35-Minute Unilateral Legs Workout (SplitStrong 35, DAY 8)

Correct muscle imbalances and strengthen the legs and core with this Unilateral Legs Workout. Eight single leg exercises with dumbbells to build strong legs at home.

This is DAY 8 of our SplitStrong 35 Workout Program.

Jump to Unilateral Legs Workout Outline

UNILATERAL LEG DAY!

This leg workout isolates one side of the body at a time (AKA unilateral strength training).

Single leg exercises expose muscle imbalances while strengthening the glutes, quads, hamstrings, thighs, calves AND abs and core too!

Unilateral Exercises Benefits:

  • Isolate and correct muscle imbalances.
  • Improve balance and core stability (personally my favorite form of core training).
  • Train both sides of the body equally and prevent overuse, overtraining or compensating with a dominant side. 

We all have muscular imbalances. Maybe you always carry your baby on your left hip, or you tend to shift your weight to your more dominant right side.

Unilateral training (or single leg training) allows us to work on one side of the body at a time. So you’re forcing each leg to do the work without allowing ‘more dominate’ leg muscles to take over (like they can in bilateral training).

Unilateral Leg Workout and Unilateral Leg Exercises Benefits

35-Minute Unilateral Legs Workout

Strengthen your lower body and core with these single leg exercises that will help you lift heavier and build strong leg muscles at home. 

Unilateral lower body exercises recruit more muscles (specifically core muscles) than bilateral exercises. The abs and lower back are more engaged in a single-leg exercises to help the body maintain balance.

In other words, your legs (and abs) are going to work HARDER in this unilateral leg workout. 

Workout Equipment:

A medium-to-heavy set of dumbbells.

I recommend 8-30 lbs depending on your fitness level. I’m using 15 and 20 lb dumbbells in this workout video.

The Goal: The last 2-3 reps of each exercise should feel challenging to complete; that means you chose the right weights. Remember you’re isolating one side of the body at a time, which often means you can lift heavier.

Workout Instructions:

Click here to follow along with the Single Leg Workout video at the top of this post.

I’ll coach you through the entire workout, keeping track of the timed intervals, providing form cues and modifications.

Alternatively, work through the single leg exercises below at your own pace.

The workout format:

  • 3 Circuits, repeating each circuit x2 sets
  • 2-3 Single Leg Strength Exercises Per Circuit —  (40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest x 2 sets)
  • 1-2 “Burnout” Leg Exercises Per Circuit —  (40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest x 2 sets)

single leg glute bridge | unilateral leg exercises

8 Unilateral Leg Exercises

CIRCUIT ONE: STAGGERED SQUATS + SWINGS (right leg first set, left leg second set)

Single Leg Strength Exercises (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, repeat x2)

  1. Staggered Dumbbell Squat
  2. Staggered Dumbbell Swing
  3. Staggered Dumbbell Swing + Squat Thruster

Burnout (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, repeat x2)

  1. Walk the Box
  2. Rapid 80/20 Squats (Optional Squat Jumps)

CIRCUIT TWO: SINGLE LEG DEADLIFTS + LUNGES (right leg first set, left leg second set)

Strength Exercises (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, repeat x2)

  1. Single Leg Deadlift
  2. 1.5 Reverse Lunge
  3. Single Leg Deadlift + Lunge

Burnout (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, repeat x2)

  1. Tap Back + High Pull
  2. Low Lunge Tap In’s

CIRCUIT THREE: SINGLE LEG GLUTE EXERCISES (right leg first set, left leg second set)

Unilateral Bodyweight Exercises (40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest, repeat x2)

  1. Single Leg Hip Thrusts
  2. Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge

8 Single Leg Exercises with Dumbbells

1. Staggered Dumbbell Squat

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads and core.

staggered squat with dumbbells | leg workout

How to do a Staggered Squat:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, hold one dumbbell vertically at your chest (goblet squat hold) OR two dumbbells at your sides.
  2. Stagger your feet, so your right leg is slightly in front of your left foot. Kickstand your back left foot, left heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front foot, 20% in your back left toe.
  3. Maintain a staggered stance as you lower your hips down, sitting back into a staggered squat. Push through the heel of your front foot to return to standing. Think of it as performing a single leg squat on your right leg.

2. Staggered Dumbbell Swing

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hips, core, and all the stabilizing muscles in your back and shoulders.

how to do a staggered dumbbell swing | unilateral training

How to do a Staggered Dumbbell Swing:

  1. Start standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Then take a staggered stance; so your right leg is slightly in front of your left foot. Kickstand your back left foot, left heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front right foot, 20% in your back left toe. Both toes facing forward.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in your left hand (the opposite hand of the foot that is forward).
  3. Then with a slight bend in your knees and weight in your heels, hinge at your hips, pushing your butt back towards the wall behind you. Let the dumbbell swing between your kegs (in a  ‘hike’ motion) to start the swinging movement.
  4. Drive through your front right foot to stand tall, pushing your hips forward as you squeeze your glutes to swing the dumbbell up to shoulder height. Think long, loose arms (your arms are just a vehicle for moving the dumbbell, your hips and glutes generate the power).
  5. As the dumbbell begins to descend, think of catching the weight with your hip hinge loading the glutes and hamstrings. The front right leg will have a greater hinge doing the majority of the work to control the weight.

3. Staggered Dumbbell Swing + Squat Thruster

Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstrings, hips, quads, back and core muscles.

staggered dumbbell swing and squat thruster

How to do a Staggered Dumbbell Swing + Squat Thruster:

  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, hold one dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Stagger your feet, so your left leg is slightly in front of your right foot. Kickstand your back right foot, right heel floating off the ground. Keep 80% of your weight in your front left foot, 20% in your back right toe.
  3. Maintain a staggered stance as you hinge your hips back towards the wall behind you, letting the dumbbell swing between your legs.
  4. Then, power through your hips to swing the dumbbell up to shoulder height, front-racking it on your right shoulder.
  5. Maintaining the staggered stance, lower your hips down, sitting back into a staggered squat. Push through the heel of your front left foot to return to standing as you use the power from your legs to ‘thrust’ the dumbbell in your right hand overhead.
  6. Then switch sides.

4. Single Leg Deadlift

Targets: The posterior chain (backside of body) — glutes, hamstrings, lower back and core muscles. This single leg stability exercise will also challenge your balance.

how to do a single leg deadlift with dumbbells | unilateral leg workout at home

How to do a Single Leg Deadlift:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Transfer your weight into your right foot and kickstand or float your left foot off the ground. Balancing on your right leg.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in your left hand (opposite hand as balancing leg), palm facing your body.
  3. With your right knee bent, hinge at your hips (hip flexors), extending your left leg long behind you as you lower the dumbbell down towards the ground; balancing on your right leg. Keep your hips square to the mat.
  4. You should feel a good stretch in your right hamstring (back of your right leg) at the bottom of this movement. Range of motion looks different for everyone.
  5. Then drive through your front right heel, squeezing your glutes and hamstrings to push your hips forward and return to the starting position. Bringing your floating back left leg up to meet your right leg again.
  6. Switch sides, performing single leg deadlifts on the left leg.

Modification: Option to place your free hand on a wall, countertop or chair for balance support. Or kickstand your left foot on the ground performing a staggered deadlift.

5. 1.5 Reverse Lunge

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, calves and core.

how to do a dumbbell reverse lunge | single leg exercises

How to do a 1.5 Reverse Lunge:

  1. Stand with feet hip-distance apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, lowering your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Raise 3/4 of the way up, then back down to the bottom of you lunge. This increase the time-under-tension (or the work time for your muscles, specifically the quad muscles).
  4. Then squeeze your left leg glute, driving through your left heel to stand tall. Bringing your rear foot forward as you stand up back to the starting position.
  5. Switch sides.

6. Single Leg Deadlift + Reverse Lunge

Targets: Legs, glutes, hamstring, hips, quads, core and back.

single leg deadlift and reverse lunge | leg workout

How to do a Single Leg Deadlift + Reverse Lunge:

  1. Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Transfer your weight into your left foot and kickstand or float your right foot off the ground. Balancing on your left leg.
  2. Hold one dumbbell in your right hand (opposite hand as balancing leg), palm facing your body.
  3. With your left knee bent, hinge at your hips (hip flexors), extending your right leg long behind you as you lower the dumbbell down towards the ground; balancing on your left leg. Keep your hips square to the mat.
  4. You should feel a good stretch in your left hamstring (back of your left leg) at the bottom of this movement. Range of motion looks different for everyone.
  5. Then drive through your front left heel, squeezing your glutes and hamstrings to push your hips forward and return to the starting position. Bringing your floating right leg up to meet your left leg again.
  6. From here, step your right leg back into a reverse lunge, dropping your back right knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
  7. Then squeeze your left leg glute, driving your back right leg forward as you stand up; back to the starting position.
  8. Switch sides.

7. Single Leg Hip Thrusts

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hips, low back and core.

single leg hip thrust | Unilateral Bodyweight Exercises

How to do Single Leg Hip Thrust (Marching Hip Lift):

  1. Set up for hip thrusts. Sit on the ground with legs bent at 90 degrees, placing your forearms on a bench (chair or couch) behind you.  Feet planted on the ground, but lifted off the ground.
  2. Transfer your weight into your right foot.
  3. With your core engaged, drive through your right heel, squeezing your glutes and hamstrings to press your hips up towards the ceiling as you lift your left foot off the mat. “Marching” your left knee up towards your chest.
  4. As you lower your hips, return your left foot back to the mat. Repeat this movement focusing on one leg at a time.
  5. Switch sides.

Modification: Perform a standard hip thrust with both feet on the ground.

8. Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge 

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hips, low back and core.

single leg glute bridge

How to do an Elevated Single Leg Glute Bridge :

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent, about a foot from your bench (couch or chair). Make sure your bench is stable and won’t slide out from underneath you.
  2. Place your right heel on the edge of your bench. Right leg bent at 90 degrees. And extend your left leg straight overhead (ankle stacked over hip).
  3. Then, drive through your right heel, squeezing your right glute to raise your hips.
  4. With control, lower your hips, aiming to hover a couple inches off  the ground before.
  5. Repeat on the right leg, then switch sides.

Modification: Perform a single leg glute bridge from the ground (not elevated). Or perform a standard glute bridge with both feet on the ground.

SplitStrong 35 Free 2-Week Workout Program

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If you liked this unilateral leg workout (day eight of the SplitStrong 35 workout plan); download the full training plan.

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Unilateral Leg Workout At Home (8 Single Leg Exercises)

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2 comments
  1. My knees hurt doing back lunges. Is doing a “sort of lunge” worth it or is it better to do a completely different move?

    • Margot! Thanks for giving this workout a try. Lunges are a knee dominant exercise (meaning they focus on the muscles surrounding your knee join, specifically the quads and glutes). To work these same muscles you could: 1) perform bodyweight lunges if that helps relieve some of the pressure. 2) perform an isometric lunge hold, just holding at the bottom of the lunge without weights 3) perform staggered squats 4) perform squats which is also a knee dominant exercise and works similar muscles! -Lindsey