Many trainers and coaches follow the thought process that unilateral work is a quality that is necessary for functional transfer. This idea holds true, whether you are simply looking to start running to lose weight, or whether you are aiming to sprint for performance (both exercises that necessitate having one leg in contact with the ground for a given distance).
However, one aspect that I find difficult to follow through with is the concept of giving an athlete or client an exercise that he or she may not be ready for on a coordination level.
With this in mind, my progression for single leg hip hinge exercises in a given exercise program may start like this:
Single Leg Hip Hinge Progression
- Single Leg Glute Bridge
- Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust
- Bowler Squat / Bodyweight Single Leg Deadlift
- DB Single Leg Stiff Legged Deadlift
- Barbell Single Leg Stiff Legged Deadlift
This is not an all encompassing progression, as plyometrics such as bounds, lateral bounds, and hops (or one leg jumps) aren’t included.
There seems to be a difficult transition for those individuals who can perform single leg movements in a supine (or on your back) position, versus a standing position. For athletes, my goal is to get these individuals standing with load as quickly as possible.
Barring SHELCs (Supine Hip Extension Leg Curls), or Slideboard Leg Curls, I’m finding it more and more difficult to give supine single leg exercises to athletes that are more than capable of starting from the 3rd exercise on this progression list.
Never say never, however. If an athlete simply cannot perform a standing single leg hip hinge variation, the first question I will ask involves what is limiting your ability to do so?
- Soft Tissue Problem
- Joint Problems (Retroversion of the Hips and/or Femurs, for example)
- Motoric Control
If we follow a 4×4 Matrix from the SFMA, along with understanding that as a strength coach, many of my “solutions” can be derived from improving the control a given athlete has over their movements, the thought process will follow as such:
- Supine Hip Hinge
- Quadruped Hip Hinge
- Half Kneeling Hip Hinge
- Standing Hip Hinge
To give these variations a name…
- Single Leg Glute Bridge (or Band Resisted Single Leg Glute Bridge)
- Quadruped Posterior Rocking (or Quadruped Posterior Rocking with Stability Ball)
- Turkish Get Up
- DB Single Leg Stiff Legged Deadlift
If getting to the 4th variation is a goal, the first three steps should ideally be completed as quickly as possible.
Today’s exercise combination goes over all three of these components fairly quickly.
Band Resisted Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust
In the first exercise, we are loading a supine hip hinge variation that aims to add resistance. In essence, the hip thrust is a very far origin from many sport specific movements. However, in this case I am promoting its use to dial into a movement pattern that will be integrated into a larger, more transferable pattern.
Also, a hidden benefit here is you get a self-mobilization of sorts from the band distracting the hip muscles/joint helping to relax tight hip musculature, which can be a limiting factor in many single leg patterns.
Half Kneeling Band Pallof Alphabet
In the second exercise, the half kneeling pallof press variation works on multiple items – breathing, external cuing (write the alphabet!), along with stretching a hip flexor. Interestingly, your obliques on either side are being tested because the handle will want to pull you back towards the machine, so it is mainly up to the abdominals in order to keep appropriate position!
Turkish Get Up
In the third exercise, the half kneeling hip hinge occurs after sweeping the leg, and before the transition into standing.
To demonstrate the application of these exercises with a given set and rep scheme:
A1. Band Resisted Elevated Single Leg Hip Thrust – 3 sets of 8 reps per side
A2. Half Kneeling Band Pallof Press – 3 sets of (4x5sec) per side
A3. Bodyweight Turkish Get Up – 3 sets of 2 per side
You get the whole kit and caboodle with this combination – motoric control of the ankle while in dorsiflexion, resisted hip flexion/extension, upper body stabilization (if you lose position in the neck or shoulder girdle, you will lose centration down the line). Finally, you can integrate all of the above with the Turkish Get Up – doubly so if you load it with a kettlebell.
I will ideally groove these patterns in a very quick manner – sometimes this whole combination may only need to be performed once in order to retain what these feelings that the exercises gives. On the other hand, a longer 2 to 3 week exercise program involving this (and other variations) may be necessary in order to reinforce appropriate single leg patterning.
Keep it funky.