How do we produce muscular strength?

I have recently been working towards my UKSCA accreditation, a process that I approached with great trepidation having never truly embraced the whole strength aspect of performance training as the corner stone to any programme. The accreditation process involves understanding periodisation, anatomy & physiology and also proficient techniques and application of Olympic Lifting.

During my study and training of the latter I have been lifting more then I ever have and to my surprise I have been loving it. My training foundations are still deeply routed in functional specific training, however I have found the introduction of traditional strength exercises, squats, deadlifts, press and pulls into my training have enhanced my running performance significantly whilst correcting several of the muscular imbalances I have been suffering with.

Now it was during my first foundation course with the UKSCA, that we explored single leg squats. Functionally I believed I was proficient in my balance and range, however, I quickly found I was significantly lacking in the latter as I couldnt get past knee height when trying to perform a pistol squat. Ive also had a slight impingement at end range of my bilateral squats in my left hip, so the combination of both my poor single leg squat and my left hip impingement has led me into a spot of self discovery.

I initially started playing around with different heights to squat off, emphasis being on trying to eccentrically load the the leg during the downward phase. I started off small then slowly built up, however I quickly found my range was limited by my inability to maintain an upright posture as I bailed into thoracic flexion to compensate for my lack of hip flexion. I played around with different arm positions, focusing on scapular retraction, which I have been working on during my deadlift training. This helped initially and allowed more control but I still wasnt getting the range of motion improvements I was striving for.

So I decided I would add strength into the mix and if I couldnt improve my range, I would improve my strength during the ranges I could do, whilst still ensuring my focus was still on correct form so that my legs are doing the majority of the work. It was from this I realised that the addition of an increased strength stimulus combined with a shorter range of motion, enabled me to reach a greater range of motion when I increased my range off a larger platform with less weight (body weight). Progressively this has lead me to quickly reach a stage where I can now pistol squat off both legs, and in one session take a client from barely being able to do a single leg squat off a box one foot height to a box at their hip height whilst under control.

In my next post I will discuss my thoughts on this adaptation further. Below is a video for you to try it yourselves.

Single Leg Squat Development



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