Single-leg RDL

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Dub
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Single-leg RDL

Post by Dub » Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:35 am

Single-leg RDL. A great hamstring exercise they say. Also a magnificient lift for unilateral work and balance/stability. Well, I just can't do it correct. And it's the barbell version we are talking of now.

I've been doing the lift for 3-5 weeks once a week with several reps and sets. The weights have been relatively low since I'm trying to learn the movement pattern and correct technique (30-40kg/66-88lbs.)
The problem is that for me, the SL-RDL is more of a lower back workout than hamstring or glute exercise. It feels like the lower back muscles and extensors are the main functioning muscle and hamstrings only assist here and there. There's no way I can finish a set with my hamstrings fatiqued, it's my lower back that burns out first within 6-8 reps. I admit, there is some tension and occasional stretching in my hamstrings, even some effort and contraction. But there hasn't been a set I would deem an excellent hamstring workout. Stability is another issue, but I believe it will correct itself over practice.

I thought I could figure this one out, but nope. Any advice or similar experiences/thoughts? I know it's a great exercise, I just can't execute it that way.
I will provide film footage if needed.
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JasonJones
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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by JasonJones » Sun Jun 17, 2012 10:34 pm

I have the same problem. I know RDLs and single-leg are supposed to be great posterior chain exercises, but I just end up with a sore lower back. I find I can get more glutes out of a single-leg RDL, but it seems like I can't recruit my hamstrings in any variation, or much at the hip at all. My theory is that my tight hip flexors and quad dominance make it difficult to give my hamstrings a mechanical advantage, but I've never seen any actual evidence that this is the case. I'm able to program with it for my clients, and those that can perform the movement seem to be able to hit their hamstrings, but any time I try to plug it into my own work out I'm unsuccessful.
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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by Oscar_Actuary » Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:37 am

marknig this, anticpating kpj input

I have trouble with the balance. Use it as a warmup, not in regular program yet

I'd like to hear more why it's so good to do them. I mean, is it one of those that's great to be able to do, but, for tranining muscle, other movements are far superior?

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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by robertscott » Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:37 am

I've found that any RDL variation'll feel like it's hitting my lower back more than hams/glutes if I use too great a ROM.

Oscar, the reason they're so good is it's a great mobility exercise, with little loading on the spine

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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by KPj » Mon Jun 18, 2012 5:15 am

Well, before I let the myself ramble on this, I know it'll be long. I love these and hate them at the same time.

I reckon its one of the most difficult exercises to learn and coach, except for those who just nail it instantly but they are few and far between.

I think they are a great exercise when performed correctly. The hip stability you need to control the knee when the other leg is unsupported is one "healthy" advantage. In movement terms there's a whole lot going on, you need hip flexion in one side whilst extending the other, all whilst keeping a neutral spine and not falling over. Remember it's really just a one-legged-hip-hinge and we all could do with more hip hinging. Beyond that it's just a good posterior chain exercise and you can actually train these pretty intensely when you have mastered form, however for some people form almost seems like a never ending battle.

Anyway, you shouldn't feel it in your lower back. You should feel like you're drawing back the hamstrings then releasing/pinging them forward, finishing with the glutes, and the lower back should just go along for the ride, not changing position and just transferring force. Also, when you get them right, you will feel the hamstrings loading quite significantly even with just body weight. The eccentric should more or less feel like a hamstring stretch on the working leg.

The most common issues I see are:

1. Bending at the back, not hinging at the hips

2. Externally rotating the hip of the rear/elevated leg. Basically, you twist as you go down. I',m not sure if this is hip external rotation, or a "collapse" of the other hip into internal rotation, it's a chicken and egg thing, really. Either way, you see the back toe rotate out to the side.

For number one, you will also see a major disconnect between the torso and the rear leg. So, from the side, the rear leg and the torso will form a kind of, triangle (i didn't want to say pyramid :lol: ) with the a$$ being the highest point. You don't want this. Sometimes in this position, the spine will flex but not always, sometimes it's still pretty flat but you still have a major disconnect.

You should imagine a big metal pole has been stabbed into your shoulder and down into the elevated/rear leg, all the way down to the foot (I genuinely use this description with clients) - in other words, move them together. Begin the movement with the rear leg - lead with it. The rear leg is very important. Begin by shoving it back and let the torso follow - when the rear leg "runs out" of extension, assuming you have a tight torso (scap down), you will naturally go and hinge/flex at the other hip, and this is when you should feel that hamstring stretch. Sometimes this really cleans up when I cue starting with a tall posture, and thinking of pulling the *scap "down", then swinging the leg back and letting the body follows.

*scap down really means, "switch on the lats" - it's all in the lats, especially when it comes to the core. The lats connect your shoulders to your hips, if you have the lats fired up in a tall posture, it's actually quite difficult to flex the spine. I actually just say "shoulder blades" or just, "shoulders" to clients and they know I mean, "pull them into your back pockets".

So, get tall, get tight (Lats!), lead with the rear leg. Find the hamstring stretch on the planted leg on the way down. Also, with the rear/elevated leg, as you move down, really "reach" with it, reach way back into the wall behind you. If you take anything away from this, take the "reaching" cue.

Number 2, externally rotating, is quite literally a pain in the a$$. Some people it cleans up simply by telling them to point the toe in the opposite direction, so if it's the left leg swinging backwards which is the problem and therefore, the left toes will start to point out to the left (if you were the person doing it), then you begin by pointing the toes to the right/internally rotating the hip, then you do the movement. It'll normally make you really shaky at first but after a few attempts it gets better and eventually, you don't need to point the toes any more, you'll just be able to do it.

I've not been able to turn everyone into a perfect single leg deadlifter, though, there are a couple of clients that are very difficult. I have very long winded theories that I don't quite understand yet. Anyway, the above is kind of rushed and all over the place, obviously I don't know what's going wrong when you try it so can't give specific cues but, hopefully there's something there you haven't thought about.

KPj
Thanks TimD

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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by Dub » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:39 am

Thanks for the comments. I still haven't gotten it right, will film my form and post it here next week.

Just one question before that. Do you people think heavy (531) Deadlifting could affect to this issue when doing single-leg RDL's. My current routine has DL's first, then followed by RDL's. If Deadlifts already burn my hips and posterior chain, then the lower back has to work a whole lot more. Could this be one reason? Any ideas? Should I consider moving the RDL to Front Squat -day.
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Re: Single-leg RDL

Post by Proper Knob » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:46 am

I've been doing single leg RDL's with a barbell for the past few weeks, i don't feel them in my lower back, they murder my hamstrings and glutes. I've also been doing them right after heavy conventional deadlifts and haven't experienced any noticeable problem.
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