How Do You Do a Single-Leg RDL?


How often do you do a single-leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)? We are going to guess that you probably don’t do them enough. Single-leg RDLs are the ultimate three-for-one movement as this exercise helps improve your foot balance, strengthen your hamstring muscles, and works and builds your glute muscles. Today, MoveU dives into how to do a single-leg RDL and why this movement is so important to incorporate into your workouts or training sessions.

What Are the Benefits of a Single-Leg RDL?

A single-leg RDL challenges your posterior chain by targeting your hamstrings and glute muscles. As you perform this exercise on one leg at a time, you also get the bonus of working on balance and stability. Here are the full benefits of adding single-leg RDLs into your workout or daily movement practice:

  • Improves foot balance
  • Lengthens and contracts your hamstrings (builds strength)
  • Helps strengthen your glute muscles
  • Improves stability and overall body control
  • Uncovers movement patterns and asymmetries in the body
  • Helps you figure out how to properly activate your hamstring muscles

During this movement, your ankle, knee, hip, and spine must all work together while balancing on one foot to complete this exercise. As such, this is a great way to assess lower body balance and stability.
If you are an athlete, this exercise can be incorporated into your training to improve stability, balance, and strength in your body.

How to Perform the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift: A Step-By-Step Guide

This step-by-step guide details how to perform a single-leg RDL. It is important to note that you can make this exercise more difficult by adding kettlebells and dumbbells, but if you are new to this movement, it is best if you skip out on that for now.

Barefoot Shoes for RDLs
Step 1: Before you begin, make sure to take your shoes off or get yourself some wide Vivo-based shoes. Why? Because they allow your foot to spread and strengthen. Pssssst...if you don't have a pair of barefoot shoes in your closet yet, (as shown in the image above), get some! Use code MOVEUVIVO15 at checkout for 15% off. You're moving on. 
Dr. Mike’s tip: Be sure that you can get a wide grip with your toes before doing this movement.
Step 2: Distribute your weight onto one foot, stabilize, and then lift your other foot off the ground.
Dr. Mike’s tip: Move slowly if it is difficult for you to balance on one leg.
Step 3: Keep your pelvis pointed forward, push your hips back, pull your pelvis down, and lean forward. You should feel your hamstring on your standing leg lengthen and your glute activate.
Dr. Mike’s tip: If you do not feel your hamstring and glute activate you might be rounding into your lower back or leaning too far forward. Remember to hip hinge and not just round forward into this movement.
Step 4: Come back up with control and keep the integrity of your form before returning to your starting position.

FAQs About Single-Leg RDLs

Should Single-Leg RDLs Hurt Your Back?

You might be doing this exercise incorrectly if you are experiencing pain in your low back. Remember that an RDL is a hip hinge movement, so you need to drive your hips backwards to properly execute this movement. If you are bending at the waist instead of hip hinging, you could be putting stress on your lower back and compressing your lumbar spine.

How Do You Keep Your Balance on One Leg While Doing a Single-Leg RDL?

If you find it difficult to balance on one leg during a single-leg RDL, try pausing at the bottom right before you come back up. While paused add some tension at the bottom, ensuring that your hamstring muscle is lengthening and then contract it and slowly come up.

Adding tension helps you train your body to maintain balance during this movement and gets you past the point where you might shake or lose your balance. Remember it might take some practice to learn how to properly do this movement and maintain your balance the entire time.

What Are Some Common RDL Mistakes to Avoid?

The most common mistakes you should avoid while doing a RDL include the following:

  • Not balancing properly on one foot
  • Rounding into your lower back
  • Forgetting to lengthen your hamstrings or engage your glute muscles
  • Not keeping your head down to gaze over your grounded foot

Common RDL Mistakes

How Far Down Should You Go in an RDL?

You want to go down far enough to feel your hamstring contract. Remember to hip hinge and not just round over and down. You will not feel your hamstring contract if you do that, and you could hurt your back.

Can You Add Weight to a Single-Leg RDL?

Before adding weight, try challenging yourself by making this exercise more difficult. You can move slower, increase your range of motion, and pause at the bottom before coming back up to increase tension. If you would like to add weight, start with less and then increase the weight, but only once you understand how to properly do this exercise.

What Muscles Does an RDL Work?

A single-leg RDL works your hamstrings, glutes, and adductors.

If you want to learn more about exercises that can help you live a longer, better, and healthier life, check out the MoveU membership today.

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