Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Also known as the 1-leg RDL, the single leg Romanian deadlift is an essential exercise for building strength in your legs and lower back. Not only will this exercise boost your lower body strength, it will help teach you proper form for other workouts as well. Learn how to do this exercise today!
Muscles Worked by the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Primary Muscle Groups:
The single leg Romanian deadlift works your hamstrings and your glutes.
This exercise engages the four muscles in the back of your leg that comprise the hamstring: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus. During 1-leg RDL, you should feel a deep stretch in these muscles.
The gluteal muscles is a group of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. While the 1-leg RDL targets this group as a whole, it especially works the gluteus maximus.
Secondary Muscle Groups:
The single leg Romanian deadlift secondarily works your core muscles, as your abdominals and obliques contract to stabilize your body. This exercise also works the erector spinae muscles in your back that help support your spine and provide flexibility when bending in multiple directions.
Lastly, your trapezius, forearms, and mid/lower back contract to control the weight during the single leg RDL.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift Benefits
1. Increased Hamstring and Glute Muscle Mass
The single leg Romanian deadlift generates metabolic stress and mechanical damage to the muscle fibers in your glutes and hamstrings. As a result, your individual muscle cells grow through a process called hypertrophy.
With greater muscle mass, not only will your lower half look more appealing, but you will be able to improve your performance in other lifts such as the barbell squat, deadlift, and the nordic hamstring curl.
2. Improved Hip Mechanics
Often times, novice weightlifters lack support in their lower back. They tend to bend over from the spine rather than hinge at the waist, thereby risking injury. The single leg Romanian deadlift can teach you the proper chain of movements required to hinge at the waist.
This will help you move more efficiently in weight lifting, athletics, and daily life.
3. Corrected Muscle Imbalances
Lastly, adding the single leg Romanian deadlift to your workout regimen can help correct muscle imbalances in your lower body. Injury, athletics, or inactivity can cause some muscles in the body to be more developed than others.
This can lead to pain, instability, and an unbalanced appearance. The single leg Romanian deadlift allows you to train each leg unilaterally. Therefore, if one leg is weaker than the other, you can train that leg more often with this exercise to eliminate your muscle imbalance.
How to Do the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
For this exercise, you will only need your bodyweight.
1. Assume a standing position with your feet close together.
2. Place all of your weight on one foot and balance in this position.
3. Engage your core and bring your shoulder blades back and down. Inhale.
1. While keeping your back straight, sit your hips back and begin to bend forward. *Note* — While your planted leg should remain nearly straight, you can allow your trail leg to bend slightly.
2. Keep leaning forward until your back is roughly parallel to the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.
3. Now, reverse the motion as you return to the standing position and squeeze your glutes. Exhale.
4. Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!
Aim to complete 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps of the single leg Romanian deadlift. If you are more comfortable with the form, keep reading for a weighted variation of this exercise and complete 6-8 reps for 3-4 sets.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift Mistakes
1. Rounding of the Back
Rounding the back is the most common mistake made during the single leg Romanian deadlift. Whenever you make any athletic motion, you want to stabilize first before you move. Before hinging at the waist, pinch your shoulder blades together to keep your back straight and tighten your core to keep your abs engaged.
This will greatly reduce your risk of injury during the 1-leg RDL.
2. Looking UP as You Move DOWN
Many lifters will keep their eyes looking straight ahead or even upwards as they hinge at the waist. This not only places too much stress on the neck, it also forces you to arch the lower back. As you hinge at the waist and lower the dumbbells, allow your eyes to look towards the floor.
This encourages proper body alignment during the single leg Romanian deadlift.
3. Balancing with the Trail Leg
Many lifters tend to balance their body with their trail leg during the single leg RDL. For example, if your right foot is planted down, your left foot will swing behind your right leg on the way down. This serves to balance your body and it takes tension away from your hamstrings and back.
Instead, try to bring your trail leg back on a straight path to force your muscles to stabilize your body.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift Variations
1. Dumbbell Single Leg RDL
After you’ve mastered the form of the bodyweight single leg RDL, try adding weight with dumbbells. Be sure to hold the dumbbells tightly with an overhand grip and keep your form the same!
2. Barbell RDL
The barbell Romanian deadlift is a great variation to the Romanian deadlift. Begin by standing a few inches away from the barbell with your feet hip width apart. Hinge at the waist with a flat back and pick up the barbell.
Then, keeping your knees slightly bent, hinge at the waist with a flat back and slowly bring the barbell down to your shins. Then, bring your hips forward to return to the starting position.
3. Leaning Romanian Deadlift
The leaning RDL is a dynamic variation of the Romanian deadlift. Start in a squatted position with your back straight. Then, push your hips back and reach down towards your toes. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Then, return to the squatted position. Repeat!
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift Alternatives
If you enjoyed the single leg Romanian deadlift, check out these leg and glute exercises to improve your lower body training:
1. Straight-Legged Deadlift
The straight-legged deadlift is very similar to the Romanian deadlift. However, in this exercise, keep your knees completely locked and reach the weight further towards the floor (if your flexibility allows). The straight-legged deadlift focuses more on hamstring activation whereas the dumbbell RDL involves greater hip flexion.
The glute-ham raise is an alternative exercise that also works your glutes and hamstrings. Begin on the glute-ham machine in a vertical position. Contract your abs and glutes as you lower yourself parallel to the ground. Then, flex your hamstrings to raise back up to the vertical position.
3. Standing Tension Leg Curl
Assume a standing position. Place one foot behind the other with your heel off the ground. Contract your hamstring to bring your trail foot towards your buttocks. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat!
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