Stop doing squats and do this exercise instead
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, to become faster you must become stronger, especially in the legs.
I’m a big believer that rugby players should be performing single-leg strength training when it comes to becoming a faster rugby player - especially younger players, as this will be a solid strength base.
There are so many benefits that you will get from including single-leg strength exercises into your training over bilateral leg strength exercises like squats and deadlifts.
This is why I believe you should be including single-leg strength exercises into your training (and although the title of my blog suggests you should give up squats - don't! Just incorprate single-leg exercises as well into your speed training regime!)
1. MIMICS GAME SITUATIONS
Most movements that occur in rugby like sprinting, changing direction, jumping, etc take place almost entirely on one leg. When it comes to sprinting you are pushing off one leg at a time, when changing direction you are pushing off your outside leg, and when jumping you also push off one leg to get as high as you can.
Basically, rugby involves supporting your entire body weight on one leg, so the question begs as to why wouldn’t you be doing single-leg strength training?
2. IMPROVES STABILITY
One thing single-leg strength training has over training bilateral legs is it’s superior ability to improve your stability.
When we are talking about speed training, which let's face it - I ALWAYS AM!! Single-leg training will improve your pelvic stability.
So, what is the big deal about pelvic stability for speed?
If there is pelvic instability, it will take longer to absorb, store, and release energy during sprinting.
This slows you down in 2 ways:
Longer ground contact time with each stride - this acts as a brake!
Our stride length will be shorter meaning that it will take more strides to get from A to B
Stability equals speed!
3. IMPROVES MUSCLE IMBALANCES
Single-leg exercises are a great way to pinpoint muscle imbalances. There is nowhere to hide!
By working on one leg at a time, you aren’t giving the other leg a chance to take over which unfortunately happens with bilateral exercises like squats. This causes muscle imbalances and can eventually lead to chronic pain and injury as muscles are overworked to compensate for those weaker muscles.
Single-leg strength training balances your strength so that you can sprint and change direction by producing force equally on both legs.
4. INCREASED HAMSTRING LENGTH
In speed training, your hamstring’s job is to rapidly decelerate your hip flexion and your knee extension at the most important phase of your leg swinging when you sprint.
So, increasing the length of your hamstring through single-leg strength training will give your hamstrings the ability to produce peak force resulting in your body propelling forward faster.
5. INJURY PREVENTION
Single-leg strength exercises put you in an unstable position through their very nature of working on one leg at a time. This activates stabiliser muscles that protect your knee and ankle during dynamic movements like sprinting and changing direction.
As mentioned in point 3, single-leg strength training also helps eliminate weakness in your non-dominant leg reducing the risk of injury. You see when your dominant leg is doing all the work to pick up the slack from your non-dominant leg injuries can occur as muscles are overworking and eventually will injure.
Those are my five reasons why you should be including single-leg strength training into your speed training regime. What do you think? Will you give them a go?
If you are new to single-leg strength training, start with just your bodyweight then progress to holding dumbbells, but only once you have mastered the technique and body control.
For more information about my online speed training programs, have a read here.