That’s what happens when I see a well-executed single-leg RDL. Or 5×20 bicep curls at the end of a program.
Beauty on display.
But it ain’t easy being pretty, let me tell ya…from what I can tell you about beauty from what other people told me about being pretty.
The single-leg RDL has has a single reference point–your stance leg– and execution is a venture into the wild, wild west.
Most people don’t feel anything. If they do, it’s a back or a quad from flexing their knee.
If the technique is on point, the gainz you’ll receiveth are:
- Multi-planar hip stability & mobility
- Loading of the ipsilateral hip capsule
- Control of thoracic rotation
- Loaded AF IR of the ipsilateral leg
- Abdominal control in multiple planes, but I praise this movement for it’s dynamic sagittal control during hip flexion/extension and the frontal plane stabilization
Here are a few variations that I like and how each plays a role in training this movement pattern.
#1. The classic SL-RDL
This is the standard for achievement.
Single-leg stance, with a level pelvis and controlled thoracic rotation. Boom. More often the execution looks like a field sobriety test and an interpretative dance made a baby. Hard pass.
Reaching with the arms alleviates some spinal flexion and secondarily influences level hips. Most people are sagittally orientated with a pelvis compromised in multiple planes. If you expect loaded hip flexion and internal rotation without over-lateralization or rotational/transverse plane compensations plan on picking exercises from a hat.
Other challenges include over-extension. With poor positioning the system aims to simplify. Most people find stability only by extending in the sagittal plane to create “fake” stability.
#2. The b-stance SL-RDL
This variation provides you kickstand for an added reference point. Without orienting their entire body through space, clients get an extra felt-sense about position courtesy of this contact.
Anecdotally, I’ve found clients perceive greater hip loading while keeping their pelvis level.
I utilize this as a transition for those with a great hinge who lose it during single leg stance.
I’ll program this as a long-term option because it can be loaded more aggressively. This might not always be the desired end goal for the exercise, but that’s contextual.
#3. The parallel stance SL-RDL
This is favorite of mine for warm-ups as we progress from transitional postures back to standing. It’s a segue into single-leg activities. I’d offer that it’s beneficial from a motor standpoint as clients discern the hinge moment with dampened transverse demands than from a swing leg.
There’s a bit of a hip hike necessary to achieve the suspended leg. Depending on what side you execute this will contribute or alleviate frontal plane compensation a la PRI.
#4. The landmine SL-RDL
Another transition that offers more stability than single-leg stance with a kettlebell/dumbbell. I prefer this for clients who need just a little more stability to train under load.
In this context they have a sufficient unloaded SL-RDL, but experience a little breakdown under load. It’s more of a nit-picky thing on my end to be honest.
Regardless, it offers more stability with an opportunity to challenge via loading.
#5. The slideboard single-leg RDL
I use this the least of the 5, it does have some merit. It’s useful when clients are egregious extenders of their lumbar with the back leg. Rather than a functioning rudder, the back leg leads faster than the thorax follows.
By limiting the swing leg to the ground it limits the hip (and ultimately lumbar) extension.
I work with quite a few dancers who perform an arabesque rather than a SLRDL. For context this is an exaggeration of all the compensations in this movement – aside from a dull knife to a coach’s eye it involves flagrant lumbar extension, external rotation of both hips, and no control of trunk rotation.
Once the initiation of the movement has more control I feel it loses value. It limits full range of motion and tends to shift too much weight into the back foot.
I always cross what I’m seeing with what the client is feeling. This is a challenging exercise and often under appreciated. These are just a sample of how we might program this in. Hopefully you found something valuable.