Strength training is commonly performed while sitting or while standing on both legs, but exercises that feature single-leg work also are beneficial, particularly because they mimic how we move in day-to-day life and while playing sports.
You’ve probably heard of basketball star Stephen Curry and his extraordinary training regimen. After a couple of surgeries and several ankle sprains, Curry’s team decided to focus his training on single-leg and hip work to take the load off the ankles and transfer it to the hips. The single-leg work helped Curry develop greater unilateral balance and strength. In fact, 90 percent of Curry’s lower-body strength training is focused on single-leg work.
You don’t have to be an NBA All-star to reap the benefits of single-leg exercises. Using the TRX Suspension Trainer, you can work unilaterally and create enough instability to challenge balance, while also being able to add load and build strength. You can also identify differences between your two sides and focus on creating more balance and stability throughout your body.
Each of the following six TRX leg exercises should be performed with precision and intention. If your movement patterns begin to wane, reset and rest, if necessary. Progressions should only be added once the basic move has been mastered.
TRX Sprinter Start
Adjust the TRX straps to fully lengthened and face away from the anchor. Place the handles under your arm and grab the handle with your thumb. Walk away from the anchor until the handles are right at your armpit. Walk your feet toward the anchor until you are at a 45-degree angle; stay on the balls of your feet. Find plank position and step back with your right leg to assume a sprinter position while keeping a 90-degree bend in the knee. Drive through the ball of your working leg to return to the starting position. Reset your plank each time.
*To progress this movement, drive the knee of the working leg up in front of the chest. Pause and hold this single-leg plank position. Once this move has been mastered, add a hop. Remember, the plank is the base of this movement and should be held throughout the movement progressions.
TRX Hip Extension
Adjust the straps to mid-calf; use the single-handle mode. Lie on the floor, facing away from the anchor; relax the head. Lie far enough away so that the leg is straight, yet there isn’t a significant hamstring stretch. Stability in this position is essential. Place the right heel into the foot cradle. Drive the heel into the foot cradle to engage the posterior side and then relax. Keeping the torso rigid and the spine neutral, lift the left leg to meet the right leg by extending through the hips. Slowly lower to return to the starting position.
TRX Abducted Lunge
Adjust the straps to mid-calf; use the single-handle mode. Stand facing sideways to the anchor and place the right foot in the foot cradle. Assume a standing plank position with the left foot facing forward. Flex the right foot and lower the tailbone toward the floor. Drive through the working heel to return to a standing position.
*To progress this movement, challenge your balance by bringing the right leg forward as you stand up.
TRX Hip Hinge
Adjust the straps to mid-length. Stand facing the anchor point, with the right leg centered to the anchor. Position the handles at about rib height. Press into the handles and activate the core. Extend the left leg, being sure to keep the hips squared. Begin to hinge at the hips, driving through the heel of the extended leg. Continue to press into the handles throughout the hinging movement, while internally rotating the extended leg. Drive into the working heel and press into the handles to return to a standing position.
*To progress this movement and challenge balance, as you return to stand, bend the extended leg to a bent knee and pause in front of your chest.
TRX Single-leg Squat
Adjust the straps to mid-calf. Sit on the floor, facing the anchor point. Hold the handles and extend the arms. Be sure your torso is in a plank position. Center the right leg to the anchor and extend the left leg. Drive into the right heel, while keeping the left leg extended. Come to a standing position while maintaining a strong torso. Pause in the single-leg stance. Reset back on the floor.
*To progress this exercise, add a hop at the top of the movement.
Adjust the straps to mid-calf; use the single-handle mode. Lie on your belly, facing away from the anchor point with your right foot in the foot cradle. Place both hands on the floor, slightly greater than shoulder-width apart. Engage the muscles of the back and lift your arms off the floor. With precision, lightly place hands on the floor to give you a boost to bring the left leg in and load it. Lower yourself back to the floor. This move takes considerable control and core strength.
*This exercise can be progressed by coming all the way up to a standing position.