T Nation

Training Only One Leg...

I broke my ankle 2 weeks ago so I obviously can’t train that leg. I train everything else with machines (sucks) but better than nothing.

My question is this. I swear I read somewhere that training the one good leg will minimize atrophy of the injured leg. Apparently the study was done with injured football players but it was so long ago I can’t remember.

Any thoughts?


I’ve seen studies that pertain to training one ARM that showed about a 15% carryover to the untrained limb. (We’re talking about strength increases here).

I’m sure it pertains to legs, too and if unilateral training increased arm strength by 15%, it probably will go a lot further in preventing atrophy of a limb.

Sorry to hear about the ankle.

I did hear of such a study many years ago, so you are not imagining things.

Whether it is true or not, I can’t say. But I have often wondered what would be the best thing do to when you have one limb broken: train the good one in the hopes of minimizing atrophy of the bad one, or not train the good one to prevent badly one-sided development.

I’ve heard that one too.
How about neuro-muscular stimulation, like a TENS unit? That might help. Good luck on the rebound.

I tore my right biceps a couple weeks ago. I’ve heard of training one limb having a carryover effect to the untrained limb. I plan on doing this as soon as the slightest jostle doesn’t hurt my other arm.

Dan John wrote an article on how he trained with only one arm (One Dumbbell Workout) and I asked him about it, and he swears it helped his bad wrist recover faster.

Here’s an old Tip of the Week I wrote:

Today?s Training Tip Comes from Eric Cressey

Train the Uninjured Limb!

If you injure your right arm and it requires immobilization or simple rest to heal, make sure that you’re hammering the left arm with plenty of single-arm movements. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a significant portion of the strength gains on the trained side will actually carry over to the injured limb due to neural reasons. While muscular atrophy will still be an issue, it won’t be as problematic to correct once the limb has healed and can be trained. If you maintain most–if not all–of your strength, the mass will come back much quicker.[/quote]

I’m actually doing this a bit right now as one of my AC joints is a little irritated.

Yes, I can attest to this, I had rotator surgery 4yrs ago and did alot of 1 arm exercises and I did not see much atrophy… I have seen others do the same with the same result.

When I tore my ACL a couple years ago I did a few sets of heavy leg extensions, curls and single leg presses with my good leg every rehab session.

I think I was the only one in the rehab facility that worked on his unaffected limb.

I don’t know if it helped my bad leg. but I felt better about it.

I say go for it.