Simple Regression for Single Leg RDLs

Posted on by Ben Bruno

A lot of times with my own training I look for ways to progress exercises and make them harder, but a lot of times with clients it’s actually more about finding ways to regress exercises to make them easier, especially when it comes to challenging exercises like the single leg RDL.

A lot of people really struggle to do single leg RDLs. A few weeks ago I show a TRX assisted version (see here) where you put the back foot in the stirrup of the TRX.

I really like this exercise and I’ve gotten a lot of really good feedback from other people that have tried it and liked it, but I’ve also had a few people tell me that they or their clients have a hard timing getting set up with their back foot in the strap due to balance issues. If you have something close by to hold on to—such as the pole of a power rack— it’s a lot easier, but if the suspension trainer is out in the open and you can’t grab ahold of anything, then setting up can be tricky for some people. That’s great feedback, and actually I’ve had similar problems in the past with some clients when trying to do rear foot elevated split squats with the rear leg in the suspension trainer.

So if that regression doesn’t work for you, here’s another one that’s even more simple and easier to perform.

Set the strap of a suspension trainer at approximately waist height and hold it with one hand with a weight in the other hand. Whichever hand is holding the weight, that leg extends back while you simultaneously lower the weight straight down and extend the other arm straight out in front of you.

Like so.

Holding onto the strap provides some external stability to assist with balance issues, but not so much that you take the stability component out of the exercise altogether. The goal is to put as little weight on the strap as possible, but the very act of reaching the arm straight out ensures of a good torso position and makes it almost impossible to round your back.

Reaching both arms straight ahead is a great starting point to learn the single leg RDL movement, but you obviously can’t load it with any significant weight in that manner. This drill gives you the benefit of the reaching version while also letting you use some weight so you can give your glutes and hamstrings a good training effect.

I’ve used this on a few clients that really struggle with single leg RDLs and it really helps to clean up the movment, and the clients have interestingly reported feeling it much more in the their glutes.

I’ve noticed this too myself actually–even with compartively lighter weights than I’m used to using– so that’s cool feedback.

So if you or your clients struggle with single leg RDLs, this might be something to try. I’m very interested to hear how you like it, so please report back and let me know.

It’s very simple, but most things that work well are.

Remember to please subscribe to my You Tube page for more video demos. Thanks!


  • Bret Contreras

    Brilliant Benjamin!!! Love it.

    • Ben Bruno


  • T G

    Hey Ben, I tried some SLDL’s, and the next day just a small spot on each glute was sore, but the rest of my glutes were completely fine. I seem to find this a lot with glute exercises, basically they are either not sore at all or it seems as if there is just one sore spot. Any idea what is going on here or if have experience it with a client before, as i cannot figure it out?! Thanks!

    • Joe

      If you go to google images and search for “glute muscles” you’ll see that it’s not just one big muscle. To exercise all of them you need to do different glute exercisers. Youtube will provide examples.

    • Joe

      I see that Bret Contreras is on this thread. You could also go to his site and learn more about glute exercises than you could fathom.

    • Ben Bruno

      Different exercises work the glutes differently. Where did you feel these in your glutes? Most find it hits the spot where the glutes meet the hamstrings.

  • Joe

    Good idea, Ben.

    I have enough yoga practice that the balance isn’t much of an issue till I get tired, and then I may use my foam roller as a stabilizer. The good thing about it is that it will begin to collapse if too much weight is put on it.

    To those who will use some balance help, be aware of stepping up the weight too quickly as a result of gaining stability. Would be much better to use whatever weight allows you to minimize the contribution of the stabilizer.


    • Ben Bruno

      Thanks Joe!

  • Marc

    Hey Ben, I was wondering where I can find those straps/cables?

    Thanks in advance!