How SLDLs Will Rock (and Fix) Your World

There are three words in the English language that I absolutely can't stand: "everybody," "always," and "never." (Actually, if I could choose a fourth, it would be "gurgle.")  

Why?  Because what we learned in Kindergarten is true - no two people are the same, and we're all special boys and girls.  But, if I were to pick one exercise that could almost include the three words above, it would be Single Leg Deadlifts.

OK, are you really surprised that it's some form of deadlifting?  Probably not.

Anyway, flash back a few months ago, and I really didn't think Single Leg Deadlifts (SLDLs) were that great.  Sure, they're cool and a nice to have....but they can be super hard to perform correctly.  Plus, isn't deadlifting on two legs just a bit more bad ass?

Fast forward to today, and I've completely changed my tune. In fact, if SLDLs are cool, consider me Miles Davis.

What caused the change of heart?  To quote Mike Tyson, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."  Only, in this case, the punch was delivered by a few different sources.

Behold: the white male ghetto booty. 

Behold: the white male ghetto booty. 

First, I've had "tight" hamstrings my entire life as well as some intermittent back pain.  However, the problem was never my hamstrings or's actually my hips.  I'm an odd duck in that deadlifting actually helps my back feel better (which is not what I would recommend for normal people!), and I quickly realized that SLDLs were a deadlift variation I could perform every day with a minimal toll on my body.  After a week or two, I realized that any back pain would vanish after a few minutes of SLDLs, and I generally moved a lot better.  Why?  

When you see someone in big extension like myself (and have the accompanying ghetto booty), it means I actually need movements that will pull me forward.  SLDLs are a terrific way to pull someone like me out of extension, force me to brace my core, and work on my hips.

The next piece of information that turned my mind around on SLDLs was from the Postural Restoration Institute.  To break some of their larger concepts down to something more manageable, PRI can be summarized by believing that all human anatomy is asymmetrical - especially our hips.  In order to fix it, three main muscles need to be strengthened: the left adductor (groin), left hamstring, and right glute.

And, what muscles are we using when someone is correctly performing an SLDL?  You got it - left adductor, left hamstring and right glute.

So, how does one perform an SLDL?

  • Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of your feet.  Slightly bend one knee, while dragging the other toe back, like so:
  • From there, grip the kettlebell as hard as you can, and stand up.  If you feel like someone is shooting a hot laser gun at the outer hip of the down leg, you're probably doing it right!

I love SLDLs for anyone that needs help with core strength and sequencing, and also if someone has a leg raise issue.  Taken together, those two issues affect just about 90% of the people I work with, and I've seen this exercise pay big dividends.

And finally, to stay on the topic of deadlifts, here's a video of my new deadlift PR at 445 pounds this past weekend. It's not pretty, as maximal efforts rarely are, but it felt good!