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Single Leg Deadlifts

What Is A Single Leg Deadlift?

How To Do A Dumbbell Deadlift

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Single leg deadlifts are an intermediate to advanced style of deadlift that requires great levels of balance, coordination, and unilateral leg strength. This exercise primarily targets the hamstrings and glutes, but also hits the erector spinae and core muscles.

Unilateral training refers to exercising one side of the body, before moving onto the other side and can be helpful for reducing muscular imbalances and building overall strength.

Incorporating exercises that train the body unilaterally can reduce injury risks and carry over well to bilateral lifts. In this instance, the single leg deadlift will enhance other variations of the deadlift such as the conventional or sumo deadlift. Often in big lifts like deadlifts or squats, our stronger side can take over and compensate for the weaker side. This makes muscle imbalances likely which can slow progression and lead to injury.

Single leg deadlifts can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells, but they require less load than other deadlifts. Where conventional deadlifts and other bilateral variations typically focus on power and strength, the single leg deadlift requires more control, mind to muscle connection, and stability. It's better to go for a lighter weight and focus on control than heavier weights with poor form.

Check out our other deadlift variations: conventional deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, dumbbell deadlifts, rack pulls, B stance deadlifts,

Commonly Asked Questions On Single Leg Deadlift

What Do Single Leg Deadlifts Work?

Single leg deadlifts primarily target the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. They also work the core and challenge your balance and coordination!

Are Single Leg Deadlifts Better Than Normal Deadlifts?

Normal deadlifts and single leg deadlifts are no better than one another and both have a place in a structured training programme. You will be able to lift greater load with other deadlift variations that incorporate both legs, however the greatest benefit of the single leg deadlift is that it trains the lower body unilaterally. These movements shouldn’t really be compared as they are different, and we’d advise giving both of them a go!

How Many Reps Should You Do With Single Leg Deadlifts?

When training for strength and hypertrophy, you want to ensure that you are within two to three reps of failure. This means if you continued your set, you’d have two or three reps left before your from would begin to break down.

As single leg deadlifts should use light weight to maintain balance, you’ll probably be able to challenge yourself to reach a mid rep range such as 6 – 12 reps. Alternatively, if you’re working on muscle endurance you may work towards high reps of a range between 15 – 20 reps.

How Much Should You Lift With A Single Leg Deadlift Vs A Regular Deadlift?

The load you’ll be able to lift with a single leg deadlift will be considerably less than with a conventional deadlift as you will only have the power of one side of the body, and there is more balance and coordination needed which makes the move harder. Aim for a weight where you can keep the balance but still feel tension in the glutes and hamstrings.

Single Leg Deadlift Tips

Like the bilateral Romanian deadlift, the single leg deadlift requires you to push your hips back and keep your legs relatively straight. We’d advise mastering your hip hinge and practising bilateral Romanian deadlifts before progressing to single leg deadlifts to build lower body strength and understand proper form before moving onto the single leg variant.

When moving onto the single leg variant, it’s important to avoid leaning your torso forward to remain balanced. Instead, think about pushing your hips back and sitting into the movement.

It can be challenging to master the single leg deadlift as the exercise requires a significant amount of balance and stability. Go for a light weight, or even start with no weight, to get the movement down.  If you find you are struggling with balance, or simply not feeling it in the glutes and hamstrings, hold onto a plyo box or bench on one side and hold the weight in the other arm.

If you still find this exercise too challenging at first, try a B-Stance deadlift. This is where the foot is positioned slightly behind your other foot, placing most of the load on the working front foot. While this is not entirely a unilateral movement, it does help one side to work harder than the other so can be used to address imbalances and build the strength and stability to progress to single leg deadlifts.

How To Do A Single Leg Deadlift

  1. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, or if going for one hand, then hold it on the opposite side to the standing leg. Take a shoulder width stance with your toes pointed straight ahead.

  2. Once you’ve found your stance position, keep your feet planted and your grip on the dumbbells strong before pinning you shoulders back and together as if trying to hold a pencil between them.

  3. The final preparation for the deadlift requires the chest to lift and the scapula to be retracted. To do this, sit further into the deadlift ensuring your hips sit higher than your knees but lower than your shoulders.

    To lift your chest up, pull your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to hold a pencil between them. You’ll want to try and keep your shoulder blades in this position for the entirety of the lift. With your chest up and scapula down, your shins should now be vertical to the floor and your armpits sitting directly above the bar.

  4. Your set up is now complete and you’re ready to deadlift! Keeping the dumbbells as close to your legs as possible throughout the lift, take a deep breath in, allowing your stomach to push outwards and your core to become rigid.

    Maintaining a soft bend in the knee, lower the dumbbells by hinging forward on the standing leg and extending the other leg out behind you. Make sure your leg lifts straight out rather than to the side.

  5. Once your hips cannot go back any further (this is usually when the dumbbells reach between just below the knee and mid shin), reverse the movement by pushing your hips forward and bringing your extended leg back to the starting position. Try not to push your hips too far forward as this will place unnecessary stress on your lower back!

  6. To commence the next rep, you may want to reset your positioning and revise steps 2 and 3 to ensure you’re ready to lift again!

If you’re not sure if any of the above exercises are suitable for you, please consult your doctor before you start it. Need guidance on how to perform the exercise? Ask a personal trainer at your gym.