Single leg plyometrics are an extremely underrated training style to improve your explosiveness… and are actually super important!
Whether you play basketball, hockey, soccer – pretty much any sport – you’ll find yourself needing to explode through one leg at some point (e.g. layups in basketball, kicking in soccer, etc.).
That’s why you need to train single leg plyometrics – specific training builds specific skills.
Let’s dive a little deeper into exactly why single leg plyometrics are important for you, and go over my top 6 best exercises that’ll turn your legs into cannons!
Why Single Leg Plyometrics Are Important
We often get stuck in a track where we train explosiveness through both legs at once.
Now this isn’t a bad thing – we want to train bilaterally as well.
But think about a sprinter starting in a block start, or a racer jumping over hurdles, or a hockey player racing for the puck – I could go on-and-on, but the point is that there are tons of times in sports where you need to explode off just one leg.
Single leg plyometrics teach your body to access as much strength as possible in as little time as possible for EACH leg.
This is also super important to be balanced from side-to-side – your body is smart, it’ll hide most weakness on one side by just compensating with the other side.
And hidden weaknesses are no good for athletes.
So, single leg plyometrics will build explosive power in each leg, and ALSO uncover any weaknesses to fix them.
Now let’s take a look at some of my top single leg plyometric exercises that’ll level up your explosiveness (in no particular order)!
1. Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps
These are one of my all-time favourite exercises for building explosive legs!
Place one foot on a bench, chair, roller – anything that’s about knee height – and put the other foot in front of you.
You want to bend down through your ankle, hip, and knee to load that front leg.
Explode up, extending through your hip and knee with your tippy toes being the last thing that touches the ground – try to get as much height as possible!
This exercise mimics the ever-important triple extension movement pattern, which is rooted in nearly all athletic movements!
It can be a little tricky to setup for, so be sure to check out our step-by-step guide on how to properly do Bulgarian split squat jumps.
Shoot for 3-8 sets of 3-6 reps on each leg.
2. Reverse Lunge Knee Drives
This is a great plyometric for getting your knee drive on par with Usain Bolt.
Start in a lunge position, loaded on your front leg.
Explode through that front leg, standing up quickly, while at the same time driving that back knee forwards and upwards like you’re Jorge Masvidal delivering the craziest flying knee to Ben Askren (any UFC fans here?).
Feel free to jump up off your planted leg to add a bit more explosiveness, but make sure to keep perfect form!
Try 3-6 sets of 5 reps on each side.
3. Single Leg Hurdles
I learned my lesson the hard way with this one – use light, movable hurdles if you don’t want to face plant!
Single leg hurdles have the awesome benefit of being a “constant” plyometric, meaning that your body constantly has to handle forces throughout an entire set and not just for each rep…
Basically, you hop a hurdle and land on a single leg, taking the force of the landing without stepping down on your other leg.
Then, you gather yourself with a pause and hop the next hurdle… and so on.
You want this because yes, you’re training your leg to be more explosive, but you also want it to learn how to handle landing from these movements – which is a good way to prevent injuries!
Keep your knee slightly bent when landing, and really try to have your toes be the last thing touching the ground when you jump.
Do 2 sets of each leg, hopping 6-12 mini hurdles in a row – remember to PAUSE in between each jump, don’t do them back-to-back.
4. Lateral Jumps
It’s rare that you always jump perfectly forward in sports, so you need to build explosive legs going side-to-side as well.
Lateral jumps are an easy and effective way to do this.
There are a ton of ways you can modify this one too:
- Land On Same Leg – Load up on one leg and jump to the opposite side, landing on the leg you just jumped off of.
- Skater Jumps – Jump to the side off of one leg, and land on the opposite leg. Doing this back and forth will look like you’re “skating,” but you can reset like in the video above.
- Single Leg To Double Foot Landing – Jump off of one leg to the opposite side, and land on both feet. Reset the other way.
- Jump Over An Object – Do any of the three variations above over a mini hurdle or a low object.
Adding this extra dimension to your single leg plyometric training is going to round you out and make you even more explosive!
I recommend doing 2 sets of 6-12 reps per side.
5. Lunge Jumps
A classic exercise, lunge jumps are awesome for building explosive knee drive.
Get into a lunge position, and jump into the air as high as you can.
Switch your leg position mid-air, landing in a controlled lunge with the opposite foot now forward (you don’t have to tuck your feet like in the video if you don’t want to).
Land softly, and pause before jumping up again in between each rep.
Go for 3 sets of 12 reps for lunge jumps.
6. Single Leg Box Jumps
These can be intimidating, but are super worth it.
Start with a low box – something you’re comfortable with.
Stand on one leg about 1-2 feet away from the box, and crouch down slightly to load up.
Explode upwards, hopping on the box – and that’s it!
What’s great about these is that it takes most of the impact away from landing single-legged because the surface is higher up from your starting point.
You can take advantage of that if your knees are bugging you from impact, or if you’re new to plyometric training.
Either way, these will build some super explosive legs – gradually increase the height of your box as time goes on!
Go for 3 sets of 5 reps per leg.
That’s it – these 6 exercises are sure to transform your legs into pogo sticks!
It can be frustrating to start with single leg plyometrics, especially if they uncover some weaknesses in your legs – but stick to them and you’ll be hopping over mountains in no time.
Gradually progress by adding a weight vest or using higher obstacles, but be safe and only push as far as you’re comfortable – small, consistent progress adds up to massive gains!
Also check out our list of the best overall plyometric exercises for more information!