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Single Leg Deadlifts

By October 26, 2011January 10th, 2014Glute Training

I’ve always liked the idea of single leg deadlifting but no movement has ever felt that good to me. I like the King deadlift, but it feels more like a squat than a deadlift. In fact, many refer to the King deadlift as a skater squat.

The King deadlift is more like a box squat than a deadlift.

Bulgarian Split Deadlift – No Stability at the Bottom ROM

I like the single leg RDL, but whenever I go super-heavy I feel unstable. I’ve never reached a point where I felt like it was a viable “strength” exercise. Finally, I like the idea of the Bulgarian split deadlift but whenever I reach the bottom of the motion I get slack in my leg and the stability runs out. For this reason, I like the single leg abducted deadlift when attempting to go heavy. In this video I explain why.

Throughout the year there are always times when my low back feels a little dodgy and during these times I’ll resort to this movement as it undoubtedly reduces spinal loads while keeping large loads on the hip extensors.

Solution to the Bulgarian Split Deadlift

Ironically, I was watching a video from my buddy Nick Tumminello a couple of months ago and he provided a solution to the drawbacks of the Bulgarian split deadlift in this video below.

If you notice at 2:45 he shows how you can use a Sorinex single leg squat stand to roll your leg backward as you descend into the movement, thereby maintaining stability the entire time. I love talking to Nick as he always thinks of creative solutions to exercise problems. If you have one of these stands then the Bulgarian split deadlift becomes a viable option. Nick shows how he uses the stand to perform single leg hip thrusts and other types of hip thrust variations as well, so make sure you watch the entire video.

Using a Contoured Surface for Bulgarian Split Squats

Interestingly, here’s a video I filmed two-and-a-half years ago discussing how I perform Bulgarian split squats (when I had my studio Lifts every client performed them this way) and I used a method similar to the method that Nick shows with the Sorinex single leg squat stand. It makes so much sense to use a curved surface rather than a bench as it matches the contour of the crux of the ankle joint.

I guess great minds think alike! I hope you’ve enjoyed the videos, have a great rest of the week. -BC


  • Matias says:

    Good delivery sir. I came across an article on Muscle&Body that was making fun of another magazine article on guys training glutes (Why Ass is the New Abs). Granted, the title doesn’t necessaraly scream out “400lbs hip thrust”, and the article itself was introductory at best, but I’m still siding with it. It’s a breath of fresh air in the mainstream.
    It’s obvious that the importance of healthy strong glutes escaped the opposition, as he accused the “trend” of being metrosexual. It takes a secure man to perform glute bridges in a gym full of benchers and curlers.

  • Good stuff man!

    Have you played around with a B-stance deadlift yet? It is similar to a normal deadlift, but slide one foot back for the BALL of the foot now lines up with the opposite heal. The rest of the movement is the same as a dedlift, but one foot will be up on the ball and the other one will be flat.

    Adds a whole new dimension to core training, strengthens muscles/tendons/ligaments in the foot that is up and transfers more overall stress to the lower body of the leg that has a flat foot.

    Good times!

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

    • Bret says:

      Hi Mike, I have toyed around with something similar but I used a greater off-set and ran into the same problem with that as I did with the Bulgarian split deadlift…no stability with the back leg. Same with the walking single leg RDL. But what you described – with just a slight off-set, sounds great. I will try it out. Just standing here toying around with it makes me think it could work very well. Thanks, BC

      • Cool! I would love to hear a follow up from you on it.
        A modification is to do squat (BW at first) and stiff legged DLs from a B-stance too.

        Watch kids get to the ground as they get a bit older or most people. They will normally do a B-stance to get to the ground quickly. Most don’t (and could be argued can’t) do it with a full squat.

        I agree, at some point you are working so much on pure balance that it inhibits strength production. An extreme example is squatting on a BOSU ball–way too much balance and therefor much much less load.

        Rock on
        Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • Neal W. says:

    Hey Bret,

    I see some rings in the background. You play around with those at all?

  • Kevin says:

    Hi Brett,

    What do you think of the single leg 45 degree hip extension with dumbbells (say, 100 lbs. in each hand)? Do you think it would be more effective than the single leg abducted deadlift?

  • Bianca says:

    Hi Bret,

    thanks for this video. I have a slightly off-topic question and I hope you don’t mind my posting it here: is walking upwards (I hope this makes sense in English) on a treadmill very efficient in terms of glute-activation? Does it promote a good hypertrophy of the glute’s muscles?


    • I am not Bret and I look forward to his response, but I am not a fan of it. Granted the incline is a bit better than flat, but since the belt is spinning, the leg is being PULLED into hip extension so I would expect much less glute (esp glute max) activation.

      I am sure Bret can chime in with a more specific answer based on EMG data perhaps.

      The answer is simple though–go sprint outside on ground or turn the treadmill off so you have to work AGAINST the belt.

      Just my thoughts

      Rock on
      Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • Calin says:

    Bret, do you think a suspension strap system like the Jungle Gym XT (with two separate anchors, not like the TRX) could provide enough stability to perform something like the Bulgarian Deadlift variation you and Nick were talking about?

    I’m thinking two anchor points for more stability, bring the foot straps together and place the rear foot in both straps, which would allow you to extend the rear foot backwards like you’re saying.

    • Bret says:

      Very good idea…I’m not sure. On the one hand it would move to allow for rearward displacement during the lift, which would be a good thing, but on the other hand it’s unstable and would move laterally. I’ll test this out and get back to you. BC

  • bryan says:

    I like to use the rollers at the end of a decline bench (if they go down far enough) with some plates on the other end to counter balance for more comfort on the rear foot elevated split squat. I’ve also toyed around with the roller on the seated hamstring curl with all the weight on the weight stack assuming it is adjustable to various heights.

  • Cindy Gomez says:

    What is the difference between

    one leg deadlift and one leg squat? They both look the same.

  • Bret,

    Your discussions about the single-leg deadlift led me to tinker with them and I “discovered” an exercise that meets your criteria of being able to move a heavy load without stability issues. It’s similar to your single-leg abducted deadlift.

    Video link:

    I’d like to know your thoughts on the exercise.


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