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5 Single-Leg Exercises for Serious Mass

If you want strong, powerful legs, you need to do single-leg exercises. Think of it as another weapon in your arsenal - sure, squats and deadlifts are great, but nothing gives you the specificity (and horror) that comes from targeting just one leg.

You can push just as much, if not more, weight with single-leg exercises as double-leg exercises like squats and deadlifts. Let's say you use 80lbs of external weight during a single-leg squat. If you weigh 180lbs, that's a total of 260lbs of weight on each leg.

Multiply that by 2 to spread that weight across two legs and you get 520lbs. If you subtract your bodyweight, you'll get 340lbs: that's how much external weight you need on a double-leg squat to equal your single-leg squat.

For a 180lb guy, that's not too shabby. Even better, you'll get the same stimulus on each leg with 260lbs-less weight on your joints and spine.

Big legs and injury-prevention? Sounds like a win-win.

Here are five awesome single-leg exercises to build massive legs and strength.

1. Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS)
The Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat (or Bulgarian Split Squat) is a monster of an exercise that kills your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

How to do it:

Stand facing away from a bench. Reach back with one leg and put your foot on it. Lower your body and come back up.

Be careful not to let your front knee drift over your toes, that means your front foot is too close to the bench. Move further from the bench to take pressure off the knees and use your hamstrings and glutes.

Start with just your body weight and then progress to dumbbells. Once that gets too easy, or your grip gives out, throw on a weighted vest or use a barbell. If you hold the barbell in the front squat position (on your collarbone and shoulders), you'll target the quads more; if you use the back squat position, you'll activate the glutes and hips more.

If that still isn't hard enough (or you're a masochist), elevate your front foot. You'll be hurting in no time.

2. Single-leg Squat to a Box
If you're looking for a basic intro to single-leg training, look no further: the single-leg squat is easy to learn and progress.

How to do it:

Start by facing away from a bench or box. Lift one leg, sit back onto the bench, and stand up without putting your other leg down.

To make this exercise harder or easier, adjust the height of the bench or box: higher is easier and lower is harder. You can also add weight by holding dumbbells, holding a kettlebell in the "goblet" position, or wearing a weight vest.

Still too easy? Ditch the box and do a pistol squat.

At first, you might notice one leg is stronger than the other, that means you have an imbalance. Don't worry, though. Work the weaker leg first, keep practicing, and it'll catch up.

3. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
For some athletes, the conventional Romanian deadlift (RDL) puts a lot of stress on their lower back. With the single-leg version, however, you get all the benefits of the RDL, huge hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles, with much less strain.

The single-leg RDL also lights up your glutes because it prevents your knee from collapsing in or out. By challenging your stability, you'll strengthen the knee-stabilizing muscles in your hips, which can prevent injuries.

How to do it:

With dumbbells or a barbell in your hand, slowly bend forward while maintaining the natural arch in your lower back, at the same time, reach back with one leg. For the bottom leg, make sure to push your hips back and bend your knee slightly. Once the weights are below your knees, drive back up.

4. Reverse Lunge
The reverse lunge is a great, dynamic single-leg exercise. It packs a lot of muscle on your legs, and it's easier on your knees than a forward or walking lunge.

How to do it:

Take a long step back, long enough so that your knees make two 90-degree angles at the bottom, and pull yourself up with your forward leg. Start with dumbbells and advance to a barbell in either the back squat or front squat position.

For a different kind of burn, put your back foot on a sliding surface like a slideboard, Valslide, etc.

5. Step Ups
Simple, but brutal, step ups are a killer exercise for a massive lower body.

How to do it:

Place your foot on a box and drive off the leg that's on the box. Slowly lower yourself and repeat. It's an easy exercise, but people often cheat by jumping with their bottom foot. Instead, try to pull yourself up and keep a vertical shin.

Start by holding dumbbells. To make it harder, wear a weighted vest or use a higher box.

Muscle & Fitness

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