Updated: Apr 8, 2020
1. Improves Function
Everyone has a dominant side (unless you’re ambidextrous!). I’m right-handed and right-footed, so my dominant side is my right. However, some people make the mistake of working their dominant side more than their non-dominant side because they are better or stronger on that side. However, this just creates more of a gap between your dominant and non-dominant sides. Your body works optimally when both sides are trained equally. Single-leg exercises are a great way to ensure that both sides of your body are getting the same amount of work.
2. Increases Balance
Good balance is probably one of the most underestimated skills for a mom to have. How often do you have a baby on your hip while you’re trying to get everything together to take your older kids to school? What about walking the dog while pushing the stroller or trying to hold a toddler’s hand? There are a whole host of examples I could use of various scenarios that are beneficial for a mom to have good balance. The better balance you have, the less likely it is that you will get injured if you find yourself in a position that requires good balance. For instance, many single-leg exercises will also help increase your ankle strength – so you won’t get so seriously hurt if you step of the edge or the sidewalk or trip over your kid’s toys in the living room. You’ll be able to find your balance quicker and easier at any given time.
3. Strengthen Core Stability
When you work each side individually, this requires you to recruit your core in order to not topple over! Your core is at the root of your body’s balance, and the more you do single-leg work, the more your core is going to be engaged and learn how to stabilize your body in shaky situations.
4. Stimulates the Mind-Body Connection
One of the amazing connections that happens when you work one side of the body is that your brain actually sends signals that stimulate both sides of the body to do the same movement; which is why single-side work is often used in rehab or recovery of an injury. Not that pregnancy or giving birth is an “injury” per se, but it is traumatic and your body has to take time to recover and you have to make those mind/body connections again in this new post-baby body. Also, if single-leg work is not something that you do on a regular basis, then these new forms of movement will also stimulate your mind and body and help solidify those connections.
5. Focus on Technique
Sometimes, it’s easy to get comfortable with the routine we are in and the workouts we are used to. It’s hard to step outside our comfort zone and do something we don’t feel that we are good at. For instance, you can be really good at deadlifts – you’ve got those down pat. But have you ever tried a single leg deadlift? Substituting a single-leg movement for the double-leg will help re-engage your mind and your core and make you really focus on your technique and ensure that you are in tune with your body and the movements you are performing. Technique is an easy thing to let slide if you’re comfortable with your routine – so shake it up and perform some single-leg movements!
A word to the wise: single-leg movements need to be approached with caution in both pregnancy and post-partum. There are dysfunctions and other issues that can actually be exacerbated by single-leg movements. So, if your pelvic floor physical therapist has advised against these for now, wait until you’re at a place in your recovery that you’re ready to perform them. Even if you don’t have any dysfunctions, you still need to take into consideration that your body has and is changing. Your balance will not be the same now as it was before you became pregnant. So, take it slow. Use a wall or a chair or a coffee table for balance when you are starting out with these new movements. It may take weeks or even months for you to build to the point where you’re comfortable doing single-leg exercises without assistance and that’s totally ok! Everyone’s journey is unique. But if you’re ready to challenge yourself with some single-leg exercises today, figure out what modifications work best for you and try some out!