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6 Explosive Single-Leg Exercises for Power, Athleticism, and Longevity

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Over the past few years, I’ve shared more and more about how all of us need to train power, regardless of age.

Training for power has numerous benefits, including:

Longevity: Power is one of the first physical traits to decline with age. By incorporating power training, you can maintain and improve your strength, helping you stay active and independent as you age. It not only supports longevity, but your quality of life.

Injury Prevention: Power training can improve your balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and other injuries. It prepares your body to handle unexpected movements more effectively. The research is clear that once an older person has a fall and gets injured, even if they “recover” it’s often downhill from there.

Functionality: In reality, we’re all athletes in our daily lives. Whether it’s playing with your kids, carrying our bags through airports, or simply moving around efficiently, training for power ensures you can perform these activities with ease and confidence. I for one, want to be able to coach Little League one day without hurting myself. I don’t know about you.

Why Single-Leg Training?

I’ve written about this at length, like in this article where I make the case for single-leg training. Well, that translates to power training as well.

While classic jumps are great, and I do program them, I also try to include single-leg power exercises into programs. Why? In a sentence, it’s because that is what most closely mimics actual sports and actual real life.

Parameters for Explosive Exercises: When and How

As for when you should do them, I recommend adding them to the end of your warm-up. That why, you can do them while you’re fresh and already properly warmed-up.

(If your warm-up is a shitshow, I recommend checking out my warm-up guide: Exercise Foreplay: 5 Minute Warm-Up Routines to Prevent Injuries and Improve Performance.)

Exercise Foreplay

I also find this the least intrusive time. I don’t expect you to go to the gym just to do some high-knee skips, but if you’re already there, you probably don’t mind doing a little bit more. That’s especially true here because power training shouldn’t be exhausting.

How much should I do?

Choose two exercises from this list, and do three sets of each.

In particular choose two of these, and do three sets of each. That’s a great framework to get started. Do the same two for 3-4 works, then in your next training block try two new ones, or try progressing these.

To train for power, the reps have to stay low. 2-5 is the sweet spot. Beyond that, it’s not power training.

Typically power training wisdom says that you should rest at least two minutes in between sets. However, this isn’t that practical. You’ll be standing around waiting for next set If you were a competitive athlete, I would time out the rest to hit two minutes. But rest as much time as you need to feel you can do the next set with max exertion. That’s probably one minute.

All right, let’s get into the exercises.

1) Power Reverse Lunges

This is a great power exercise to start out with. If you can comfortably do lunges, you’ll be able to do this too. It’s very low impact, so you can train power without much risk.

 

Grab two light dumbbells. Step back into a reverse lunge, and then stand back up as fast as you can.

The goal is speed not weight.

You can do all the reps on one side then switch or you can alternate. It doesn’t really matters.

2) Split Squat Cycle Jumps

 

If you feel comfortable with jumping and landing, then split squat cycle jumps are a great progression from explosive reverse lunges.

You can do them with our without dumbbells.

3) Heiden Hops (See Progression)

Named after Olympic speedskater Eric Heiden, this is an excellent way to train power in the side-to-side plane.

There is a progression to this one. Before you can bounce like a bunny, you’ll want to be able prove that you can stick the landing.

Heiden Hop With Stick

 

To help prevent injuries and improve power without the benefit of a rebound effect, start by doing Heiden hops where you try to stick the landing.

If you find that you fall over or wobble, that’s a sign you’re lacking the ability to absorb force while remaining stable.

After doing this one for a few weeks, you can move on to the next variation

Heiden Hop: Explode & Stick

 

In this one, you’ll start in the static position, hop out to one side, then immediately explode back to the other side, where you’ll stick the landing.

Do your 3-5 on one side, and switch sides.

In the next phase, you can do the classic continuous hops.

Heiden Hop: Continuous

 

In this variation, you go back and forth, using the momentum from one hop and channeling it in to the next one.

Heiden Hop with Med Ball

You can also do all of these variations with a medicine ball! It’s a great way to add load

 

4) Single Leg Hops

Single leg hops can follow the same progression. First, learn to stack the landing. Then you can do the more classic plyometric movement.

 

5) Power Skip Thirds

This one was hard to film myself doing, so here’s one from the Cressey Performance team.

 

I love this as an exercise both in the warm-up and as a standalone power movement. For this one, you’ll do classic skips except every third skip you’ll try to get as high as you can.

I learned this exercise over ten years ago from Cressey’s program, High Performance Handbook.

6) Sled Bounding

Bounding is a classic track and field exercise. It can look intimidating when they do it, and can also be challenging if you haven’t worked up to it. That’s why I actually prefer sled bounding for most people. The angle of the sled makes it easier on the joints while also adding some load.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by David Rosales (@davidwilliamrosales)

 

That’s all I got for today! If you like these exercises, then there are a lot more in my warm-up ebook, Exercise Foreplay, which I’ve put on sale for just $19 in honor of the 4th of July.

Exercise Foreplay

About the Author

David William Rosales is a writer and strength coach. He's the head trainer and editor at Roman Fitness Systems. In addition to helping run RFS, he's also the head editor for prohockeystrength.com., the official website of the Strength and Conditioning Association of Professional Hockey. You can also check out his Instagram, he's pretty easy on the eyes.

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