The Force Blog > Training > Simple Single-Leg Progressions, Part 4: Heel Taps

Simple Single-Leg Progressions, Part 4: Heel Taps

I’ve found the secret to productivity: Whitney Houston in my earbuds at my local coffee shop. I have “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” playing currently… hey man, if it works, it works.

So this is the 4th and final installment in what I chose as 4 simple progressions for single leg, knee-dominant exercises to improve leg strength, hip stability, hip mobility, balance and coordination, and to help athleticism and injury prevention. I started with the “easiest” and made them a bit “harder” as I went through the series, but in reality, you can make the split squat really hard and heel taps can be an excellent post-rehab or beginner exercise if you set it up correctly. So, “it depends”.

You can find the first 3 here:
Part 1: The Split Squat
Part 2: Reverse Lunges
Part 3: Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squats

Set up and basic execution
– Start with a bench or a box on the low side – try 12 inches. If this feels easy once you’re goin, you can increase the height
– Hold light plates or dumbbells (2.5-5lbs) in each hand, and stand with one foot at the edge of the box and the other off the box entirely
– Sit back and down. Your planted foot should stay flat the whole time, not popping forward onto your toes. Your free leg should stay straight, as you reach towards the ground with your heel
– As you go down, raise the weights out in front of you as a counterbalance
– When your heel taps down (lightly – you’re not actually dropping to that foot), stand back up and bring your arms back to your sides

Here we go:

Specific advice for beginners:
– Don’t let your chest cave/round forward
– Make sure that the knee of your planted foot is not caving inwards – if this is happening, lower the height of the box you’re using to a point where it doesn’t happen. While knee valgus (when the knee caves inward) isn’t a death sentence, when we’re in the weight room we want to control it so that we can strengthen the knee’s durability and ability to deal with sports chaos when in real game time. So, I’d say that if you have to reduce the height of the box to such a small height that you’re not getting any actual training effect from it (barring being post knee-injury and in a rehab setting), then go back to the split squat, lunge, or RFESS and get more strength and control there
– On the knee valgus point: you can try attaching a band to a stationary point at about knee height, and step into it so that it is very lightly pulling your knee into valgus, across your body (one of the things we are trying to correct). The slight pull inwards will assist in correcting the pattern by almost forcing you to pull outwards
– If your options for benches or boxes to stand on have too significant of a difference in height making progression difficult, for example you have to go from 12 to 18 inches, find a happy medium by standing on the higher box and placing weight plates, a yoga block, or something else on the floor where you’d be tapping your heel. This way, you can go anywhere in between 12-18 inches and still have a good depth marker

Ways to make it harder:
– Adding weight to the counterbalance is not your best bet. You’re only going to add a few pounds before you’re limited by your front raise strength
– Instead, start with a light weight vest and add to that as you progress
– Depth will progress you to a point, but for those of us who likely will never get to a pistol squat, you’re going to run out of real estate
– 1.5 reps – go all the way down, half way up, all the way down, then all the way up

Because these ones can’t be loaded as significantly as the other 3, I like to put them towards the end of my workout with 8-12 reps per leg. This way, I use them more as a hypertrophy and jacked up heart rate exercise.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about what you just read or simply want to say hi, you can find me at

Til next time!

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