The single leg Romanian deadlift is a great exercise for glute and hamstring development. It also happens to be one of the more difficult exercises to teach and perform correctly for the following reasons:
– It takes good balance.
– You have to be able to hinge at the hip. Many people have a hard time figuring out the difference between hinging at the hip, and bending at the waist.
– The knee has to remain relatively straight or the hamstring won’t get activated correctly.
The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Hold dumbbells tightly, keep abs and lats tight, shoulder blades back.
Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back. Do not bend at the waist! You need to perform hip flexion, not lumbar (lower back) flexion. This is the hardest part for people to pick up on. Most people instinctually bend over at the waist. You need to sit your hips back instead.
The lower back needs to stay neutral at all times. You can see in the video that my lower back maintains its natural arch the whole time.
Your knee should stay soft. In other words, the knee should be neither locked, nor should it bend more while you perform each rep. It stays unlocked with a very slight bend, and remains that way.
Once you feel a stretch in your hamstring, reverse direction and concentrate on using your hamstrings and glutes to “pull you through” into an upright position. Squeeze your glute at the top of the movement. Many times people return to the upright position by “pulling themselves up” using their lower back muscles instead of “pulling through” with their glutes.
Also, focus on staying in a straight line from your foot to your head, as if you are a see-saw. The leg on the ground is the axis, and your other leg and torso is the see-saw. Many trainees barely lift their back leg, but again, this goes back to bending forward at the waist instead of sitting the hips back.
Why the single leg version instead of the standard two leg version?
My lower back doesn’t take well to the two legged version of this exercise, while the single leg version is just fine. I’m assuming it has to do with decreased shearing forces on the spine.
Beyond that, strength and stability, which are related, will be worked on differently in the single leg version. The single leg version will lead to greater involvement of some important muscles, namely the adductors, glute medius, and QL, in their roles as stabilizers.
Lastly, two legged versions of exercises can often cover up left/right imbalances. Performing the single leg version will help you identify imbalances and correct them.
As a Warmup for Practice
The single leg Romanian deadlift takes some practice. Doing them with only your body weight as a dynamic warmup is a good idea. The form is the same, and the feeling in your hamstring is the same, in the loaded and unloaded versions.
Sometimes people aren’t sure if they are doing it correctly. If you don’t feel it in your hamstring, you aren’t doing it right. The first time you feel it correctly, you’ll know, and you’ll have a way to compare the quality of each rep.