Mar 9, 2018
Lower Body Strength

Michael Boyle, MEd, ATC, is a strength and conditioning coach and consultant based in Boston and co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning. He has been training athletes, from amateurs to Olympians and professionals, for over 25 years and is the author of Functional Training for Sports. We asked him for his best advice on training the lower body.

T&C: What is your philosophy on training the lower body?

Boyle: Like a lot of coaches, my approach has evolved from a body building perspective to power lifting to Olympic lifting to where we are now, which many call functional training. From an evolution standpoint, we’ve gone from the back squat to the front squat to different versions of a single-leg squat. At this time, we don’t really do back or front squats, but instead focus on versions of one-legged squats.

What new trends in lower body strength and conditioning are you seeing?

We’re moving toward building single-leg power using the rear foot elevated squat as our central exercise. Based on the same idea, we’re also modifying that exercise to include movements like single-leg rear foot elevated jumps.

How has research validated or caused you to re-evaluate your training programs?

There is some older research on bilateral deficit that I’ve really paid attention to since concentrating on single-leg work. For example, in a study on grip strength that measured right-hand strength, left-hand strength, and combined strength, it was found that the sum of the right hand plus the left hand strength was greater than the strength level for the combined grip. In extrapolating that idea toward lower body training, we’ve found that right leg strength plus left leg strength is greater than the sum of both legs. It affirms where we were going empirically.

What lower body deficiencies are you seeing most often in young athletes who enter your program?

Glutes and hamstrings. Most coaches and trainers are still living in a squatting dominated world. We try to make sure we’re striking a balance between our anterior and posterior chain work. For every squat-type exercise, we’re also doing a deadlift-type exercise.

What lower body corrective exercises do you use most often?

Some form of a split squat and some form of a single-leg straight-leg deadlift. For a beginner, we would start with body weight split squats with both feet on the ground in order to build hip mobility. As we progress our athletes, we use a lunge matrix as a warmup. We want them to master the pattern before loading a movement so as not to add strength to dysfunction.

Where does flexibility training fit into your program?

We’ve gone back to static stretching. We foam roll and static stretch before every game, every practice, and every workout, then we warm up. In my mind, stretching has a strong correlation with injury prevention. Whenever I take an injured athlete to a doctor, they tell me they need to stretch more–so why shouldn’t all our athletes stretch?

What role does balance training play in developing the lower body?

With the exception of what we get from our single-leg work, we do very little specific balance training work. A lot of us got caught up in the thought that balance training meant using unstable surfaces, and we may have gotten a little circus-like because of it. We do some one-legged squatting on an Airex pad–that’s about as unstable as we’ll get.

Image by Matthew Tosh

Shop see all »

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
website development by deyo designs
Interested in receiving the print or digital edition of Training & Conditioning?

Subscribe Today »

Be sure to check out our sister sites: