Supercharge your single leg work with this modification to a classic
It’s become well known that single leg and split stance training pays great dividends when it comes to developing strength, muscle, and joint health in the lower body. As a bonus, splitting the stance in most exercises (including upper body movements) can do plenty to diffuse loading in the lumbar region; that means, if you’re a victim of chronic low back pain, adding more split stance work to your routine may be a game-changer for pain management and a step toward getting better.
For years, a standard go-to I’d use for lower body split stance work would be the rear foot elevated split squat (RFESS). Setting up with the back foot placed on a bench or platform made for a deeper range of motion compared to a standard split squat – which attacks the glute and quads in a great way.
I have a love-hate relationship with this exercise for all the right reasons. They are a movement that requires plenty of honesty in selecting your weight lifted, and they burn like all hell when performing the movement. As far as client feedback goes, however, I’ve found the placement of the load coupled with the anthropometry of the individual can largely dictate where the majority of the work being done is felt. For many interested in developing and training the glutes using the exercise, the emphasis is placed on the quads, which is less desirable. Combating this issue by taking a page out of the Kang squat book can be a smart call. As a refresher, a Kang squat loads the posterior chain more by combining a back squat pattern with a good morning pattern, to create more tension in the hamstrings and mobilize the hip flexors. Check it out below.
You can probably see where I’m going with this.
Enter the Rear Foot Elevated Kang Squat
Following basically the same mechanics for the eccentric phase of this lift in unilateral form makes the glutes and hamstrings of the leading leg scream. This is a pattern that requires precision, and rushing through the pattern doesn’t service anyone. It needs to be approached with patience. I like pausing at the bottom of each rep to emphasize the glute stretch that’s being created. It’s important to aim to get as upright as possible before ascending to the top position, as this is essentially a single leg deadlift pattern mixed with a split squat. You’re getting the best of both worlds with hip and knee-dominant patterns. I’m normally not one for many combo exercises, but this one is money.
Rear Foot Elevated Kang Squat: Coaching Cues
- Choose a bench with the elevation of your preference, and set up the same way you normally would for a rear foot elevated split squat. I recommend planting the shoelaces down on the bench; not the toe.
- Holding a pair of light dumbbells by your sides, slowly begin a hinge pattern – that will result in a single leg Romanian deadlift pattern. Aim for your hips to stay as high as possible during this phase, until the dumbbells are just above ankle level. Keep the back flat.
- Once you’ve maxed out that range of motion, slowly lower the back knee until it’s inches off the floor. As you do this, your upper body should naturally become upright and tall.
- Pause at the bottom of the rep for 1 second, and ascend vertically (like a normal split squat). That’s one rep.
- Focus on sets of 6-8 slow reps per leg. That’s a lower rep range than typical split squats, so there’s no harm in adding sets to make up the difference.