The Importance of Single Leg Training
By Jason Moran
Probably the question I get asked the most by players is “how do I get faster?” There are very many variations of this question including “how do I get more powerful?”, “how do I jump higher?”, “how do I improve my acceleration?” The answer I always give is the same: “Get stronger”. From my own personal observation, and it is just an observation, the aspect of training most neglected by players in hurling and football is strength training. Everyone wants to get faster but all too often we are trying to improve speed, simply by attempting to run faster! This is only part of the equation.
If we consider power as strongly correlated to speed (r = 0.72), (Baker, 1999), we can observe the following relationship:
P (Power) = F (Force) x V (Velocity)
Power can be described as force multiplied by velocity. This means that if we increase either force or velocity, the result will be an increase in power which we know is positively correlated with speed.
The human body is a physical mass so from a sporting perspective, to increase the amount of mass you can move, you must increase the amount of force you can produce. This force will be exerted into the ground and expressed as speed.
However, outside the realms of physics, there also exists the need to address the specific requirements of the sport. Football and hurling are not always played on two legs. For a start, nobody hops two footed around the field, and should you be timing your run to go up for a high ball in midfield, it is very likely that you will actually take off from one foot and not two. Running is a single leg activity and the majority of movement, cutting and side stepping you will perform in a game situation is done one leg at a time.
So within the scope of this article, there are two important things we need to be able to do to perform at our best:
Utilise that force in a unilateral (single leg) pattern
To improve performance and reduce injury, it is vital to include single leg training in your regimen. Single leg training will place great demands on your ability to remain stable, challenging the glut medius and hamstrings, and this has positive implications for hip and knee health. This does not mean we eliminate bilateral (two-legged) squats movements from our programme, but is does mean that single leg training is at least as important.
How to incorporate into the programme? There are a variety of single leg exercises that can be categorised into knee dominant (squat variations) and hip dominant (deadlift variations).
My favourite for people just beginning single leg training are the dumbbell split squat which when proficiency is attained, is progressed to a Bulgarian split squat which progresses to a lunge or walking lunge (all knee dominant).
- Split Squat
- Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
I also like the single leg glut bridge and single leg deadlift which is performed without weight to start and with dumbbells when proficiency is attained. In contrast to heavy double leg squats and deadlifts, I will tend to keep repetitions up around the 10 or 12 mark, cycling the intensity based on training phase.
- Single Leg Glute Bridge
- Single Leg Deadlift
If including these exercises yourself do the amount of repetitions that causes the final repetition to be a challenging one to complete, leaving a rep or two in the tank. That way you will ensure correct exercise form whilst also avoiding burnout.
So with that, next time you ask yourself “am I fast enough?”, should you really be asking, “am I strong enough of one leg?”
Jason Moran is a strength and conditioning practitioner and personal trainer based in the Waterford area.
He has several years experience working with athletes in a wide variety of sports including Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, golf, soccer, athletics, swimming and mixed martial arts and he also services recreational clients who are simply trying to get fit, lose fat, gain muscle or to just feel better.
A certified fitness trainer and accredited strength and conditioning coach, he holds a master’s degrees in business studies and exercise and nutrition science.
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