Have you ever injured your ankle or knee? Do you (or did you) play a sport that involves swinging, kicking, or fast movements? Congratulations – you probably have one leg that’s stronger than the other one! But now you’re wondering how to strengthen your one weak leg.
In reality, it is totally normal to have one leg that is weaker than the other. Most of us wouldn’t think twice about having a stronger hand. “Well yeah, I write with my right hand, I throw with my right hand, and I’m right-handed – so my right arm is stronger.” But then you think about having one leg that’s stronger than the other and you’re like, “Oh no! I have to fix this!”
You don’t have to fix it – not completely, at least. You’re going to have a dominant leg, just like you have a dominant arm, and nothing will change that. However, in order to avoid injury, you do need to address it with the right exercise. There are a few easy ways to do this without actually adding more time to your workouts.
I’ve actually been dealing with imbalances in my legs since I was 13. It wasn’t until I started paying more attention to slow, controlled movements (like those found in yoga) that I actually started addressing the root cause of my imbalances, and I really started reducing my risk of injury. And now I’m sharing some of my strategies with you here!
How To Strengthen Your Weak Leg:
The causes of having a weaker leg stems can stem from having an injury, playing a sport that’s leg dominated, or just everyday life. It’s important to address this imbalance in your legs, so that you can correctly align your hips, knees, and ankles to reduce your risk of injury. No matter if your right leg is weaker than your left or vise versa, these easy strategies can help you to correct it with time.
- Maintain your full height constantly when walking. This might sound funny, but by maintaining the highest height possible when you walk, you force your lower-body to stay engaged. Many of us tend to subconsciously sink one hip as we walk, which reflects the weakness in that hip. If you are more conscious about your movements, and instead try to press down into your foot to maintain your height while you walk, you strengthen your weak leg.
- Press down harder into the weak leg. In full body movements like squats or lunges, many of us subconsciously place more weight into our stronger leg, and avoid putting as much weight into the weak leg. Next time you’re doing full body movements like squats, press down into your weak leg.
- Watch yourself extremely carefully in a mirror. Your body has probably developed its own specific way of moving through certain exercises, and there’s a good chance you aren’t aware of the subtle differences between what you do and what “perfect” technique is supposed to be. Most people don’t have perfect technique, but by looking at yourself in a mirror as you exercise, you can spot differences between the left and right sides of your body, and make the adjustments necessary to move evenly. Here are some things to look for:
- Uneven hips – is one hip in front of the other? Does one hip stay higher than the other? Notice the movement not just at end range of motion, but also as you move from starting point to mid-point.
- Uneven knees – this is directly related to the hips, but does one knee go further forward, or further back? Look at the relationship between the knees and the toes, and compare both legs. Does one knee track over the middle toe, while another tracks more to the outside? These little differences can have a big impact.
- One foot in front of the other – whichever foot is in front has LESS weight, while the foot behind has MORE weight. This is useful knowledge. If you want to get stronger with your left leg, set your left foot an inch or two behind your right foot. (In a squat, this means taking your normal stance and then dropping the left foot back about two inches.)
- Day to day tasks – This is the MOST important thing to look at, because this is what you’re doing most with your body. Even though we tend to think of our workouts as our only “exercise” of the day, we are constantly doing something with our bodies, even if that’s just sitting. How do you sit during the day? Think of how you get out of bed. What side you tend to stand on when you’re waiting in line? Do you turn to the left or the right more often? All of these habits can be examined and given the proper adjustments to promote equal use of the right and left sides of the body.
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How Do You Find Your Dominant Leg?
Your dominant leg is the one that you PLANT with – not the one you kick with. So even though you kick with your right leg, you’re dominant leg is actually the LEFT leg – the one you plant with. The kicking leg may be more mobile, but the leg you plant with has much more strength and stability.
How often should you focus on the weak leg?
For the first month, I recommend doing everything you do now with your dominant leg with your weak leg instead. One month is a long time, but you’ve been subconsciously focusing on the dominant side for your entire life! Taking one month to focus on the weaker side is a great start to correcting that imbalance in your lower-body especially in your legs.
If your dominant stronger leg is your LEG left:
- Instead of standing with your arms crossed and putting your body weight on the left side, shift to the right instead.
- When you get up from the ground, stand up on your RIGHT leg instead of your left leg.
- When you take your first step forward, start with the RIGHT foot.
- Focus on pushing down through your right leg when you do a squat.
After one month, it’s time to reevaluate your movements again. One big issue that people have after focusing on their weaker side is that they tend to exaggerate the shift to their weak side, and they being to use that side more than the dominant side. You have to find a balance, which is why I recommend that reevaluation after 30 days of consciously addressing your subconsciously formed habits.
But.. this isn’t something you can just for one month and expect to be fixed for good. You have to keep working on the imbalances! Fortunately, there are easy ways to do that.
The best way to keep working on these imbalances over a sustained period of time is by incorporating a slow moving form of body weight or limited-resistance exercise into your fitness habits. If you do something that requires a significant amount of strength, your body will default to its subconscious habits. In order to address the imbalance successfully, you need to reduce the resistance and do the exercise in a way that makes it manageable. This means doing bodyweight squats instead of back squats, or using smaller weights.
It also means paying close attention to your form in a number of essential static movements, such as the lunges, squats, or other non-moving exercises found in yoga postures. Doing yoga just 30 minutes per day 2x per week will have a profound impact on correcting your imbalances by forcing you to slow down, examine your movements, and make the subtle adjustments necessary to balance out your body.
I hope this blog has helped you understand how to strengthen your weaker leg, if you have any question leave a comment!
Looking for a program?
Yoga has plenty of benefits that can help you correct imbalances, get stronger, get more flexibile and mobile, and stay healthier. If you’re interested in starting a healthy yoga routine, Man Flow Yoga offers on-demand structured programs that complement your lifestyle and schedule. Click here to try our 7 day challenge!
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About the author, Dean Pohlman, Founder & CEO of Man Flow Yoga, Author of Yoga Fitness for Men, Expert on Yoga Fitness for Men.
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