Developing single-leg strength for sports performance.

Developing single-leg strength for sports performance.

Developing single leg power is a key component of sports performance, you might not notice it when watching your favourite player or team but nearly every minute of a game someone is performing a single limb movement explosively.


To be powerful you need to produce a lot of force in a short space of time, to produce a lot of force you need strength, to perform the movement quickly you need to have a proficient nervous system and a good grasp of the skill. Therefore, you need to practice explosive movements to perform them well!

If you are struggling to think of where single leg power here are a few examples:



In these examples we have a combination of vertical and horizontal (forward & lateral) applications of force. For the high jumper it is obvious her training should focus on practicing vertical power, the rest will have to train to develop power in multiple directions. This blog will discuss a few exercises you can do to develop single leg power. Take a look at our other posts on single leg strength to make sure you are ready for developing power.




Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (SL RDL) with Knee Drive:

The progression of exercises for horizontal work can start with teaching the hip how to hinge correctly, a SL RDL does the trick, this exercise develops stability around the hip and knee, whilst your hip at the beginning of the movement moves backwards in the same fashion that it would naturally when jumping forward. Adding a sprinter’s knee drive to the end of the SL RDL will help develop a fast-moving drive through the hip.


Hop and hold:

All fast race cars would fly off the track and crash if they didn’t have good brakes, all good power programmes should be balanced with acceleration and deceleration exercises. A simple forward hop and hold is a perfect start point, teaching you to land and absorb force on one leg. Try and land nice and abruptly with a soft bend in the knee and hip.


2 foot to 1 foot jump and land:

A simple progression here is to jump off 2 feet and land on 1, the extra distance covered when jumping off 2 feet means you need to absorb more force on landing.


Skier and Hold

After covering a couple of forward movements here’s a great exercise for lateral movement. In team sport we don’t always move forwards and backwards, practicing left and right movements are important too. After mastering the skier and hold, try performing 4-8 jumps in a row. Follow the link below to our video example.





Jumping high in the air is one of the coolest movements to perform. Simply jumping over and over again will get you higher but not as high as you might achieve through practicing a variety of exercises at different speeds with different weights.


Explosive Step Ups:

This is a super simple exercise where you are applying force firmly and quickly, you are learning to recruit your leg and hip muscles quickly to increase your power. Follow link below to our video example.


SL Box Push Off:

This is the next progression where you actually take off from the box, it allows your ankle, knee and hip to complete what is called ‘triple extension’, this is the crux of sprinting and when the transfer of power through your body to the floor happens best – take a look at the picture below, his back leg is perfectly straight meaning he has fully extended his ankle, knee and hip to exert as much force into the block as possible. Drive your foot into the box and extend fully into take off. Land on 2 feet as the extra height is producing a lot of force on landing!


Triple Extension


Rear Foot Elevated Split-Jump:

This exercise has a similar purpose to the box jump mentioned above however the set up allows for transitioning into plyometric work which we are about to delve into next. The jump and land is in the same position allowing for repeated jumps in quick succession.



Plyometric training in the simplest terms involved movements with repeated landings and take-offs in really short periods of time. As you land your muscles lengthen and store energy, then as the muscle shortens again you can take off with more force. Here is an example to make sense of it:


Place your hand on a table, keep your hand on the table at all times, raise your index finger to try and hit the table as hard as you can. Pretty weak hey? Now pull your finger back with your other hand until you feel a stretch, let go. You should have noticed much more force this time. That is the stretch and recoil in action!


In the sports world we achieve the extra force by loading the muscle and tendons up in the landing phase and release when we jump up. The more energy we can store and the quicker you can release it the higher or further you can jump.


Single Leg Dribbles:

A simple exercise to train the ankles and Achilles tendon to quickly tap the floor and release again, keep your knees nice and stiff to ensure your ankle is doing all the work. Follow the link below to our video example.


Single Leg Pogos:

This is the next level, it’s only a little more difficulty because you are jumping and landing on the same foot.


Forward Hops:

Imagine the floor is really hot, minimise the time your foot is spent on the floor. Add a mini hurdle to encourage more height when you feel ready.


Forward Bounds:

The extra arm drive and switching of legs allows you to achieve more height and distance, try and float like a gazelle. Drive your knees high and really stamp the ground to encourage a quick spring back into the air. Follow the link below to our video example.



These exercises are great starting points for developing single leg power and explosiveness, remember don't build the power without training the brakes as well - landings are very important!

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