Developing Functional Strength
Updated: May 23, 2022
Lower body strength is crucial for everyone, not just athletes.
The foundational muscle groups in your hips, butt and legs are responsible for stabilizing your entire body. By strengthening your lower core, you’ll improve agility and balance as well as your overall health and fitness – and help prevent injuries.
Daily activities such as walking, climbing the stairs, or picking up a heavy load, require the muscles in your lower body to work together. The stronger you are, the easier these tasks are going to be.
Training this large muscles also improves athletic performance, making it easier to jump, run, kick, pivot, balance, accelerate, decelerate and turn. (See here)
One leg or two?
It is a common held myth that building leg strength requires nothing more than squatting heavy loads on both legs. However, science shows us this is just not true.
Studies reveal that a mix of bilateral training (such as the traditional squat on two legs) and unilateral training (like a single leg split squat) contribute to the development of strong legs and lower core.
Incorporating unilateral training is important for improving strength and stability needed for most sports and daily activities. Working on one leg activates stabilizer muscles that are not as engaged when you are working on two legs. And, unilateral work most closely replicates real life movement. By way of example, when you run, you are using one leg and then the next.
Bilateral and unilateral training two to three times a week will help develop solid foundational strength. Include a mix of:
Squats (with barbell, dumbbells or kettlebells)
Lunges (forward, back and side)
Single-leg split squats
Start with your body weight, then begin to load weight as soon as you can do 12 reps with good form. While you may think these exercises will only benefit your lower half, they will actually give your body more power over all.