Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 10.59.28 AMSingle tear.

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.

Bottom line

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.


Coach Ryan

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