A Very Simple (and Very Effective) Way to Learn Single Leg RDLs

Posted on by Ben Bruno

I really like single leg RDLs, but a lot of people struggle with them tremendously, especially when they first try to learn how to do them.

As such, I start most clients off with assisted single leg RDLs where I allow them to use one hand to hold onto something for balance.

Almost two years I shared a simple but effective method of assistance using the TRX which you can check out HERE, which looks like this.

I still really like this and use it often, but I’ve noticed that for clients that struggle to grasp the hip hinge, some people end up breaking at the knee and doing a single leg squat type movement as they reach forward, so while the TRX helps with the balance aspect of the exercise, it doesn’t always help teach a good hip hinge pattern, which to me is probably the biggest point of this exercise.

I’ve also tried having clients hold onto a bench or wall for assistance, but the problem there is that they often tend to lean too heavily on the bench and use way too much assistance, so the bench becomes a crutch as opposed to a teaching tool. Also, like with the TRX, clients that struggle with the hip hinge can still turn the RDL into more of a single leg squat.

So more recently I’ve actually been having clients use a foam roller for assistance, and it’s my new favorite way to teach the single leg RDL.

Here’s what it looks like in action.

I really like this for a few reasons. First off, it’s super simple and just about everyone should have a foam roller. If not, you have bigger problems than struggling with single leg RDLs. Go get a foam roller immediately.

Furthermore, the foam roller works great because it provides some assistance for your balance, but you can’t put too much of your weight on it like you can with a bench or a TRX because it will just tip over. Similarly, it forces you to keep your weight centered over your hips as opposed to moving forward (because again, the foam roller will tip over if your weight is moving forward), so it helps ensure that you’re doing the exercise correctly and hinging at the hips as opposed to shifting your weight forward to doing more of a single leg squat type movement.

As for coaching cues, I like to tell people to keep the foam roller steady on the floor and don’t let it tip. I then tell them to lower the weight in line with the foam roller, which helps prevent against them reaching forward as you’ll often see.

If you or your clients struggle with single leg RDLs, I think this simple fix could really help.

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  • Andreas

    Hi Ben, I like the easy setup with this one, what’s your way to keep people from twisting their body during RDLs? Many rotate their foot/hip externally and drop the shoulder that has the weight. Or is it simply a sign that they are not yet ready for RDLs? (Regress to leg lowers for example.)

  • Lou

    I’d also like to know the answer to Andreas question!

  • Ben Bruno

    Andreas and Lou- I see that happen a lot, and truthfully all I do is just show them what they’re doing wrong and what I’d like to see instead. I also don’t have lower the kettelbell or dumbbell down so low to start and tell them to go just to the knee. I also cue to extend the non working leg straight back to the wall behind, keeping the leg as straight as possible, though I don’t worry about a slight bend. As for the foot, try to have them exaggerate pointing their toe in. When people try to point the toe in it usually ends up being straight as opposed to externally rotated, or at least straight. I’m actually not worried about a little bit of external rotation, but when it’s severe to the point it causes the pelvis to shift, then it’s an issue.

    • Andreas

      Okay, that’s what I do as well. I also have people rotate the pelvis on purpose (externally and back again) so that they get a feeling for the right correction by working at the hip of the standing leg.

  • http://bachperformance.com/ Eric Bach

    Great alternatives Ben. I used to use the wall as well, but found it grooves some slight rotation through the torso that’s difficult to eliminate without support.

  • http://www.trainingtracker.de Dario

    Cery good instruction to learn it. I will try these exercises. Thanks