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  • Writer's pictureKeep It Moving PT & Wellness

Week 20: Single Leg Squat Off Step with Foam Pad

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

For the month of October, we have selected hiking specific exercises that will help prepare you for a more adequate navigation of uneven terrain often found on hiking trails

Purpose: To challenge the stance leg to maintain active stability throughout a single leg squat while standing on an unstable surface

What It Targets: Loading of primarily the Quadriceps, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Foot Intrinsics, Gastroc/Soleus, Anterior Tibialis; Co-contraction of the Hip Adductors, Abductors and Rotators of the stance leg; Co-contraction of the Anterior and Posterior chains of muscle of the stance leg; Co-contraction of the Lateral and Medial ankle muscles; Balance. Basically - a lot!!!


  1. Place a foam pad on a step of appropriate height, or on the floor

  2. Hold a counter weight (2-5lb) in both hands. This allows you to maintain a more upright torso, and allows you to sink deeper into a hip hinge

  3. Keeping your foot of the stance leg in line with your knee and hip, squat down as low as you are able to maintain this alignment. You should feel your glutes and quads working equally.

  4. Tap your opposite heel on the floor without placing any weight on it. Keep the knee straight and toes pointed up towards the ceiling.

  5. Press evenly through the heel, big toe knuckle and pinky toe knuckle (tripod of the foot) of your stance leg as you return to upright standing

  6. Repeat as prescribed

Main Cues:

  • Keep your foot, shin and thigh parallel throughout the entire exercise. Be mindful of your knee wanting to collapse inward

  • Hinge at the hips. You should feel muscle burn in the hip rotators/glutes just as much as in the quad

  • Maintain a stable foot tripod throughout the entire exercise

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects:

  • Knee caving inward

Correction: This illustrates a decrease in eccentric control with squatting/stepping activities and can irritate the knee joint over time. Use a mirror to provide visual feedback of your knee position. Use something to hold onto with your opposite hand to decrease the load on the working leg. Decrease the step height of which you can control the entire motion.

  • Feeling it all in the quads and not in the hips

Correction: Focus more on sinking your butt back and taking a bow with your trunk rather than bending the knee

  • Putting too much weight on the opposite leg

Correction: While this is a beneficial exercise as well, this is not the goal of this movement. Tap the heel without putting any weight on it. If you feel like you cannot control the last few centimeters of the motion, decrease the height of the step.

  • Gripping of the toes

Correction: Focus on placing the weight through your heel and the ball of your foot; Lift the toes up towards the ceiling; Hang the toes off of the front of the foam pad so they don’t have the chance to overwork

  • Arch collapsing inward

Correction: Focus on bearing weight on the outer portion of your foot; Place a band or towel under the lateral border of your foot and don’t lose contact

  • Arch doming too high, big toe knuckle coming off the floor

Correction: Focus on bearing weight on the inner portion of your foot; Place a quarter under the big toe knuckle and don’t lose contact

Why We Love It:

  • Challenges, highlights and coordinates efficient loading patterns of the entire leg with squatting and stepping activities

  • We love a good loaded single leg activity - it prepares us for all of the time spent on one leg with walking, stair climbing, running, etc

  • Standing on unstable surfaces is great for balance and for preparing you for life’s unpredictability!

  • Getting really good at this prevents overuse injuries and sprains of the knee, ankle and hip!

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.


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