The Magic of the Single Leg RDL

Going through a proper warm-up is essential for preventing injuries, moving well, and ensuring that your workout goes smoothly. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to write a warm-up that adequately prepares your body for the beating that is to come. One exercise that helps you get the most bang for your buck is the single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL). 

There are many reasons why this exercise is important and effective. It is an authentic single leg movement which means that it will translate over to other movements as well, such as running and cutting. This single leg movement also teaches you how to load and develop force through one leg, improve stability, and it targets the glutes and hamstrings which are often under-developed due to most athletes being quad dominant. When done correctly, this exercise can do wonders for building strength and increasing overall performance.

Even though the exercise looks easy enough to complete (see video below), there are several common mistakes that people often make when performing the movement:

  • Lowering instead of reaching – a common fault of athletes performing the single leg RDL is lowering towards the ground instead of reaching their foot back behind them. This fault causes the athlete’s lower back to round as they are trying to move the weight to the ground instead of using their hips (by hip hinging) to move the weight to the ground. To fix this, think about initiating the movement by reaching the sole of your shoe to a wall behind you or shutting the car door behind you when your hands are full of groceries. 
  • Uneven hips – when performing the RDL, the hips should stay level, which then allows the glutes to do the majority of the work. A common fault is letting the hip of the extended leg lift higher than the hip of the grounded leg as the weight is lowered to the ground. In order to fix this, pay attention to the grounded foot and make sure the entire foot is planted on the ground instead of rolling to the outside of the foot (on the pinky toe side). Secondly, think about placing the weight by the big toe of the grounded foot instead of lowering it in a straight line. 
  • Turning it into a balancing exercise – many people incorrectly assume that the RDL is an exercise to increase one’s balance. However, the RDL is actually an exercise to strengthen the leg and hip while also increasing one’s single-leg stability. Oftentimes, when fatigue starts to set in, athletes will start to lose focus and begin to look like a baby deer trying to stand up for the first time. Performing this movement correctly is extremely important so it’s ok to rest in between reps when you feel yourself starting to get shaky and to finish with both feet on the ground to ensure that you are maintaining control throughout the movement. 

RDL Video: