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I filmed a video discussing the single leg RDL. I believe it’s a very important exercise for many reasons. First of all, a couple of studies have shown that sensorimotor training led to improved power production. I’d much rather have athletes perform exercises like single leg RDL’s and single leg squats for sensorimotor training than exercises on wobbly boards, as this approach allows you to kill four birds with one stone by increasing balance, increasing hip stability, increasing hip extensor strength, and hopefully increasing power production.

I believe that the single leg RDL can be placed in the warm-up every single day, where you can mix it up, for example employing a reaching single leg RDL with a medball. I believe that from time to time the single leg RDL should be performed heavily as well, as there aren’t many exercises that challenge balance and coordination while strengthening the hips to the degree that this exercise does. Here’s a video of me discussing some aspects of the single leg RDL.

I realize that some coaches may take issue with my stance on external rotation of the non-grounded leg. I could argue both sides, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If you keep the non-grounded leg straight, I’m fine with your decision. But the true nature of the gluteus maximus when it moves into hip hyperextension (which is where you “lock the leg” if you do it right) is to externally rotate the femur. From a standing position, simply squeeze your glutes as hard as possibly and you’ll feel your legs turn outward a bit and the feet trying to “screw” outward. Why fight this natural tendency?

Mayer et al. (2002) found that back extensions with the hips externally rotated (feet turned out) activated 39% more glute max than hips internally rotated (feet turned in). The glute max activates better with the feet turned out a bit, and in sports, the glute max influences femur, tibia and foot mechanics, so it needs to be strong in external rotation.

But again, I could argue either route so you can make up your mind as to whether you’re picky about the foot turning out or not. That said, you never want tight hip external rotators so you should employ various hip stretches and mobility drills to ensure that they don’t shorten.

I hope you enjoy the video, BC

10 Comments

  • Great stuff!

    I use these especially when I’ve got someone who just can’t seem to hip-hinge properly. Especially the “super man” version. There’s something about the one-legged-ness that makes it easier to grasp than the two legged.

    Actually, now that I think about it, this is akin to how hyperextension of the hip is far harder two-legged to figure out than with one leg.

  • Niel says:

    I love and hate single leg RDL’s – great exercise, but easy to screw up if you don’t understand it. Squeezing the glute of the non-working side is very helpful Bret, thanks!

    And Max Shank is all kinds of beast.

  • Bianca says:

    Hi Bret,

    great video, as usual, and great post. I recently strained my back while trying a single-leg RDL with a kettlebell in my hand. But probably it happened because I had not practised enough bodyweight single-leg RDLs first, before adding more weight. But this video is going to help, because the correct movement is very clear (and it clarifies the issue of the back leg as well).

    Can I ask a completely off-topic question, in this section? Is running good for the glutes? I know that you keep repeating that the glutes need stability, but I was curious to know your opinion. Thanks,

    Bianca

    • Bianca,

      He goes over this in his book quite a bit, actually:
      http://thegluteguy.com/

      Sprinting is very much a glute exercise, and really, if you’re running correctly, your glutes should be highly active. But, then, most people run poorly.

      I’d flip it. If you DON’T have good glute stability and strength, then you should hold off on running until you do. Running poorly is a surefire way to end up injured.

      Nick

  • paul says:

    good points about squeezing the back leg glutes. I’ll take this to my next practice.
    Paul Graham

  • Tania says:

    Best way I’ve seen it explained…. excellent stuff. Thanks!

  • Jay Park says:

    Great thoughts on this exercise…I’ve had a number of trainers miss the points you’ve made so thanks.

  • Hi Brett!

    Thanks so much for this video! Great Tips 🙂

  • Kristine B. says:

    Thank you. This is very helpful! I love your books. They have helped me immensely! Looking forward to more vids and books.

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