Single-leg squats, and not stiff-legged deadlifts, should be your go-to exercise if you want to build your glutes and hamstrings, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Strong glutes and hamstrings are essential if you want a big deadlift or squat, or if you’re just looking to give Kim Kardashian a run for her money in the ginormous ass stakes.

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Single-leg squats: the study

Researchers at the Texas State University took 18 female students who were experienced in training with weights. They attached electrodes to their legs to measure how hard the gluteus maximus and hamstrings had to work during a series of different exercises.

The participants performed squats, stiff-legged deadlifts and single-leg squats.

The results (combining both eccentric and concentric phases of the movements) clearly show that the single-leg squat outperformed both the squat and the stiff-legged deadlift when it came to muscle activation. The superiority of single-leg squats was especially pronounced when it came to the glutes.

For glutes & hamstrings, single-leg squats are better than regular squats or stiff-leg deadlifts

An easy progressive overload scheme for 2022

progressive overload

Training should be so simple. Lift a weight, rest and refuel. Make progress. When it is boiled down, it really is that straightforward, however the sheer amount of conflicting information and writing that exists on the internet can make choosing our training path a minefield.

Who should you listen to? And why should you listen to them? Hopefully, you read Herculean Strength because you value our input and knowledge on all manner of fitness-related subjects. But what did people do before sites like this existed?

They did what worked. Often the advice would be given by old-timers in the gym, men that had been there and done it. They had seen what worked for them and passed this information on to others in their environment.

One tried and trusted idea is now known as ‘Progressive Overload’. All it really means is that gradually you increase the training stressors – whether weight, volume or frequency – over time. As any of these increases, you will get stronger because your body is forced to adapt to the stress placed upon it.

Progressive Overload can be used to for strength training and bodybuilding (hypertrophy) training too. 

Click here to read more about how to integrate progressive overload into your routines and take your gains to the next level!

How we like to program single-leg squats

So: it looks like we have a very clear winner for both muscle groups.

We’ve already recommended in the past that you incorporate single-leg squats into your routine. One awesome variation we like is the Zercher Bulgarian split squat, a single-leg squat with a barbell held across the crook of the elbows.

As well as being able to expect enhanced hamstring and glute activation, this tough-as-nails movement has a number of other great benefits as follows:

“First, the position of the bar makes for a far more stable movement as the weight load is constantly over the middle of your foot and you won’t have to readjust yourself to remain balanced every couple of reps.

Those who suffer from lower back issues will find that this variation has far less spinal loading than the tradition set up across your traps.

All split-leg or lunge pattern movements translate greatly to athletic movements as they mimic many athletic patterns such as running. The balance and ankle mobility required to maintain your form throughout the set is far less compromised than the traditional set up.

You can also hit greater depth throughout the movement without lower back rounding (buttwink) as with the traditional set up.

This is a movement that can be programmed on leg day after you perform your primary lifts, like back or front squats. The Zercher Bulgarian split squat is very tiring, and doesn’t require much weight at all to be an insanely effective leg builder and posterior chain builder.

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