Importance of Single Leg Strength Training

How often during the game of basketball do players have two feet in contact with the ground in a completely equal and parallel stance? Most of our moves on the court are single leg or single  foot dominant; running, cutting, jumping, sliding are all movements where players are either on one leg, transferring from one leg to the other, or in a split-stance. Even though it is true that players come to a ‘jump-stop’ often to shoot and explode for rebounds or dunks off of two legs, the feet are often staggered to some degree and in order to get to the ‘jump-stop’ they are still propelling off of a single leg.

So, if most part of the movements of basketball are single leg, why are the majority of strength training programs out there focusing on double leg exercises??

Many coaches and trainers design their strength programs focusing on double leg exercises most often performed on the leg press, leg extension, and leg curl machines. While I believe there is some benefit from these exercises as well, as from more functional double leg squatting exercises, there is still a significant lack of usage of single leg movements to help develop and enhance basketball performance of the big man.

While most programs for ‘bigs’ are built on simply trying to get them stronger, the focus should be on developing trunk and hip stabilizers that are vital for proper function. Single leg exercises are much more effective at developing theses muscles than double leg exercises.

The quadrates lumbroum in the low back and the glute minimus and medius in the hip are the key stabilizers to the lower body which allow for proper transfer of forces down the kinetic chain. This improved transfer of force will significantly enhance all the single leg movements of basketball I mentioned above.

Of equal importance is the enhanced injury prevention benefits gained from using single leg exercises. The improved pelvic and hip stabilization allows better control of the knee and ankle significantly reducing the likelihood of injury to those joints.

Therefore, single leg exercises such as lunges, step ups, single leg squats, split squats, Bulgarian squats and single leg deadlifts should be the FIRST option and the focus of any lower body strength training program. This is especially important for the younger, oversized ‘big’ who lacks total body strength and control.

So coaches out there trying to ‘beef up’ your ‘big men’ with traditional weight training programs, please, take a step back and design more functional programs that build foundations of stabilization and strength that include more single leg exercises. 

For more information of how to implement more single leg training for your ‘big man’ please visit…


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