Simple Regression for Single Leg RDLs

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.

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