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Sometimes You Must Take Things One Leg At A Time

“And power to him who power exerts”… Emerson,  ESSAY III _Compensation


Michigan Football TeamMike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains, sometimes you have to take things one leg at a time.

Once every week, the first exercise I did in our leg program was the one legged leg press. I always liked to know where the athletes leg strength was relative to the opposing appendage.

When a new group of freshman arrived on campus, the one legged leg press was a part of their very first workout. It was another way to check their leg history. Each athlete was given a physical and an isokinetic leg test. Introducing this population to the one legged leg press in a training environment gave me a better idea of what had transpired in their leg development.

When you play combative sports seldom do you make it through several seasons without some sort of injury that requires the body to compensate. Pain inhibits muscular function.  Even if an injury is minor, like a thigh bruise or a 1st degree ankle sprain, without really paying attention to it, you are affecting leg strength.

Human AnatomyUnder the control of the brain’s central nervous system, skeletal muscles can learn to contract in a specific order with great precision. When the ankle is injured you might have a slight limp, but you may still be able to run around as it is healing. You are not consciously thinking about it, but your body is adapting and it may be adapting to performing well by unbalancing some musculature that was balanced.  Suddenly, we have an athlete that is weaker in the affected leg.

Strength loss can also happen in the legs with upper torso injuries that require the body to slightly change its normal gate patterns and compensate with the lower torso.

The bottom line is that it pays to continually check stuff out.

If we are strength training  one leg at a time and there is a desparity from one leg to the other, instead of normally crushing each leg by working to momentary muscular failure, we would have the athlete begin a  simple  3 set training regime until the legs became even again.


Leg press one leg at a time:

Pendulum EquipmentA normal work out using the players personal computer print out, was one set to momentary muscular failure with each leg.  The repetition  range was 15-20 reps adding 10 pounds when they reached the high end of the range.

Finding an imbalance, our training consisted of 3 sets on each leg never surpassing the total number of reps achieved with the affected appendage.

Example of a workout:

1st Set …Right leg 12 reps, left leg 15 reps…… imbalanced

2nd Set…Right leg 10 reps, left leg 10 reps

 In this set the athlete was able to achieve 10 reps with the right leg in an all out effort so, we only did 10 reps with the left even though he could do more.

3rd Set…Right leg  6 reps,  left leg 6 reps

On the 3rd set in this example the athlete was only able to achieve  6 reps with the right leg,  then continued the exercise to momentary muscular failure.  On the left leg we stopped the  exercise after 6 reps.

After  2-3 weeks a healthy athlete’s  legs are usually even again. Once accomplished we resumed a high intensity training program with each leg.

Are there other ways to approach this malady?  YES, but this is how I did it… to Get Strong.

Periodically, in the off season, I would have the players do a one legged 50 rep set.  I like 50 rep sets as they are so challenging and aid in development.  For young athletes 50 reps seems so unreasonable. Yet, they find once they are developed and seasoned, it is not the same horror. With high repetitions you often  find a dissimilarity in muscular endurance that didn’t show up in the 15-20 rep range, so training this way is very beneficial.

The Bottom Line… I wanted to get the athletes legs even, though the players thought otherwise and claimed I was just trying to get even with them.

Pendulum Equipment


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