6 single-leg moves that work your upper and lower body
Exercises that force you to shift your weight to one leg increase the challenge for your standing limb. What’s more, these moves engage muscle groups in other parts of your body to help you balance.
Don't be discouraged if you wobble or have to shuffle your feet to regain your composure: These slight movements not only strengthen large muscles like your glutes and quads, but smaller ones like your spine stabilizers and abs.
Here, six single-leg exercises to incorporate into your workout.
Place a kettlebell of moderate weight on the floor, to the left of your right heel, with your left foot directly behind the kettlebell. (Keep your weight on your right foot and maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your right heel.) Push the left foot straight back and hinge forward over your right leg until you grasp the handle of the kettlebell with your left hand, with your spine and left leg parallel to the floor (or as close as you can get them). This is the start position. Holding the kettlebell, drive the right heel into the floor to stand straight up. Reverse the motion to return to start. That’s one rep. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.
Lie face up with right arm by your side, left arm overhead, and left knee bent with foot flat on floor in front of you. Engage your glutes and abs, then press into right hand and left foot as you lift your upper body, hips, and right leg off the floor, reaching your left arm straight toward your right foot, keeping head and spine neutral. Gently reverse back down to start for one rep. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.
Stand facing a rower, with left knee bent, left heel on top of saddle, and elbows bent by sides. Squat, bending right knee and pushing hips behind you with your chest open. At the same time, press left foot forward, extending left leg in front of you, sinking deeper into the squat and bringing elbows in front of chest. Reverse motion back to start. Do all reps on one side, then switch sides and repeat.
Single-Leg Deadlift with Cross-Body Reach
In a tall standing position, lift right knee as high as possible, then hinge at the hips, reaching right hand toward floor and extending right leg behind you so it's parallel to the floor, keeping a long spine and extending your left arm out and back. At the bottom of the move, rotate your torso to the left, then pause. Return to start and repeat on opposite side. That's one rep.
Lie face up with your left arm out to your side and right arm straight up holding a kettlebell, right leg bent and left leg straight, both legs slightly away from the midline. Drive the foot of your right leg into the ground to initiate a roll toward the left arm. Press your left elbow into the ground, then straighten your elbow, coming up onto your hand and lifting your hips off the ground. Bring your left leg back into the half-kneeling position, touching left knee and toes down on the ground underneath your hips, then extend it in front of you. Repeat the leg motion three times, then switch sides and repeat. That's one rep.
Lateral Leg Rotations
With both knees on the floor, place right hand behind your head with the elbow as far from the ear as possible, and reach your left arm down to the floor next to the left knee. Extend right leg straight out to the side and lift it as high off the ground as possible, aiming to get it parallel to the ground. Draw 10 big circles in each direction with your right leg. Repeat on opposite side for one rep.