The single leg RDL is one of the great equalizers in the gym. Very strong men can suck at these no matter what their max deadlift is. They also show any imbalances between the left and right side of the body.
If you start with the strong side, you are allowing your weak side to become even weaker. The first side is always better, so start with the weak side to cure any imbalance you may have.
Like the deadlift, RDLs are a hip hinge, with one major difference: you start at the top of the movement. So really, they aren’t “dead” at all.
Single-Leg RDL 101
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift — Setup
1. Resistance selection
For this variation of the RDL, you will hold a dumbbell in each hand.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift — Execution
1. Weak side
Balance on your weak side leg by lifting your strong side leg behind you.
2. Eccentric portion
With a strong neutral spine, hinge at your weak side hip until you feel a stretch response in your weak side hamstring.
- Allow the arms and the weights they are holding to be “dead weight”. As you hinge they can naturally swing out as they will want to.
- This is contrary to the traditional barbell RDL and the deadlift where you are keeping the bar in contact with your legs the entire time.
- The weight acts as a counter balance. You will find that this exercise is actually easier at a slightly heavier weight that can adequately counter the weight of your leg.
- Keep a neutral spine throughout the entire movement.
3. Concentric portion
Squeeze your glute and hinge back up to the starting position.
4. Rep it out
Repeat on the weak side for the prescribed number of reps.
Switch to your strong side and repeat.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift — Coaching Cues
- Stay locked in your back so that the entire hinge is in your hips.
- Full ROM is when you feel the stretch response in your hamstring, not when the weights touch the floor
- Keep the knee soft
- Let the hands hang heavy
- Allow the weights to act as a counter balance
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift — Adjustments
The single leg RDL is difficult for coordination reasons. If you have balance issues rest your non-working leg on the ground in between each rep. To further adjust, hold onto a pillar or wall with the non-working side arm to maintain balance.
The Single leg RDL is what I would call a corrective exercise as well as a ball-buster. If it is causing you issues, you are probably trying to load it too heavy. Lighten the load.
If there are any major issues with it, simply switch to the Dumbbell RDL with both legs on the ground.
Caveat: This exercise guidance should never usurp the advice of your medical professional. If there is a question in your mind as to the suitability of this exercise for you confer with your doctor. WATM is not liable if you do something ill-advised after reading any of our fitness content.