There are a few things I like to do to increase the difficulty of single leg exercises.
The two big principles I follow are:
1. Increase the distance between the weight and the hips.
2. Increase the range of motion.
Adjustment 1- Increasing Distance
The first way to increase the difficulty of a single leg exercise is to simply move the weight away from the point of movement. In this case, position the weight further from the legs/hips.
One of the common ways I implement this principle is to have wrestlers utilize a Zercher hold. Zercher style single leg exercises are some of the most applicable exercises for wrestlers.
Here’s a video of me performing a Zercher Reverse Lunge. On top of that, there is additional range of motion because I’m standing on a platform.
Zercher exercises are best performed with a Fat Bar. Don’t worry if you don’t have one. It’s only for the sake of comfort. Fat bars are much less likely to dig into your arms. If you do not have access to one, a standard bar will work.
Although I rarely endorse the use of the squat pad, using it in this case will help to minimize discomfort.
Anyway, another way I like to challenge a wrestler is by having them hold Kettlebells in the rack position. In all honesty, this is very similar to the Zercher hold. It’s just a little higher and performed with Kettlebells (or Dumbbells).
Here are videos of me performing a Walking Lunge with Kettlebells in the Rack position.
And here’s a Lunge with the Dumbbells in the Rack position.
If you’re having a difficult time staying tight in your core as you perform single leg exercises, this is a great way to eliminate that. The demand placed on your core forces you to activate much more than if you were holding DBs.
However, if re-positioning the weight isn’t something you’re ready to do, there is another method I like to implement to increase the difficulty…
Adjustment 2- Add Range Of Motion
Adding range of motion is another way to increase difficulty without using more weight.
For Split Squats, place your lead foot on an elevated surface.
For Lunges, I like to step on to the elevated surface rather than down to a lower surface. I feel this reduces the risk of falling because it’s easier step down from an elevated surface.
For Reverse Lunges, I recommend starting on the elevated surface and stepping back (as I demonstrate in the video Zercher Reverse Lunge above).
I’ll throw this variation in from time to time to prevent stagnation. I also use this strategy commonly with the more advanced wrestlers I train. Oftentimes they need additional stimulus to make consistent progress.
You can also add range of motion by placing your rear foot on an elevated surface. This turns it into a “Bulgarian Split Squat” or “Single Leg Squat” depending on who you ask.
These are the two methods I use when looking to increase the difficulty of single leg exercises (without adding weight).
Not only do these two methods add variety to a routine, they’re also a great way to continue to challenge yourself if you happen to be using the heaviest DBs in your gym.
So try these variations out and continue to train smart!