The one leg squat Unique Bodyweight exercises degree of difficulty rating – 6 out of 10
Average time taken to master 2 to 3 months.
Not the most difficult skill to master but once obtained the one leg squat is a great bodyweight leg exercise that is also great fun to practice. As much a test of balance, coordination and flexibility as leg strength it is a skill that transfers over well to many sports and activities in every day life, so I defiantly recommend that you include this in your arsenal of bodyweight skills nailed.
Besides the above it is also a great way to show of to your friends because even those capable of squatting heavy weights cannot normally do a single one leg squat unless they have practiced it, so you have the chance to leave them feeling envious of your newly acquired ability, this alone makes it well worth the little bit of practice it takes to master.
Method of progression
The first thing you need to posses is the balance needed to stand on one leg as without a solid foundation any attempts at a one leg squat will only end with you on your proverbial bum as is the case with most peoples first attempts (including myself ) regardless of how strong you are at other legs exercises.
So to start of, simply test your balance by lifting one leg out in front of you and see how well you can maintain the position, if this is not a problem, skip this part and move on to the next phase, if on the other hand you find yourself swaying this way and that, then improving your balance is the first thing to do and I recommend you spend a couple of weeks doing just that.
The best way to practice is to stand on one leg and move the raised leg to the left, right, forward and then backwards so that your centre of gravity is continually shifting giving you the opportunity to quickly learn the control needed. Have fun with this and try to practice as many times as you can each day and you should find that your balance is fine within a couple of weeks.
Note, if you have access to a swimming pool a great way to improve your balance is to stand in water waist height and assume the position you are in when you begin the one leg squat.
You should find that the weightlessness that water creates enables you to keep your free leg lifted high for longer periods of time and results in very quick improvements in your form. I used this technique myself and found it helps tremendously, however, if you do try this method make sure you can reach the side of the pool incase you loose your footing and always have someone observe you just to be on the safe side. Please remember that anything you try is at your own risk.
Once you are confident that you have the balance needed to execute a one leg squat the best thing to do is place protection like a mattress or some cushions behind you and try and do one to see how you get on.
If you manage one in good form, congratulations all you have to do now is build up the repetitions. If you find that you cannot lower yourself down in a controlled fashion, you cannot push back up from the bottom or your free leg touches the floor, it could be because of a lack of flexibility in your hips, hamstrings, calves or ankles or a lack of leg strength.
You can improve your flexibility with any number of stretching exercises (see our six weeks guide to the front splits for more advice on stretching) however, I found myself that the best way to achieve the flexibility required is to make gradual progress using one of the two methods described below, as for the strength needed again choose one or both of the following techniques as practice makes perfect and the best way to learn to do something is as Nike says – just do it.
Starting position of the one leg squat
Bottom position of the one leg squat
Is simply using a series of strong boxes, steps or benches to provide a safety net that allows you to go only as low as you can manage at that particular time, this ingenious technique works a treat because it builds up your confidence and strength in a controlled and safe way, but remember, the idea is to only touch whatever you have used as a marker and then push back up, do not use it as a seat to park your bum on.
Start with a box, step or bench the same height as you can comfortably squat down to on one leg and gently touch it before pushing back up. When you’re happy with this height find something lower and start practising again
With this method of progression you use that most versatile piece of training equipment the door frame. All you have to do is place yourself side on to the door frame and use your hands to provide extra stability and strength.
Make sure you control your decent until you reach the maximum range of motion, hold this position for a second or two and then push back up. This training technique allows you to feel what it is like to complete a full one leg squat without worrying about not being able to push your leg back up or falling over as your hands should provide all the assistance required.
Once you can do 5 reps this way you can progress by using one hand, then just one finger and thump and then finally just use the finger and thumb to give you a little help at any sticking points you have. This is a simple but effective way of learning the one leg squat very quickly and is the method I used myself so I highly recommend it
Keeping your arms pointing straight out in front of you will help maintain your balance by keeping your weight over the pushing leg.
Keep the foot of the pushing leg completely flat. Remember, this is the only contact you have with the floor so it needs to provide a solid base for you to push up with. Also keep in mind that raising your heel up can cause knee injury or at the very least result in you falling backwards.
Make sure you keep your torso over your pushing leg by leaning forward and keeping your muscles tight as you descend