Begin at the Beginning: Single Leg Strength

author - melissa witmer strength and conditioning

The offseason is a wonderful time of year to work on areas of fitness that you have been neglecting and to build up a base level of strength. Now that the need for results is less urgent, you are free to think about your long term health, strength, and fitness needs. Especially if you are injury-prone, you can take the time to do things right and prepare yourself for next season.

If you are not sure what you need to work on, then I recommend working on your one-legged strength and balance. Doing squats with heavy weights may look and feel more impressive, but one-legged strength is far more applicable to sports in which changes of direction and explosive action occur from one leg.

If it has been a while since you’ve been to the gym, start by doing less weight than you think you should. These one-legged exercises may be perceived as easier than squats, and deadlifts. However, the stabilizing muscles in the leg are much more active in controlling the movement of a lunge than a squat. Strengthening your stabilizing muscles will increase the grace and control of your movements on the ultimate field. Additionally, forward lunges require eccentric strength to decelerate the body. This is a characteristic that is not trained by squats or a leg press but is important when using your legs to decelerate and change direction in cutting.

Consider mixing some of the following exercises into your current weight room routine. 

Squat/lunge variations

Messiah College player, Rhino, demonstrating the squat and touch

Types of squats/lunges (listed from less to more difficult)...

Single leg exercises

Alternatively, pick 2-3 exercises from the squat/lunge list. Add the hip lifts and single-leg straight-legged deadlifts for a workout that will increase your balance, strength, and coordination.

Simple single-leg strength progression:

Start with 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Increase 2 reps each week until you get to 12 or 14. Then change the type of squat to add variety and difficulty. Start by doing these exercises with no weight. Dumbbells can be used to add resistance to many of these exercises as you become more proficient. Always keep in mind that form is far more important than the amount of weight used.