Mike Robertson on Single-Leg vs. Double-Leg Training

Hopefully you’ve taken a chance to check out the review I did of Mike Robertson’s new manual/DVD The Single-Leg Solution. I asked Mike if he’d go into some detail for you about some of the differential benefits between single- and double-leg exercises. Check out what he had to say:

Now that I’m officially pegged as the “single-leg guy” (right there with Mike Boyle, anyway) I figured this would be a great opportunity to highlight the single biggest benefit of bilateral lifts, or two-leg, lifts.

To be blunt: Squats, deadlifts, power cleans and the like are your best option if you’re looking to get bigger, stronger, and more powerful.

Can you improve strength, power or mass while training exclusively on one leg?  To some extent, sure.

But you’re not going to see the same kind of changes without some big, compound lifts in your programming.  It really comes down to two key factors:  Base of support, and the amount of stability you have.

Let’s examine both.

When we’re talking strength, powerlifters know how to maximize their results.  Want to know why you see very few powerlifters squat with a narrow stance?

Simple – because a narrow stance minimizes their base of support.

With a wider base of support, you’re more stable.  When you’re more stable, you recruit more prime movers.

But I’ll get back to that.  Let’s take this in the opposite direction.

Hopefully we can all agree that you could lift more/heavier weights from a split-stance position (like a lunge or split-squat), than you could a single-leg squat.  Why is this?

Again, it’s due to your base of support.  Even in a split-stance, you still have a better “base” than you do in a true single-leg stance.

The narrower you go with your stance, or when you take one leg off the ground, you take stabilizer function through the roof.

And this is one of the truest benefits of single-leg/split-stance training – you force all those little guys, your stabilizers, to do the work.

The problem, herein, is this – the more you call upon and recruit your stabilizers, the less you recruit your big prime movers!

To some degree, there’s an inverse relationship between stabilizer activity and prime mover activity.  The more stabilizer function your body needs to stay upright (and off your face!), the less worried your body is about recruiting the big muscle group to move big weights.

The other key ingredient to strength is stability.  Stability is the name-of-the-game when we’re talking about developing big, strong prime movers.

Think about leg pressing for a second.  I’m not saying this is a viable option for many of you out there, but think about the benefits of the leg press for a second.

Your back is stabilized by a pad.

Both feet are on the press.

The movement is purely sagittal plane – up and down.

At the end of the day, maximal stability plus a very basic movement pattern lets us use very heavy weights.  And with very heavy weights come big, strong legs!

But my intent is to argue for the inclusion of leg pressing in your workouts.  If you’ve read anything from me before, you know I pretty much despise the leg press and machine training as a whole.

Instead, my goal is to illustrate a point:

Bilateral lifts, due to their improved base of support and increased stability, are superior to single-leg lifts with regards to developing strength and power.

They aren’t the only way to skin that proverbial cat, but if your goal is to develop strong and powerful athletes, please don’t forget about the big lifts you may have thrown out of your toolbox.

Mike Robertson is a strength coach and personal trainer from Indianapolis, Indiana.  With a focus on not only injury prevention but performance enhancement, Mike has made a name for himself as one of the foremost authorities in strength and conditioning. Mike Robertson has helped clients and athlete from all walks of life achieve their strength, physique and performance related goals. Mike received his Masters Degree in Sports Biomechanics from the world-renowned Human Performance Lab at Ball State University. Mike is the president of Robertson Training Systems, and the co-owner of Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training which was recently named one of America’s Top Ten Gyms.

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