By Devan McConnell
The problem with single leg training is that it's no fun. I've never come across an athlete who voluntarily wants to spend time performing unsupported single leg squats. Because of this fact, I recently engaged in a conversation with several of my colleagues about including pre-season tests which encourage our athletes to train the most important exercises over our summer programs.
By including a Single Leg Squat Test in the pre-season, most players will be sure to "remember" to hit this exercise while at home. If the players know there will be a specific test, they will train for it. However there was some debate over how to implement the test. Several ideas were thrown around, all having merit. A simple 10 or 20 rep test was one idea. Another variation was to perform "rounds" of 10 per leg. Percentage of BW was another variation. One coach talked of performing a 5RM test.
I think the trickiest part is figuring out exactly what we want out of Single Leg Squatting, and then figuring out exactly how to test for it. I tried a couple of different methods. First I had my females do a simple BW 20 or max rep test, where they basically just went for as many reps as possible on one leg, then the other. If they hit 20, I called the test. The average was 15. With my guys, I felt that this would not be challenging enough, and also I don't think a max rep test accurately looks at the quality I want trained with this exercise; functional strength. I'm not too concerned if my players have a great deal of muscular endurance with the single leg squat, I want them to be extremely strong on one leg.
The variation of the test I implemented with my men's team was a spin off of UMass Strength Coach Chris Boyko's idea of doing "rounds", combined with the idea of progressive resistance. I had my guys set up the box for parallel (between 14-16 inches depending on tibia height). The entire test was done with 5lbs dumbbells. I had them complete 5 reps at "bodyweight" on each leg, then put on a 10lbs vest. Then they did 5 more reps on each leg. If they completed that, they added another 10lbs vest, and continued in this manner until they came to failure. Failure would be falling off the box, fully sitting on the box, an extended rest between reps (subjective by me), or taking more than 20 seconds to add a vest and start the next round.
The high score was 7 vests on both legs, which 3 of my players were able to complete. That's a total of 35 reps per leg, and a finish of 70lbs. I'm not convinced this is exactly the test I want to use in the future, but it certainly gave an idea of several factors, including strength, muscular endurance, asymmetries, and compete level. The downside of course is the need to have multiple vests, length of time to do the test, lack of true "maximum strength", and inability to test more than a few guys at the same time.
Overall as an experiment it gave me a relatively good idea of the single leg strength of my guys, as well as a good indicator of their compete level. Also it gave my guys an idea of what "strong" is on one leg, and a goal to shoot for over the summer. However you view this variation, the important thing is that we continue to train our athletes to be strong on one leg and keep pushing the envelope to find out what that really means.