Exercise of the Week: Single-Leg Triple Cone Taps

Single-Leg Triple Cone Taps, or as I like to call it, Tri-Taps, is one of my favorite exercises. This exercise was first introduced to me by my athletic trainer in college. I like it because you don’t feel as though you are exerting that much effort — the hardest part is keeping your balance — but this single exercise offers a many benefits.

First, anything on one-leg is going to help you practice balance. As I often say to my clients, “Everyone over eight should spend time balancing because it’s one of the abilities you think is always going to be available to you, but will actually decrease unless you actively practice. You need to continuously work on your body’s proprioception giving it a chance to increase your balance and keep you injury-free.” One of my favorite ways to practice my balance is in lines. For example, when I am in line waiting to go through security at the airport, instead of being miserable and bored, I stand on one leg. I do that for about 30 seconds and then switch legs continuing until I arrive at the front of the line. I get a few strange looks, sure. But let me tell you, my single-leg balance has greatly improved, making me feel more confident and stable in my stance. And it turns something that would be a negative into a positive. I love that!!!

Second, Tri-Taps are a great way to strengthen that elusive and oh-so-important muscle, the Gluteus Medius, or glute medes. Please see Goldilocks and the Three Glutes for a more in-depth look at the importance of glutes.

Finally, beyond balance and glute strength, Tri-Taps strengthen your quadriceps (quads), hamstrings, and abdominals (abs), without you even realizing it is happening. Those larger muscles isometrically and eccentrically control your body’s position while you complete your taps. That control and strength in your legs along with improved coordination and core strength is incredibly important for decreasing knee-pain and making you better equipped for avoiding potential injuries.

So, this little exercise packs quite a punch. Give it a try! And don’t worry if you feel wobbly or struggle with it at first, that is normal. Just keep trying and you’ll be amazed how quickly your body learns and adapts.

 

How To:

  1. Starting position for Tri-Taps

    Starting position for Tri-Taps

    Take three cones or three dumbbells (whatever you have available to you) and place them in a small arc in front of you. You may want to adjust the placement of the cones once you start the exercise and see how far you can actually reach.

  2. Place your right foot in front of the middle cone and balance on your right leg. Stand tall with control. This is your starting position.
  3. Right hand reaching toward left side

    Right hand reaching toward left side

    Slightly bend your right knee, and drop your hips down like you are starting to sit. While partially lowered, reach down and tap the left cone with your right hand. You will be reaching across your body to do this which is what you want.

  4. Stand back up to start still on one foot. Make sure you are balanced and in control.
  5. With either your right or left hand, partially lower and reach down to tap the middle cone. Since it is the cone directly in front of you, it does not matter which hand you use.
  6. Stand back up to your starting position still on one leg.
  7. Right hand reaching forward

    Right hand reaching forward

    With your left hand, reach down and tap the cone on your right. Again, you are intentionally reaching toward the cone with your opposite hand so that you are reaching across your body.

  8. Stand back up to your starting position, remaining balanced on your right leg.
  9. You have now completed one full repetition (rep). Repeat the same three taps, four more times while continuing to balance on your right leg.
  10. After five full reps, you will have completed one set of Tri-Taps. Switch balancing legs so your left foot is directly in front of the middle cone.
  11. Left hand reaching toward right side

    Left hand reaching toward right side

    Complete one full set of five reps on your left leg using the same hands you were directed to use above.

  12. You can repeat and do a second set on each leg if you felt balanced and in control the first time through.

 

Main Muscles Targeted:

Prime Movers:

  • Quadriceps
  • Gluteus Maximus

Synergists:

  • Adductor Magnus
  • Soleus

Dynamic Stablizers:

  • Hamstrings
  • Gastrocnemius
  • Gluteus Medius

Modification:

  • You may find that you cannot get low enough or reach down far enough to touch the top of your cone or weight. That is just fine. Go as far as you can each time and eventually you will be able to reach all the way down. In the meantime, if you do have taller cones accessible, you can use those to make your goal a little easier as you build your strength and coordination.
  • If you need to keep the toes of your back leg near or just touching the ground to keep your balance, that is also fine. By starting with your back leg as a support, you will be able to build your balance and strength to the point where you will feel comfortable truly being balanced on one leg.

Variation:

  • To increase the difficulty, you can put on a weighted vest. This will add extra load to the exercise without compromising your mobility.
  • You can also add two more cones on your left and right side to increase the number of taps you will need each rep (from three to five).

Quick Tips:

  • Do this exercise in front of a mirror or with a partner so you can monitor your form.
  • Don’t be afraid to tap down your back leg’s toes to assist in finding balance when you find yourself falling.
  • Make sure there is nothing nearby that you could kick or fall on if you do lose your balance.
  • Remember to keep your best posture throughout the exercise. This will help train you to stand tall and strong.

*Remember, it’s always advised to consult with your doctor or health care expert before adding a new exercise to your routine to make sure you don’t have any contraindications.

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