Unilateral exercises are a great way to prevent and correct imbalances. They force each leg, each side, to work independently so that the dominant side can’t take over.
They also require less, and in many cases no weight, to be challenging so that you can do them at home if you don’t have much equipment or even use them to give your body a break from heavy loads.
One of my favorite unilateral leg exercises is the Airborne Lunge because it not only forces each side to work independently, but it also will improve your core strength and mobility.
And starting out, most people won’t need any load to make the movement more challenging.
To do the Airborne Lunge:
Stand on your right foot and bend your left knee, bringing your heel back up toward your butt.
Then bend your right knee and sit back into your right heel as you lunge down, dropping your left knee to the ground. Do not touch the left foot down when you drop the knee to the ground.
Do not reach the left knee back too far when you lunge down. Keep it just a little behind your right foot so that you are almost slightly squatting.
Lean forward as needed to counterbalance but do not round forward.
To come back to standing, drive up through your right heel and straighten the leg.
Complete all reps on one side before switching. Make sure you engage your core and keep your standing heel on the ground at all times. Also, make sure you feel this move in the glute of your standing leg.
Regressions and Progressions:
To regress the Airborne Lunge, you can put a bad or box under your back knee so that you don’t have to go as low to start.
You can also hold a weight straight out in front of you to help counterbalance and make the move easier if you have the mobility to touch your knee all the way down, but not quite the strength.
You can also use a suspension trainer to regress the Airborne Lunge. The suspension trainer will help you balance and go through a full range of motion even if you don’t yet have the core or leg strength. If you are at all struggling to maintain form, this is a great regression.
To do the Suspension Trainer Airborne Lunge, hold a strap in each hand. Stand on your right leg and bend your left knee, bringing your left foot up toward your butt.
Then holding the suspension trainer, sit back into your right heel, dropping your left knee down to the ground.
Touch your knee down then stand back up. Use the suspension trainer to help you balance and get back up, but do not turn this into an upper body exercise. Use your arms only as needed!
Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other leg.
To progress the Airborne Lunge, hold a weight in either the zercher or goblet position.
The Airborne Lunge is a great unilateral leg exercise to strengthen your legs through a full range of motion and improve your mobility and stability. The movement will also improve your core strength and balance.
And if you sit all day the Airborne Lunge is a better choice than the Pistol or Single Leg Squat because it involves more hip extension than the squat.
If you’ve been sitting all day, you want to include more hip extension than flexion in your workouts to help activate your glutes and prevent and alleviate low back pain.
What are your favorite unilateral leg exercises?