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6 Ways to Progress Your Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

6 Ways to Progress Your Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Few exercises simultaneously challenge your mobility, balance, strength, and coordination quite like the single-leg Romanian deadlift. But if this move doesn’t challenge you the way it used to, it’s time to mix things up with progressions!

Getting out of your comfort zone and improving your skills have a ton of benefits, particularly when it comes to your fitness.

When you perform the same exercise the same way over and over again, your body adapts and no longer needs to grow to meet the challenge. But throw in a variation or progression, whether by changing the weight, tempo, rep range, or by combining it with another movement, and your body is suddenly forced to improve to adapt — and that’s when you see results.

Another benefit of progressions? Variety! Keeping things fun and fresh in your routine will help you stay motivated, consistent, and moving in the direction of your health and fitness goals.

Working on more advanced variations of the single-leg Romanian deadlift is your opportunity to take its benefits to the next level.

That includes:

  • Building muscle and strength, particularly in the glutes and hamstrings.
  • Reduced risk of injury in sports, exercise, and regular daily activities thanks to improved stability, mobility, and flexibility.
  • Evening out muscle imbalances and improving symmetry.
  • Honing proprioception (the awareness of where your limbs and body are through space, even in darkness). Bonus: This also helps prevent future injuries!
  • Strengthening the mind-muscle connection, which enhances muscle activation and engagement (essentially making exercises more effective).

In this article, you’ll learn six fun and challenging single-leg Romanian deadlift (single-leg RDL) progressions, complete with step-by-step guides and video demonstrations to help ensure you’re performing them with correct form. Then, you’ll learn how to incorporate these variations into your current training routine so you can get started right away!

New to Single-leg Romanian Deadlifts? Learn how to master balance and form with our step-by-step guide for beginners. When you’re ready to move on, circle back to this article for some great ways to spice things up!

One quick tip before we dive in: If you’re practicing a variation that requires you to hold a weight, band, or cable in one hand, many folks find it helpful to extend their opposite arm out to the side and to make a fist. This not only helps you maintain tension in your arm and upper body, which is important for balance and form, but also keeps your shoulders square and ensures your upper body moves as one unit.

Ready? Then let’s get into the progressions!

Progression #1: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with One-Arm Vertical Band Row

In addition to working the lats and delts, incorporating this upper body pulling movement increases the demand on your core for stability. This variation can also be performed with a cable using a D-handle, which can be nice if you want to increase the load more than a band will allow.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with One-Arm Vertical Band Row

  • Place a band or cable at chest height.
  • Hold the band in your right hand and step back with your arm extended until there is no slack left in the band.
  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Once you feel stable with your torso and arm extended parallel to the floor, row your right arm back alongside your body until your elbow is in line with your torso.
  • Extend your arm back to the starting position parallel to the floor.
  • Exhale with a tension breath and press the left foot into the floor as you extend your hips to return to standing.
  • Perform your reps, then switch sides.

Note: You may find you need to do a couple of test reps first in order to get the right tension on the band. If it feels too hard, step closer to where the band is anchored. If it feels too easy, step back a bit further from the anchor point.

Progression #2: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Offset Row

This exercise is a great way to work all of the muscles of a traditional single-leg RDL, but with the added benefits of upper body horizontal pulling and anti-rotational core work! The offset row makes it extra challenging to keep your shoulders and hips square, which means your core has to work incredibly hard to stay in the proper position. This exercise can be performed with a dumbbell or a kettlebell.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Offset Row

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand.
  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Once you feel stable with your torso about parallel to the floor, row your right arm up and back until your elbow is in line with your torso.
  • Extend your arm back to the starting position.
  • Exhale with a tension breath and press the working foot into the floor as you extend your hips to return to standing.
  • Repeat for reps on the left leg, and then switch sides.

Progression #3: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Alternating Row

Like the previous two variations, the single-leg RDL with alternating row incorporates upper body pulling movements. But the addition of a weight in both hands held perpendicularly from your body shifts your center of gravity, forcing your core to work harder to adjust for the change. It also works your entire posterior chain, from the back of your neck to your calves.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Alternating Row

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand.
  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Once you feel stable with your torso about parallel to the floor, row your right arm up and back until your elbow is in line with your torso.
  • Extend your arm back to the starting position.
  • Row your left arm up and back until your elbow is in line with your torso.
  • Return your left arm back to the starting position.
  • Exhale with a tension breath and press the left foot into the floor as you extend your hips to return to standing.
  • Repeat for reps on the left side, then repeat the whole series on the right side.

Progression #4: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift from Dead Stop

Adding a dead stop to any exercise makes it instantly more challenging. In the case of the single-leg RDL, having the kettlebells on the floor instead of constantly in your hands removes the stretch reflex (the rubberband-like ability of muscle and connective tissue that typically helps you power through continuous reps). Now, you’re using more raw strength to lift the weight while still having to balance on one leg.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift from Dead Stop

  • Place two kettlebells on the ground just in front of and outside of your left foot.
  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Once you feel stable with your torso about parallel to the floor, grab the handle of each kettlebell.
  • Exhale with a tension breath and press the left foot into the floor as you extend your hips to return to standing.
  • Slowly reverse the movement, returning the kettlebells to their starting position.
  • Repeat for reps on the left side, letting the kettlebells come to a complete stop on the floor between each rep.
  • Change sides and repeat while standing on your right leg.

Feeling unsure about kettlebells? Check out our beginner’s guide on how to use a kettlebell and become a pro in no time.

Progression #5: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Skater Squat

The skater squat is a great way to add an extra balance challenge using just your bodyweight. Plus, while the single-leg RDL mainly works hamstrings and glutes, the skater squat puts more emphasis on the quads, so you’re getting a total lower body strengthening exercise as well.

Note: This movement is best done with bodyweight only, or holding a very light (5–10 pound) weight plate in front of you to act as a counterweight. A counterweight will help you with balance during the skater squat portion of the movement.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Skater Squat

  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Continue to balance on the left leg as you come back up to the starting position.
  • Reach the right leg about a foot behind you, keeping both knees bent.
  • Reach your arms out in front as a counterbalance, abs engaged.
  • Tap a raised pad, step, or the ground lightly with your right knee.
  • Exhale as you use the front leg to come back to standing.
  • Return to the standing position.
  • Repeat for reps, and then switch sides.

Progression #6: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Pistol Squat

This variation combines the single-leg RDL with one of the most advanced unilateral exercises around: the pistol squat. Like the skater squat, the pistol squat is both a strength and balance skill. It works the quads, glutes, hamstring, calves, and core while requiring exceptional stabilization and mobilization from the ankles and feet. Mastering the pistol squat is a popular performance goal that takes consistency and practice, so make sure you’re comfortable with it before adding it to your single-leg RDL.

Like the single-leg Romanian deadlift to skater squat exercise, this movement is best done with bodyweight only or holding a very light (5–10 pound) weight plate in front of you to act as a counterweight during the pistol squat portion of the movement.

Working on your pistol squat? Master this performance goal with our step-by-step guide.

How to Perform a Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift to Pistol Squat

  • Stand tall, root your left foot to the floor, and create a slight bend in your left knee.
  • Perform the first half of your single-leg RDL movement by hinging at the hips, letting your right leg rise behind you as high as you comfortably can, and lowering your torso forward and down.
  • Continue to balance on the left leg as you come back up to the starting position.
  • Extend your right leg out in front of you, flexing your foot.
  • Extend your arms and squeeze your hands into fists, creating tension from your shoulders to your hands.
  • Descend into your pistol squat.
  • Once you reach the rock-bottom position (or as low as your body safely allows you to go), squeeze your fists a little tighter, engage through your core, and use the strength and balance of your left leg to stand back up.
  • Repeat for reps, and then change sides.

How to Add These Progressions to Your Routine

Now that you’ve learned some advanced variations of the single-leg RDL, let’s talk about how to incorporate these movements into your training:

  • I recommend incorporating only one variation of a single-leg RDL per workout, but you can incorporate a different (or the same!) variation 2–3 times per week.
  • Try starting with 2–3 sets of 8–10 reps per side. Since these movements require a lot of strength, balance, and coordination, perform them early in your workout so you’re able to use the best form possible before your muscles are too fatigued.
  • Alternate between lower body–dominant and upper body–dominant variations. For example, practice the single-leg RDL to skater squat on some days, and the single-leg RDL with alternating row on other days.

Published at Thu, 01 Apr 2021 04:48:04 +0000

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