The split stance position is hands down one of the most underutilized positions when it comes to leg day workouts and lower extremity rehab. The split stance position can and should be utilized as a transitionary stance between double leg and single leg positions. Double leg support positions like in the squat and deadlift are great for developing strength and power; however, they can hide asymmetries from side to side and don’t truly test the body’s ability to coordinate complex movement patterns. This is why single leg exercises are a staple in many strength and conditioning and rehabilitation programs alike. However, many people struggle with single leg exercises like single leg Romanian deadlifts, step downs, and single leg hopping due to a lack of coordination, balance, strength, or all of the above. This is where the split stance position shines and can be utilized to “bridge the gap” to single leg exercises. Learning to own the split stance position will elevate your gym games and [P]Rehab your legs alike!
Split Stance Positioning Tutorial
This video is an absolute must watch from beginning to end. Mike goes into stance distance and width, weight distribution, trunk positioning, common mistakes, and MORE!
Split Stance Foot Position
The first and most important thing to do when utilizing the splits stance position is to determine your foot positioning. Start by taking a slightly larger step than normal with one foot in front of the other.
Now that you’ve found your stance, you next need to determine how wide apart to place your feet. The wider apart your feet, the easier it will be to balance. So if you find yourself constantly struggling to maintain balance, widen up your stance! Conversely, if you want to challenge your balance a bit more, choose a narrower stance.
Weight Distribution in the Split Stance
Now that you’ve nailed down your foot position, the next thing to do is to choose how much weight to put through each of your feet. What’s fantastic about the split stance position if you are in full control of how much weight to put through each of your feet. Under normal circumstances, you place the majority of your weight in your front leg, as that is the “working” leg. However, there are some exercise variations like this half kneeling lift off exercis (PrehabX member exclusive video) in which you are actually working the back leg. A good starting place for most is to put about 70% of their weight on the front leg and 30% on the back leg. Remember, in most exercises like the split stance lunge, you want the working leg to be the front leg!
Now, where exactly in the foot to put that weight you ask? We can either put the weight forward in the balls of the foot (forefoot), in the middle (midfoot) or all the back in the heel (rearfoot). There is no wrong answer in where to shift your weight. However, you can selectively bias certain joints of structures based on where you put your weight. For example, by shifting the weight into the balls of the foot you force your knee and quadriceps muscle to work harder. Furthermore, it places more strain on your quadriceps, patellar, and Achilles’ tendon. This may be a fantastic option for someone with weak knees as it will strengthen the knees a ton! However, it may not be the best option for someone who is currently dealing with a bit of knee pain due to patellar tendonitis (jumper’s knee) or patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Did you know you can find specific exercises for almost any orthopedic pathology in our exercise library? Use the tags “patellar tendinopathy” and “patellofemoral pain syndrome” to find exercises to help your cranky knees!
Conversely, by shifting weight onto the heel of the foot, you force your hips, glutes and hamstrings to work a lot harder. This may be a fantastic temporary option for the person with knee pain described above to continue to exercise without placing too much load on their knees.
If you don’t care to selectively hit your knees or hips, stick with keeping the weight right in the middle!
Trunk Position in the Split Stance
Changing your trunk position is also a very easy way to place more or less strain on your hips or knees.
- Leaning the trunk forward will make your glutes and hamstrings work harder
- Keeping the trunk upright will make your quadriceps work harder
Back Leg Positioning
One of the secrets of the split stance position is you can actively work on stretching the back leg while simultaneously working out the front leg! Ultimately you want to get the most bang for your buck out of every exercise, so why work on stretching while strengthening? The split stance position can either be categorized as a high spilt or low split position. The difference between the two is really the back leg. In the high split stance position, the back leg is completely straight. Whereas in the low split stance position the back leg is bent. These positions are very similar to the half kneeling hip flexor stretch (rectus femoris bias ) and the standing hip flexor stretch (iliopsoas bias).
Our Favorite Split Stance Exercises
In conclusion, utilizing the split stance position in your training or rehab as a transition to true single leg exercises. Furthermore, it can also be utilized with heavier loads than what would normally be possible with single leg exercises. Check out this same PrehabX playlist we put together for FREE on some of our favorite split stance exercises! As a PrehabX Member, you can create unlimited playlists for you, your friends or patients/clients. Try it out for 10 days free HERE!