Day: September 7, 2011

Single Leg Dead Lift for Greater Performance, Strength and Balance!

When designing strength training programs for a variety of clients there are a few key exercises and movement patterns that should be addressed in most training sessions. Some of the things that I attempt to use daily include the following…

  • Thoracic Mobility Exercises/Stretches
  • Single Leg Dead Lift Progressions
  • Glute Activation Exercises
  • Squatting/Lunging Patterns
  • Core Stabilization

As specific movements go, one that I like to use as either part of the warm-up or as a strength exercise is the Single Leg Dead Lift. While all of these concepts should be touched on, I believe the SLDL is crucial to incorporate for the following reasons…

Full Body Muscle Recruitment
When performed correctly the single leg dead lift requires the recruitment of all of the muscles up the posterior chain. The calf works to stabilize at the foot and ankle. The hamstring group is stretched at the same time it is working to stabilize the knee joint, while the glutes concentrically extend the hip. During all of this our lumbar extensors work to keep the spine neutral while the upper and mid back work to stabilize the scapula and keep the thoracic spine in extension.

Functional Posterior Chain Strengthening
We have the ability to both stretch and strengthen the hamstring and recruit the glute for hip extension. Hamstring pulls are often a result of poor glute function and over-activation of the hamstrings as a hip extensor. If we are able to train single leg hip extension with the glutes while strengthening and stretching the hamstring than we are killing two birds with one stone!

Balance and Body Awareness
When using the single leg dead lift in the warm-up it can serve as an especially great balance and proprioception exercise. Have you ever seen someone perform their first ever SLDL? More often than not they almost always fall over. With some repetition and coaching however a client often improves quickly. The ankle stabilizers such as, the lower leg and calf, all must fire to help maintain balance in response to the movement of the upper body. The SLDL can serve as a great drill overall for body awareness and balance for clients/athletes of all ages.

How to perform an SLDL:
The first progression for the single leg dead lift is simple and needs no equipment. Start by squaring your hips, with a slight bend in the knees. Begin by balancing on one foot, keep the shoulders back, abs in, head up and back straight, from here tip from the waist and reach hands towards the floor. The key here is to reach the rear foot as far back as possible while also reaching down and maintaining a FLAT back. Be sure to keep a slight bend at their knee so that you are not overstressing the hamstring and neglecting the glutes. The difference in glute function from a straight leg to a slightly bent leg will be significant!

Start with 2-3 sets of 10 on each side, once that becomes easy try adding weight by holding a dumbbell.