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What Is the Single-Leg Deadlift?
The single-leg deadlift (SLDL) is an exercise characterized by a forward hip-hinge movement while lifting one leg off the ground and extending it backwards. Single-leg deadlifts work muscle groups in your posterior chain, including your calf muscles, lower back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes.
Single-Leg Deadlift vs. Deadlift: What’s the Difference?
While the single-leg deadlift and conventional deadlift work many of the same muscles, there are a few key differences.
- Emphasis on balance and stability: Single-leg exercises improve core strength and coordination. With the majority of tension on your front leg, your back leg can extend to create a nearly straight line with the back of your torso, requiring you to balance as you lean forward.
- Different range of motion: The single-leg deadlift hip-hinging movement allows for a full range of motion that can improve pelvic alignment. Single-leg deadlifts can loosen your hips and hamstrings, increasing mobility before you move on to more strenuous movements during your exercise routine.
- Variations: Once you are comfortable with the traditional single-leg deadlift, consider trying variations like the single-leg Romanian deadlift. Additionally, you can alter the SLDL by using a single kettlebell or dumbbell instead of a pair. If you try using a single weight, remember to hold it in the opposite hand from the leg on the ground. For example, if you are carrying a single weight in your right hand, balance on your left leg while lifting your right leg.
How to Do a Single-Leg Deadlift
For the single-leg deadlift, begin by using a weight that you can control for 2–3 sets of 6–10 repetitions on each leg. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all sets and repetitions. You can perform this movement with one or two kettlebells, dumbbells, or a barbell.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your posture should be tall with a slight bend in your knees. Your shoulders should be directly over your hips with a neutral head and neck position. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement, as if you were holding an egg under your chin. The weight on the foot of your working leg should be evenly distributed along the entire foot. Grip the floor with your foot to create a stable foot position. Your arms should remain long with a slight bend in your elbows as you hold a dumbbell in each hand. Move the foot of your non-working leg slightly behind the foot of your working leg. All of your repetitions should begin from this position.
- While keeping the dumbbells in line with your opposite leg, begin to slowly hinge forward from your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your working leg. Your knee should remain slightly bent during the downward movement.
- Continue moving downward until you are no longer able to move from the hip of your working leg. Your non-working leg should remain straight as you hinge from your working hip. Keep your toes pulled toward your shins and reach through the heel of your non-working leg.
- At the end of the downward movement, your shin should be upright while maintaining a bent knee. The dumbbells will be just below your knee or at the middle of your shin, depending on your level of flexibility. Your hips and shoulders should be level with the floor. You should feel the weight in your midfoot and heel without allowing your toes to lift off the ground.
- While maintaining a neutral spine position, keep the dumbbells in line with your working leg and start your upward movement by pushing your foot through the floor. As you begin to stand, squeeze the glute of your working leg and allow your hips to travel forward, keeping your arms long as you finish the movement.
- At the end of each repetition, your shoulders should finish directly over your hips, and your non-working leg should finish slightly behind the foot of your working leg. Imagine that your pelvis is a bucket filled with water and you’re attempting not to spill water out of the front, back, or sides of the bucket as you move.
How to Work out Safely and Avoid Injury
If you have a previous or pre-existing health condition, consult your physician before beginning an exercise program. Proper exercise technique is essential to ensure the safety and effectiveness of an exercise program, but you may need to modify each exercise to attain optimal results based on your individual needs. Always select a weight that allows you to have full control of your body throughout the movement. When performing any exercise, pay close attention to your body, and stop immediately if you note pain or discomfort.
In order to see continual progress and build body strength, incorporate proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition into your exercise program. Your results will ultimately be based on your ability to adequately recover from your workouts. Rest for 24 to 48 hours before training the same muscle groups to allow sufficient recovery.
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