The RDL or stiff legged deadlift is a common exercise used to increase posterior chain strength. It is commonly done with barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells. When working with clients to resolve imbalances or recover from an injury, I prefer to implement a single leg RDL. In particular, I work toward an advanced progression that involves ipsilateral loading.
Execution: Grasp a dumbbell or kettlebell in the left hand while in single limb support on the left leg. Keep the left knee slightly bent (15-20 degrees) as you hinge at the hip and lower the kettlebell toward the floor. Drive the right heel toward the ceiling, while maintaining a neutral spine angle throughout. Pause at the bottom just before the spine begins to round, the knee starts to bend more than the initial starting angle, or a loss of balance occurs.
Return to the upright position with the goal of keeping all the body weight on the stance side and not touching the swinging foot on the ground. Repeat for 10 repetitions and then switch arms and legs. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 on each side.
It is important to control the descent based on body control and cue the client to avoid common compensations such as unwanted trunk rotation, spinal flexion, excessive knee flexion or loss of balance. I suggest working on incremental or segmental portions of the motion in order to master form.
1. Decrease or remove the external load
2. Decrease the range of motion
3. Allow a soft touch down of the unsupported foot at the completion of each repetition to steady the body
Application: This exercise is an effective way to increase hamstring mobility and strength. Additionally, it will facilitate single limb and trunk stability, thereby resolving asymmetry that may be present while reducing lower extremity injury risk. The ipsilateral version specifically challenges the client to maintain balance by reducing the base of support versus a traditional contralateral or double arm RDL. This progression should not be used for clients who cannot perform a satisfactory single leg contralateral RDL or those unable maintain proper form throughout the movement.