Looking for an exercise to lengthen and strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back? The single-leg Romanian deadlift also known as single leg RDL is the perfect exercise for that.
This functional exercise works primarily the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. But it also simultaneously engages your abs, core, and the entire posterior chain muscles throughout the movement.
By training one side at a time, it challenges your balance, stability, and muscular strength.
Not to mention it improves your range of motion, adding to your sports performance and daily functionalities.
It’s by far the most complete exercise out of many deadlift alternatives.
Adding this move to your workout will not only improve your glutes and hamstring strength but your overall stability and more. It’s also favored by physical therapists and alike for body balance correction purposes.
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How to Do a Single-Leg Romanian Dead Lift
Single leg RDL mimics the movement pattern of the foundational deadlift and hip hinge, except it’s done unilaterally with a dumbbell or kettlebell. It’s more challenging than the classic Romanian deadlift with both legs offering the foundational support for the hinging movement.
Here is how to perform single leg Romanian deadlift correctly:
Hold a lighter dumbbell in your left hand. Stand upright with your dumbbell by your side. Position your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Raise your left leg off the ground.
Squeeze your glute muscles and flex the supporting knee more to allow for increased stability.
Maintaining the bend in the right knee, slowly hinge at your hips with control. Keep lowering your upper body to the point where your torso is almost parallel to the ground. At this bottom position, your left leg and torso should be in a straight line. Your arm holding the dumbbell can hang straight down, perpendicular to your torso.
Slowly return to the starting position by pushing your hips forward. Repeat to complete the prescribed number of reps. Switch sides and repeat the same movement.
Tips for Single Leg Deadlift
- If this is your first time performing this exercise, start without a weight.
- Don’t curve your back and push your hips back as you bend and hinge.
- Tuck your chin in and keep your head in line with your torso.
- Squeeze your glutes and engage your abs as you go through the movements.
- Keep your support knee slightly bent to allow for flexibility and balance.
- Alternatively, this one leg deadlift movement can be performed with a kettlebell. You may also use a barbell.
What Does Single-leg Romanian Deadlift Work?
Single leg Romanian deadlift primarily targets the muscles in your lower body including the glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.
But this one-leg deadlift isn’t just about the lower body.
It’s one exercise that effectively works all the powerful muscles in your posterior chain, from your calves to deltoids. Not only they are amongst the largest muscle groups in your body but also a key player in stabilizing and supporting your vertebral column and postures. A stronger posterior chain also helps you prevent injury and protect your back.
Secondary target muscles include the abdominals, core, arms, and shoulders. The abs and core support the hinging motion and keep your balance in check. Spine alignment, mobility, and forms are other aspects that are supported by the strength of your abs and core.
Your weighted arm and shoulder are engaged as you keep your weight in place and control its gravity during your hip movements.
While this is undoubtedly one of the best leg training exercises, the benefits go far beyond the muscles it trains.
Unilateral exercises like this one leg Romanian deadlift are also considered strength and conditioning training. By challenging each side at a time, it helps strengthen and condition your muscles while correcting posture and strength imbalances.
What’s more, it’s often used as balance training and to help increase the range of motions.
It’s one exercise athletes and weekend warriors alike can use for everything from strengthening the lower body to improving the balance stability, and range of motion.
What Muscles Are Used in Single Leg Deadlift?
This deadlift variation targets muscles all over the body, but here are the primary and secondary muscles it works.
Primary target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings, adductors, hips, and calves.
Secondary target muscles: Abdominals, core, lower back, triceps, shoulders, and deltoids
How Many Repetitions to Perform
How many to perform this deadlift exercise depends on your fitness level and the workout goal.
Generally speaking, a good place to start is 10 repetitions for 3 sets. To produce maximum results with at most safety, rep and set counts should be adjusted to meet your fitness level.
If you are a beginner, use a dumbbell that you can perform 12-15 repetitions of Single-Leg RDL.
If you are well conditioned, pick up a heavier dumbbell or even barbell if you are at the gym. The right weight would be something that would allow you to perform 6-8 repetitions per set.
The idea is that more advanced you become, heavier your weight should be and fewer repetitions you perform.
Single-Leg RDL both strengthens your hamstrings and glutes and improves balance and flexibility in your hamstrings.
Romanian deadlifts come with numerous variations. If you are a beginner, begin with the inverted hamstring stretch, also known as one-leg bodyweight Romanian deadlift, which only uses your body weight to work your hamstrings and glutes.
As you advance, try the classic RDL with both legs on the ground. As you master the move, challenge yourself to this advanced version with weight.