What Muscles Do One Legged Squats Work?

Performing squats as a part of your weekly exercise routine can help keep your quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes strong. One-legged squats can promote better balance, coordination and speed for running and other athletic activities. One-legged squats work most major muscle groups in the lower body and encourage greater core strength.

One-legged squats work the muscles used for running. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Implications

The one-legged squat, also known as the pistol, is a body-weight exercise that can help build power and stability. One-legged squats have real-world implications because the range of motion activity involved in the exercise best mimics common muscle movements performed in sports, as well as in daily activities. One-legged squats better prepare your body for the rigors of athletic performance, including running, jumping and the sudden turns and twists commonly found in many sports. Whereas two-legged squats can cause muscle imbalances between legs because one leg tends to lead, single-legged squats help each leg develop and strengthen separately and equally. The combined skills involved in performing one-legged squats help develop flexibility, endurance and coordination.

Muscles Used

One-legged squats work the same primary muscle groups used for running, including the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus maximus and calves. Hamstrings are located at the back of the upper leg and quadriceps are in the front part of the upper leg. Gluteus maximus muscles, also referred to as buttocks muscles, attach to your hamstrings from above. Calves consist of the soleus and the gastrocnemius muscles and are located at the back of your lower legs. Supportive muscles used during one-legged squats include the upper and lower abdominals and biceps.

Core Support

One-legged squats require core support and posture alignment. Because the exercise relies on your abdominal and gluteus maximus muscles for balance, performing one-legged squats regularly can help tone and strengthen your midsection while building leg strength. This translates to better movement and coordination during sports performance and other activities, especially when combined with other cross-training exercises, such as high-bench stepups and one-legged hops.

Balance

One-legged squats, when part of a regular routine, can help you build better balance, coordination and body awareness. For instance, one-legged squats may help you balance long enough to put on a sock without having to sit in a chair or grab onto an object for support. One-legged squats teach your body to balance in a manner similar to the exercises commonly practiced in martial arts for rooting, which refers to the way a tree is rooted to the ground. The body is challenged to balance over a narrow base of support during one-legged squats and must find a center of gravity and connection to the ground. The neuromuscular system is also challenged because of the combined skills involved in balancing, stretching and coordinating during the exercise.

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