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It can take a significant amount of time before you've strengthened your muscles adequately to perform traditional squats with ease. When you reach this point, however, your workout doesn't have to hit a plateau. By switching your exercise to one-legged squats, you quickly restore the challenge. Although this exercise has a long list of variations, the constant is that these variations target the same muscles.
Quads Remain the Target
When you perform a traditional body-weight squat or a barbell or dumbbell squat, the exercise targets your quadriceps muscles. Lifting one leg off the floor, regardless of the exact form you use, doesn't change the target muscle. Whether you hold one leg out diagonally in front of your body, bend the leg and hold it behind you or place one foot on a bench for support, the exercise continues to target your quadriceps muscles, although you must before the exercise equally with each leg elevated to keep your muscle growth balanced.
Many Lower-Body Muscles Lend a Hand
Your quads, which are found in the fronts of your thighs and contribute to movements of your hips and knees, aren't the only muscles that allow you to perform one-legged squats. Performing the multiple variations of the exercise requires the help of muscles such as your glutes, calves, hamstrings, obliques and abdominals, which all contribute to the exercise's execution. The exact role each of these muscles plays differs slightly according to the variation you perform.
The Key Mindset Is Moderate
The key to strength-training exercises such as one-legged squats, regardless of the variation you choose, is moderation. High-frequency, high-rep workouts can lead to overtraining, which can result in soreness and injury. Instead, practice moderation by performing these exercises twice a week in workouts comprised of one to two sets of around 10 reps per set. When strength training, don't just target your quads; you must also perform exercises that target your other major muscles.
Stronger Quads Mean Healthier Knees
Strengthening your quads allows you to perform many activities -- including running, cycling and playing sports -- with more ease and better performance. Even if you're not an athlete, performing squat exercises can contribute to healthier knee joints. According to the American Council on Exercise, your knees support roughly 80 percent of your body weight when you stand. Building your quads and other surrounding muscles, including your hamstrings and calves, can decrease your knee pain.
About the Author
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.