Squat and Touch with Rear Leg Extended a Precursor to Single-Leg Squats
By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSSC*E
Most strength and conditioning coaches will agree that, regardless of whether you are using them as a primary or support exercise, the single-leg squat is an effective, closed-chain, ground-based, lower body exercise that effectively improves single-leg strength, balance and proprioception. While few coaches will disagree on their effectiveness, especially for team sport athletes like baseball players, nearly all will agree that they are really hard to do. Some have even gone so far as to say that they could be the most challenging leg exercise that you can do1.
The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits of the single-leg squat or discuss how to perform them correctly. Each of these topics has been thoroughly covered2-4. The purpose of this post is to explain how to perform an effective lead-up exercise to the single-leg squat, the squat and touch with the rear leg extended. This exercise is less difficult to perform than the single-leg squat and requires less balance because extending the rear leg serves to counter-balance the effects of the lead arm and DB.
How to do it:
- Start by standing on one leg and holding a DB in the opposite hand.
- Set the core, balance on the leg opposite to the hand holding the DB and lift and extend the opposite leg and foot behind you.
- Squat down by lowering your hips down and back like sitting in a chair.
- As you squat, reach the opposite hand and DB across the body toward the support foot and extend the non-support leg and foot out behind you.
- Hold the bottom position for 1-2 seconds, push through your heel and squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.
- Squat only as low as possible with proper technique, balance and control.
- Technique, balance and control are more important initially than depth of squat.
- Try to keep the non-support foot off the ground on every rep.
- Perform the desired number of reps, switch legs and repeat the exercise.
- Focus on sitting your hips back and keeping your chest up.
- Keep the support foot pointed straight ahead and the knee of the support leg aligned with the second toe of the support foot.
- Don’t allow the knee to cave in (valgus stress) or out (varus stress).
- Keep the non-support foot free and extended behind the body as far as needed for balance.
- Keep the eyes forward and back straight; don’t allow it to round over.
- Go down slowly (3-4 seconds), pause for 1-2 seconds and return under control.
- Start with 1-2 sets of 10 reps and progress to 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg.
- The distance that you go down is dictated by body control and form during the eccentric phase of the movement.
- Increase the depth of the squat as body control and form permit.
- Use body weight as resistance and touch with both hands to improve balance.
- Don’t go deep.
- Start with a ¼ squat to learn how to drive the hips and non-support leg back.
- Increase the intensity by using a heavier DB.
- Increase the stability and proprioceptive demand by performing the exercise with both eyes closed.
- Increase the stability and proprioceptive demand by reaching in the frontal and transverse planes.
- Integrate lower and upper body movements by performing a curl and press upon returning to the standing position.
Adding single-leg movements as a core or auxiliary exercise is an effective way to improve strength, balance, proprioception and movement efficiency. Start with the single-leg squat and touch with the rear leg extended and gradually progress to the more difficult single-leg squat. Starting with single-leg or pistol squat will often result in frustration and failure. Research indicates that individuals who have early first success are more likely to adhere to an exercise regime than those who experience failure5. Using the squat and touch with the rear foot extended as a lead up to more difficult forms of the single-leg squat will help ensure early success, improve adherence and serve as a lead up to the successful performance of more difficult single-leg exercises that have been shown to have carryover value to sports performance2,4-5.
- Robertson, M. The single-leg solution. Robertson Training Solutions, 2010.
- Boyle, M. Functional training for sports. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2004.
- Singer, R. Motor learning and human performance. Macmillian, NY, 2010.
- Verstegen, M. Core performance. St. Martin’s Press, 2004
- Gambetta, V. Athletic development: The art and science of functional sports conditioning, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 2007.
Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC-E, FACSM, was the Head S&C Coach for the Houston Astros from 1978-2012 and is currently a strength and conditioning consultant for the Texas Rangers and Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Website Education Manager baseballstrength.org.