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Importance Of Single Leg Control In Runners

Sometimes I look at people and think, “It’s no wonder you are injured!” Seriously! The lack of control some people have is incredible. The fact that they have been able to perform as long as they have at times is pretty remarkable. But I also know that the body is great at compensating for a long time before it finally gives up and creates an injury. 

All too often when I assess runners, they have fair to poor control when standing on a single leg. Once I add movement to that in the form of a partial single leg squat or a quick, dynamic landing on a single leg, everything falls apart. That lack of control is a big cause of injuries in runners. 

Why is single leg control needed? 

To oversimplify things, running is basically a series of single leg squats in a forward moving direction. There is never a point in time when running that both feet are on the ground at the same time. And the leg isn’t just ‘on the ground’ when it is down. Your leg is sustaining 3-5x your body weight in a dynamic manner. In an ideal world, this means you land solidly and with good control on a slightly bent leg and maintain control as you move over that leg until it is off the ground. 

Without good control in your leg, your foot can collapse inward, your knee can go in, your hip can do a lot of crazy things, and your pelvis and back are impacted by all of the previously mentioned possibilities. All of that eventually leads to some sort of soft tissue or bone injury, as you have likely experienced for yourself or perhaps still going through. 

What to do if your control needs work 

The only way to improve the strength and control on a single leg is by doing work on a single leg. You can do all the squats, deadlifts, or lying down glute exercises you want, but unless you start doing work on a single leg you are going to continue to have issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying doing squats and deadlifts are bad to do, as I do them myself. What I am saying, though, is if that is the only strength work you are doing for your legs, you are doing yourself a disservice. Oh, I should also mention that if you are doing anything single leg lying down or on a machine, you are also not helping yourself any because you are not teaching your body how to actually control your body on a single leg. A single leg leg press and a single leg squat are completely different activities. 

My favorite single leg activities for runners are Bulgarian split squats, single leg RDLs, step ups, and lunges. With all that said, they will only work if you do them properly. As stated above, the body is great at compensating. You can easily compensate your way around your weaknesses with these tasks as well. 

And we can’t forget the foot! 

The foot plays a HUGE role into the control that the leg has. Your single leg control can only be as good as your foot control is. Being that the foot is the actual thing that is on the ground (or on a lot of cushioning in a shoe), if your foot is lacking control and you do not work to gain that, you will never improve your single leg control. 

Conversely, I can improve someone’s single leg control in a matter of seconds simply by changing what they are doing with their foot. 

I encourage you to test out your single leg control to see where you are at, especially if you are stuck in an injury cycle that you have not been able to break out of. If you are not sure what to do from there, let’s chat! Schedule a FREE Discovery Call with Dr. Brianne Showman to figure out how you can improve your single leg control and break out of your injury cycle. 

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