The squat has long been hailed the king of all leg movements and rightly so. There’s something undeniably satisfying about loading up a barbell, putting it on your back and then standing it up. The squat works the legs, glutes, hips, core and even the upper back when bracing correctly, it is truly one of the great lower body movements.
However as the saying goes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
These single leg exercises are excellent alternatives to the squat and will help you develop a more rounded, functional lower body strength base.
The front rack lunge
The lunge allows an athlete to load their legs unilaterally, which helps even out any biases an athlete may have towards one side. By loading the athlete in the front rack position it allows them to deload their spine, which can be compressed through a barbell sitting on their back.
The pistol squat
The pistol squat, or single legged squat is not only a great test of strength, but puts, hip, knee and ankle mobility to the test, as well as challenging athletes balance and stability. The stability demands of the pistol squat makes athletes work all the tiny muscles of the ankle and feet to control the movement, creating greater neural responses.
The step up/down
The step up is another good unilateral movement that tests the balance and stability of the ankle. This is a movement made challenging by using your own body weight as adding a slow tempo to both the up and down phase of the movement is exceptionally difficult.