Mastering the Single-Leg RDL: Everything You Need to Know

by Jordan Syatt August 7, 2014

In this Exercise Video of the Week I’m excited to feature one of my all-time favorite unilateral drills: The Single-Leg RDL.

Extraordinarily versatile, the Single-Leg RDL can be used effectively across numerous populations as it holds countless benefits pertaining to athletic performance, general health, and even injury prevention.

Plain and simple, the Single-Leg RDL is a huge bang-for-your-buck move and you would do well to include it regularly within your training programs.

The Single-Leg RDL

Common Single-Leg RDL Mistakes

1. Reaching with the Torso: The Single-Leg RDL is a hip hinge; NOT a reach. Unfortunately, many coaches and trainees make the mistake of reaching with their arm and/or rounding the back in order to achieve a full range of motion (ROM). This is incorrect. When performing the Single-Leg RDL make sure to hinge through the hips while maintaining a neutral spine throughout then entire movement.

2. Hyperextending the Lumbar Spine at Lockout: A common issue in all squat and deadlift variations, many coaches and trainee’s hyperextend the lumbar spine (lower back) at the top of the movement instead of squeezing their glutes. This is incorrect. When performing the Single-Leg RDL make sure to finish by contracting the glute of the stance leg while maintaining a neutral spine throughout the entire movement. 

Single-Leg RDL Performance Tips

1. Who It’s For: The Single-Leg RDL can be used across a variety of populations looking to improve athletic performance, general health, and even prevent future injuries. It’s also important to note the Single-Leg RDL is fantastic for those with prior knee injuries as it’s a hip-dominant movement and places minimal stress on the knee joint. Those with lower back injuries, however, should avoid this drill until they’re pain-free.

2. Sets and Reps: 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps is sufficient for the best results

3. Frequency: 1-2x/week in any given training cycle is sufficient for the best results.

4. Intensity: Paradoxically, heavy(er) weight will make this movement more efficient than light(er) weight as it acts as a counterbalance to keep you stable throughout the full ROM. Granted, I wouldn’t recommend working up to a 1-repetition maximum (1RM) but using a weight that makes anywhere between 6-12 reps challenging to complete is sufficient for the best results.

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