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Why You Need More Single Leg Training Podcast

Transcript of video:

And welcome back to the barbell therapy podcast. I’m your host Dr. Brett Scott, along with my co host, Dr. Connor bum bossy. We are both physical therapist and strength coaches. And today, we want to talk about single leg training in why you’re probably not doing enough of it and how important it really is for your training and your health. So, single leg training is probably the most underutilized training modality I see. And both athletes that are trying to get stronger, perform better, as well as people on the rehab side of things that have any type of knee pain, hip pain, issues with balance, things like that. So me and Connor, were actually just having a discussion earlier about this of true single leg training versus split pelvis training. And this is kind of a concept with that a little bit foreign to me, actually. So Connor, give us a synopsis of what this actually is means.

So true. Single leg training is when only one foot is on the ground. So think a skater squat, think a pistol squat or a single leg deadlift. Split pelvis is more split, squat RFPs things where both legs have a contact point somewhere where they can bear weight, and you can kind of cheat a little bit. But regardless, I think as we go forward in the podcast, we’ll refer to both of them when we talk about single leg training. But there is a difference, especially when we get more towards either sports performance, or if we’re going more towards like training balance in a rehab setting.

Okay, so So you would consider split stance and split pelvis, synonymous with one, same thing. Okay, cool. So that’s actually a similar concept, but I think either one of them regardless is very important for people to utilize. And part of it depends on where that athlete or patient is at. But nonetheless, we should be using both more so. So Connor, you want to talk a little bit about the performance side of things?

Yeah, I was really lucky. I got to learn. A lot of cool stuff initially started off when I was at the Institute of performance and fitness, learning from Walter Noren, Jr, and then I continued to with Devin McConnell at UMass Lowell, and being able to see the loads that some of these athletes could load. When doing RFP split squats, whatever you want to call it was bamboozling. I’ve seen 150 pound field hockey lady’s split squat over 300 pounds. And when you see that, and she hits it for six or something like that, your draw just drops to the floor. And then you got guys on the hockey team going over 500 pounds the same week of playoffs and they don’t take their foot off the gas pedal, it’s go go go because it matters. And it keeps you strong and healthy. Even at the highest level.

Yeah, so So for sport performance, I think single leg training has gotten much better within the strength and conditioning community. It’s one of the more utilize things. And in the collegiate setting. Now, I think Devin McConnell, guys like that have brought the, the importance of it to the industry. But I think there’s a lot of people out there that are training by themselves doing bodybuilding, doing powerlifting, things like that, or even just people think they’re training for sport by doing squats and deadlifts. And it doesn’t always have the the layover or skill transfer that we would want to see and get something from, you know, an RFP or a Bulgarian split squat. So, Connor, what do you get to say?

I think a lot of that though, comes back to like, what is your sport? And why are you training because a lot of people, there’s very rarely a sport. I mean, maybe in baseball when you’re waiting in the field, but you’re never just standing bilaterally, like a regular squat, like a lot of sport happens in a split stance like RFPs or split squats. So I think that’s the reason why you see a lot more athletes leaning that way. Also, I had one of my favorite quotes about RFPs is one of my athletes told me, they’ve never seen their butt grow so much doing back squats, but all of a sudden, we started doing RFPs they’re like, Oh my God, my butt looks so much better. And I’m like, Well, glad I could help with something.

Yeah, and on that topic, you know, sprinting, any type of lateral movement we have, within sport, whether it be a pivot aside, shuffle, change of direction, all all of those positions that we need to get into are much better transferred from single leg training versus bilateral training. So bilateral training, for those of you that don’t know would be a squat or a deadlift where two feet are parallel to one another. Where split stance is much more of an athletic position. The The other thing I see on the sport performance side that we see with a lot of our columns Is there is a lack of effort I see or lack of understanding how strong someone is in a split stance, or a single leg stance. So people think because they can squat 200 pounds, that when they go to one leg, they should do less than half of that. But really, we know that’s not true. So some people may know about the bilateral deficit phenomena, that really shows that we’re stronger on one leg than we are on, on two. And some people might nod their head at this and, and shake and scratch their head. But what we really mean by that is, so if you had, say, your best squat, just for sake of argument was 100 pounds. When we go into a split stance, whether it be an RFP squat, or anything, you know, split squat Bulgarian split squat, we should be able to see you do about 70 pounds, you know, depending on the rep range and whatnot, but people think, Oh, well, if I’m, you know, 100 pounds on two legs, how do I get 70 on one and and a lot of it just comes down to the way the body was innovated. That is our primary mode of locomotion is one foot in front of the other. And that’s just neurologically how we were designed to perform the the squat and the deadlift are two movements that are really secondary motions for us in for a lot of people. They’re not even that natural. And we kind of force ourselves into these positions.
Yes, kind of go ahead.

Yeah, no, I still love playing with little functions. But I think it’s really cool. Yeah, we’re still I’m still learning how to use Zen caster. It’s dope, though. But I think that a lot of the sport translation and stuff like that, even veers more than the 70 because you’ll see kids that are front squatting, like 135 pounds or 60 kilos, but then all of a sudden, you put the bar on their back, and they split squat it and they can all of a sudden hit it for six, instead of being able to only hit it for two or three. So they get so confused, but it also gets them really jacked up to keep training that movement. And I think anytime you can kind of get them excited to load something heavier in a safe manner, especially. And again, we can get into what’s safe and what’s not, of course with form. But anytime you can get the athlete to get more excited about training and to load things heavy with good form. I’m all for it, no matter what the modality.

Yeah, exactly. And even I think it’s under utilized with injury in instill training through injury. So for me, with weightlifting, especially like we don’t see a lot of weight lifters using RFP split squats, but why? And yeah, and so when we do, a lot of the training is it’s a Bulgarian split squat will be at the end of a training session. And I’ll see some of the strongest dudes that can squat four or 500 pounds, using 30 pound dumbbells to just kind of run through the motions with three sets of 10 chitlin zones. And you know, depending on what phase you’re in, that might be just something we can do for joint health. But there’s still a huge bang for your buck and building strength there. And so for me, you know, I have FAI in both my hips. So I have these things called Kamla. And so basically, I don’t have a ton of hip mobility. And I know if I start to squat too much in a cycle, my hips just get absolutely smoked, and I can’t recover and then I start to get symptomatic with some impingement syndrome. So for me, I actually for a long time for up until I ended my competitiveness for the past few years before I opened the gym. I would only squat one day a week when most weight lifters were squatting three, four days a week ends. I would split squat and do like a Hatfield variation where you’re holding on to the rack or some pins in front of the rack in Split squatting. 415 pounds for I think my best I got up to was 415 pounds for three reps. On each leg were back squatting. 400 pounds alone was heavy for me. And I made a ton of progress. I split squat every I think was twice a week for eight months and my total just kept going up and up and up. And I went in one year from I think a like 200 kilo total to a 234 kilo total. And so I think there’s this huge underutilization there and something we can use. If someone is having pain like that with impingement or something. Let’s just put you in a Bulgarian stance or split stance and see see if You’re painful there and if you’re not run with it. Go ahead, Connor.

Way I was just gonna say Did you ever have back pain with that like with increased frequency of squatting?
No, I luckily I’ve never had any real bad back pain. After I had a bout of back pain was about 21. And I was going through this stuff trying to figure out that I really had ankylosing spondylitis. And since I’ve been medicated for that knock on wood, everything’s been fine. But no, getting in the RFP squat is the best thing for me because it allows me to load heavy I can feel a lot of weight, I can move a lot of weight, and I’m able to recover from it and my joints feel fine. So it’s the one thing I found that was the Holy Grail for me and training and building strength.

Also something I think a lot of the power lifters and of course a lot of Olympic weightlifters that listen or talk to us. They think oh my god, does that mean Breton Conor don’t front or back squat? Like no, we both love to front and back squat. But I think that we both also enjoy the fact that we can go with higher volume or higher frequency with RFPs recover from it successfully and still be able to load heavy the next day.

Yeah, Connors, completely long wrong, though. I actually really don’t like front squatting, or back squatting all that much. I do. I love it. It’s necessary, and I do it. But I would much rather deadlift, actually, just just so you know, Connor.
happy for you. Yeah. So those are a lot of things we see just simply from a strength and conditioning perspective in the weight room. And I think we can peel this back a little bit. And let’s go towards the rehab side of things and why it’s so important there.
Well, the first thing that comes to my head is just bounce right off the RIP, because as soon as you change somebody’s like center of mass and their basis port, everything all of a sudden change, and they have to relearn where their body is in space. So I feel like I’m tossing it back to neuro right now. But as soon as your basis support becomes smaller, your brain kinda has to relearn where you are how much you can lean and get away with it before you fall and have to use a stepping strategy or an ankle strategy.

I love that stuff. Yeah, and if we just look at all of the patients that we see that have anything from lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle mobility limitations, the big thing I will usually find there is there is a vast deficit in the ability to stand on one leg. And let’s just sit and talk about this for a minute. So if you’re trying to perform at a high level, be it powerlifting, weightlifting, sport performance, any type of thing that you’re pushing yourself. The the fact that I asked you to stand on one leg, and you can’t, says a lot about, maybe we’re lacking joint mobility somewhere that we need, because if a joint a stiff will actually sometimes lose our ability to balance as well.

So we’ll see that a lot with sprained ankles, that feel stiff, we’ll see a lack of mobility there, and the press account balance from it. Now, this will also go into sometimes you loosen that ankle up and that balance will be restored right away. Now, there’s also the fact too, that if you can’t stand on one leg, you don’t have a good idea of where your body is in space and time. So just trying to improve sensory awareness of your whole body and your kinesthetic awareness, kinesthetic awareness and proprioception of where you’re moving, how fast you’re moving. And really getting a sense of control is huge for performance and health. Yes, car, just like during that eval that you watched me do when I was doing the D one lacrosse player, and you asked, Are you going to do a single leg balance? And I was like, He’s, he’s come on. He’s an elite athlete. I don’t need to do a single leg bounce. And then sure enough, stands on his right leg lifts his left leg up. Oh, snap, he’s almost ready to fall over. It’s like, oh, yeah, don’t don’t judge a book by its cover. We got to look at this a little bit deeper.

Yeah, and you can look at that a little deeper to and what we come to find with a lot of these people too is they don’t actually have a sense of balance as it relates to sport performance either. So what we find with a lot of people, especially to in the powerlifting weightlifting crowd is there is especially actually more in the powerlifting realm is more and more people are sitting back in their heels and they don’t know how to use their whole foot. So training them in single leg stance on one leg to find their base of support, or their center of mass over their base of support is huge. to getting people out of injuries because some people, it’s not an ankle mobility limitation or hip limitation. It’s the fact that they don’t have the control and they don’t know how to position themselves well. So getting onto one leg and learning to strategize that, from a motor programming standpoint is huge to getting people out of pain. And a lot of times, people will come in and we just made a rail on it that actually did pretty well is, you know, what is your single leg training? Like? Because I have knee pain? Well, I do you know, SLDS, once in a while, and I do RFPs once in a while. And we get these people on one leg and have them demonstrate for us. And it’s, it’s not the best?

Well, that’s definitely well, so it’s questionable, and it’s a lot of times, I’ll look at some a training program, and there’s not enough of it in there. And one of my first recommendations will be, you know, depending on the situation as well, you know, if everything’s safe for them to do it, I’m going to have someone start just practicing split stance, split squats, Bulgarian split squats, single leg, deadlifts, simple as can be. And a lot of times, I’ll come back in a week or two, and their pain is greatly reduced. And the fact of the matter is, they’re utilizing stabilizing muscles more than they ever have. They’ve relearn their balance a little bit better than they have known it to be for a long time. And they’re putting joints in positions that they haven’t been in that we kind of need them to get into for for joint health. So there’s a huge, huge benefit there. And then I think that gets a lot of people to to see the importance of it. And hopefully they start integrating more of that into their training. Even from a, you know, adult general population in general fitness of you want to stay strong and lose weight. There’s a ton of studies that have shown single leg work to be highly metabolically demanding to help with weight loss, to help increase work capacity, work, volume, hypertrophy, you know, the whole gambit. So definitely something we shouldn’t ever be avoiding.

Absolutely, and towards the rehab stuff, too. I talked about this in my most recent blog was, as we age and stuff like that, we hope it’s gracefully, but at the same time, you’ll be shocked at if you can get 65 year old patients good at split, squatting, at how much more confident they are getting up off the ground, if God forbid they were ever to fall, just get them feeling really comfortable in split stance and single leg positions. And all of a sudden, they’re like, oh my gosh, one of my grandkids were over, I was able to get up off the ground so easily to go check on them. And it made me so happy. It’s those little things, even with other populations, they love it. And they appreciate it.

Yeah, you bring up a good point there too. And this is something remez my mentor told me about and I think he just posted about it somewhat recently, too is if there is one activity you could do for wellbeing in longevity and just sustainability of health. The one thing he said he would do is practice getting up and down off the floor every day. And if you really think about it, if you know, we don’t really use, we don’t lose skills that we use all the time. So as we start to age, as we get older, our joints might get creaky and whatnot. But if we can, if we have the strength in single leg, and the the more we go into older age, with single leg strength, that we can do a lunge down to the floor, get down on one knee, get down in a line position and get back into that split stance and get up we’re probably going to see such a lower rate of disability and people that practice that in variations, whether it be training or just you know, you want to get up and down off your, your living room floor 10 times. It’s it’s something that is huge for for our well being or even if you know it’s not you, it’s you training someone that’s you know, 55 plus or so these are things we got to think about for those reasons because yeah, it’s getting up and down the stairs. It’s It’s functional activities like that, where single leg training has a direct transfer to it. So that that is my stance on why single leg training is so important. Is there anything else you want to add Connor?

No, I mean a lot. It just feels like I’m back in month one of PT school being like this is general mobility training. Like you need to be able to do this for everyday life as you age. So no, that’s it. Yeah, and I guess that’s one thing too, we can bring back to neuro. This will be my closing statement. If you look at will nerd out here for a second neuro developmental Kinesiology is if you look at how big baby develops, right? They start on the back or they start on their belly, they first learn to roll, then we go into Quadra pad, then they can get up, they can bridge themselves up into kneeling on both knees. And then the next stance they take is putting one foot forward and they figure out how to stand up. They typically I don’t think kids learn to squat up, they would learn to split stance up first. And so if we think about that, and how important that is to learning, mobility and stability, for motor control, and how we come to be homosapiens that can stand up on two legs and be bipedal creatures. That that makes it very important period.

I’m going to make drop now. Also, for those of you that don’t know Quadra pet is when your hands and knees because Brad was going full doctor talking. I love that but quadropod his hands and knees then to split stance and then stand up like a split squat.
Yeah, thanks for putting me in my place there, Connor.

Oh, I love it. I love when we nerd out like this. I’m all about it. Yeah, so that’s basically what we think about single leg work. So takeaways do more of it. That’s basically it, do more of it. Practice it more single leg with one foot off the ground split stance of it. It’s definitely something that is underutilized and training. And you can probably push yourself harder with it too than you think you should or that you think you could. There’s probably more in the tank. So if you guys have any questions, comments, you want to hear more content from us on other topics regarding physical rehabilitation training, sport performance, please shoot us a message you can find us on Instagram at barbell therapy, barbell therapy and performance comm. You can find our emails on there, or check out our new gym, architect fitness in Tyngsboro in Concord, New Tyngsboro Massachusetts and Concord, New Hampshire. So I hope you guys enjoyed this episode and thanks for listening, or watching. Bye

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