At Performance University – If you ask us what is the best type of single leg squat? We’ll answer: “Knee Tap Squats!”
We use knee tap squats for our performance athletes because it resembles the body positions (i.e. joint angles) and force generation patterns of common sporting positions we see in field, court and combat sports.
We use knee tap squats for our physique athletes because it allows them to improve their muscular symmetry while performing an exercise, which resembles their optimal double-leg squat form.
The knee tap squat is also our favorite single leg squat application for fitness clients looking to improve their single leg stability and lower-body strength in a manner which has a high functional transfer to many instances (of life or recreational sports) where they have to raise and lower their body.
And, Knee Taps Squats are also our go-to method of testing and improving left-right leg strength symmetry for injury prevention potential.
So, if you read the title of this post and thought “Best for what goal?” – We’d say: That’s exactly the question you should ask 🙂 We feel it’s the best single leg squat application for all training goals for the reasons provided above!
How to do Knee Tap Single Leg Squats – Performance U Style
Set up a couple of Airex pads, or weight plates, or two-by-fours, or anything else that’s about three-four inches high. Stand with your left heel at the upper left edge of the stack, as shown below. Lift your right foot off the floor, bending your right knee so your foot is behind you. Hold your arms out in front of your shoulders for balance.
Now drop into a one-legged squat, descending until your right knee touches the pads. Rise back to the starting position. Don’t rest on the pads, or allow your right foot or shin to touch the pads.
What About The Pistol Squat?
You may be wondering why we recommend this squat variation, rather than the pistol squat.
Although the Pistol Squat is a trendy, cool looking and old-time exercise, it’s not something we use with our clients and athletes at Performance U.
We don’t feel the Pistol squat exercise is “bad”, nor do we feel it’s dangerous. And, we don’t get caught up arguing against Pistols, or will we try to convince anyone to stop doing them, especially if you think they’re fun. All we can do is share the training methodologies that make the most sense to us, along with the exercise applications we’ve found to work best for us.
Put simply, we feel the knee tap single leg squat is a more athletic position, and we’ve found that having your non-weight-bearing leg behind you helps you keep better spinal alignment.
Watch this video for more on why we don’t use Pistol Squats:
2 Advanced Progressions of Knee Tap Single Leg Squats
There are two ways we progress the Knee Tap Squat to increase difficulty: Increase the Range of Motion (ROM) or Add Weight.
Put simply, the lower you go, the harder the exercise becomes. As you get stronger and gain more control over the movement, we reduce the height of the pads, or whatever we’ve placed on the floor. In some cases we get rid of the pads altogether and descend until your knee (not your shin or toes) touches the floor.
Note: Not everyone will be able to continually progress by going lower due to structure limitations, past injury or simply because of the way their body is designed.
Once we feel we’ve capped out on one’s safe ROM in this exercise – on a case by case basis – we’ll progress by adding load using the same ROM we feel is appropriate.
2. Adding Load
We’ll add additional weight-load by using a weighted vest or holding dumbbells.
With the weighted-vest, the form remains the same. In that, the arms can stay extended out (like a Zombie) as a counter-balance.
With dumbbells; we use a modified “racked” position as shown below.
Single Leg Squats only scratch the surface of the creative, battle-tested, hybrid single leg training concepts we share in our…
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I’ll cover how we use the Knee Tap Squat as a Test!