Single Leg Torture

Today, I went into the gym with free rein. A post-comp recovery week was on the cards but as I’m (or was, at least) feeling pretty fresh, I thought I’d try a few things out and have a bit of fun. Now I’m sure that this concept must have been written about before but I can’t recall ever having seen it in print.

The Premise

Tim Single LegEssentially, it’s an alternating leg superset with no rest in-between. The goal is to go for as long as possible. This is one of those rare occasions where machines should probably be the order of the day, it’s hard to get the same sort of mileage out of SL squats, lunges, RDLS, etc. I don’t think you can go far wrong with leg presses and hamstring curls if we’re talking legs.

What It’s Good For

As the ‘torture’ moniker may suggest, this is one for hypertrophy. There are three main aspects responsible for hypertrophy; mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress (check out Brad Schoenfeld’s review for more detailed information). This technique definitely ticks the last two boxes. It’s not really a technique to be utilised week in and week out, more a novel strategy that can be employed for a couple of sessions to add a bit of variety.

How It’s Done

A good guide is to start with a weight you could use for at least 15 repetitions. Get yourself set and then start the stopwatch. I recommend starting with 5 repetitions before switching legs. So that’s 5 on the left, 5 on the right and then back to 5 on the left – no resting in-between. When you start to struggle then you can knock the reps down to 4’s, 3’s and eventually doubles. Keep the tempo controlled and resist the urge to rush the reps, remember, you’re shooting for time here.


With extension exercises, such as the leg press, try to stop a couple of degrees shy of lockout. This ensures you maintain tension of the muscle.

With flexion exercises on the other hand, do look to fully extend and lockout. Having to overcome that initial inertia makes the movement more challenging. Just resist the temptation to rest by pausing in the lockout position.

Figure 1aAdjust your foot position from time to time. This will enable you to tap into slightly different pools of motor units and ensure that as many of them as possible will be thoroughly screaming. It may be obvious with the leg press but it applies to hamstring curls as well, simply change how you point your toes.

Not Just for the Legs

There’s no reason why this technique can’t translate to the upper body. Presses, rows, pulldowns, curls and extensions all seem like suitable candidates for the ‘torture’ treatment – I’ll have to give them a try this week.


So there you have it, another tool for your hypertrophy tool-box. Why not step out of your comfort zone and give it a try?!

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