression on my spine. If I do that squat on one leg instead, then the load would be reduced most likely by around half. Less load, less compression, less miles on those joints.
Mike talks about doing the best exercise with the lowest load and compares it to miles on a car. I think all of those things are worth thinking about when we look ahead and want a long and fully active life.
Single Leg Work for Hotness
For those of you who are thinking about that hotness part of the equation, I didn’t forget about you! While doing things on one leg may take a little bit longer (gotta get those reps in on both sides), that is exactly what makes it great for metabolic conditioning. It takes twice as long to train each leg individually. Double the work means more calories burned!
The last thing I want to mention here is the badass factor. I will admit, I feel like a badass when I lift a lot of weight. If I set a PR on a deadlift or a squat I feel like a superhero!
Lately, I have been thinking about how much MORE badass it is to do those things on one leg.
It’s not easy.
It takes balance, strength, focus and control.
But if I can earn that and own it, that is truly the baddest of badass.
In the past, I’ve been guilty of not grabbing weights when training my split squat or my single leg deadlift. I subconsciously thought that I would save going heavy on other stuff. But why NOT set a PR on a single leg deadlift?!
Where Do I Start?
Anytime you have a single leg movement in class, in the Lair, or on Monster Island, grab a kettlebell! Start light at first to see how it goes.
From there, gradually progress that weight, just like you did when you learned to deadlift on two feet. Before you know it, you will be nailing it and stronger than ever.
I challenge you to go out and get strong on one leg! For health, hotness, and because it’s just plain BADASS.