3 Reasons Why You Should Do The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

3 Reasons Why You Should Do The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single leg Romanian deadlift is one of my absolute favorite exercises. Itโ€™s a whole body, complete, functional exercise that can be used for rehabilitation, as well as strength and conditioning purposes alike. While not utilized as commonly in strength and conditioning realms, itโ€™s quite a popular exercise in the physical therapy world due to its ability to work the entire lower extremity posterior chain, while simultaneously challenging oneโ€™s balance.

1) Whole Body Functional Movement

The Romanian deadlift should be a staple of any strength and conditioning program, and for good reason. If done correctly, the entire posterior chain (gluts, hamstrings, calves, back extensors, etc) can be hit with one functional movement. A normal deadlift is naturally a quad-dominant exercise, due in part to the fact that the movement pattern requires one to lower their knees to the bar and bring their hips forward. The primary difference in a Romanian deadlift is keeping your hips back, meaning more effective activation of the posterior chain. Additionally, the Romanian deadlift is one of the best ways to functionally target the hamstrings. While many might associate hamstring exercises with the leg curl machine (which definitely does target the hamstrings), the hamstrings also originate at the hip, meaning hip extension movements also target the hamstrings. Why is this significant? Because throughout normal everyday movements, it is actually hip extension, and not knee flexion, that plays a dominant role in movement and developing power in a host of activities, like walking, running, and biking.

The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

Via T-Nation. Does this look like something you would do on an everyday basis??

Via T-Nation.
Does this look like something you
would do on an everyday basis??

Furthermore, functional exercises, like the single leg Romanian deadlift are easily transferrable to new situations and environments that closely simulate every day tasks, like picking objects off the floor while protecting your lower back. In summary, the deadlift (or any variation of it) is an absolute killer compound exercise that can be adjusted accordingly to fit your personal goals.


2) Challenges Your Bodyโ€™s 3 Primary Balance Systems (Proprioception, Vestibular, and Visual Systems)

Unlike a normal deadlift, the single leg Romanian deadlift adds a component of balance to the exercise. Simply by standing on one leg, you are challenging your static balance, which is comprised of 3 separate sensory systems, including vision, somatosensory (proprioception, touch, pressure, vibration, muscle stretch), and vestibular (equilibrium). By incorporating the Romanian deadlift movement on one leg, you are now additionally challenging your dynamic balance. Exercises that challenge your dynamic balance are more functional and, for the most part, recommended over static balance exercises. Itโ€™s your dynamic balance that is relied upon in sports and fall prevention alike! However, take caution when progressing to a single leg Romanian deadlift from a normal double leg Romanian deadlift. Make sure you have adequate static single leg balance and can properly perform a double leg Romanian deadlift with good form first.

Balance Training Improves Cutting


3) Strengthens the Foot Intrinsics and Calf Muscles

Dynamic balance exercises, like the single leg Romanian deadlift, not only challenge your vision, somatosensory, and vestibular systems but also challenge your foot strength. While your sensory systems are responsible for detecting changes in balance, itโ€™s actually your muscles that are responsible for carrying out and controlling the proper corrections! In particular, the muscles in your calf and foot are largely responsible for making the small, postural foot changes that allow you to maintain your balance. These muscles include the posterior tibialis, peroneus longus, triceps surae muscle group, and the small foot intrinsics. These muscles are commonly weak in individuals with foot and ankle pain, like plantar fasciitis.

Foot Intrinsic Muscle Exercise

The single leg Romanian deadlift is a great exercise to strengthen these muscles as they are heavily relied upon for maintaining balance during this particular movement. If done correctly, you will feel a good burn in your foot and ankle, meaning youโ€™re using the right muscles!

READ: Plantar Fasciitis Prehab

Now that youโ€™ve decided to add the single leg Romanian deadlift to your strength and conditioning or rehabilitation program, here are some tips and tricks to master the single leg Romanian deadlift.

1) Tempered Progression

Tempered progressions, as with any exercise, are the best way to not only โ€˜change it upโ€™ in the gym, but to do so in a safe manner. First, start off with double leg Romanian deadlifts. Once you have mastered the movement (in particular keeping your hips back and the hip hinge), move on to the single leg Romanian deadlift.

Double Leg Romian Deadlift



Hamstring injuries are one of the most common soft tissue injuries in sports. They are especially challenging and frustrating due to the high recurrence rate. This vicious cycle of reinjury and tweaks is because the hamstring wasnโ€™t appropriately managed the 1st time around. Itโ€™s time to change the narrative and be proactive with taking care of your hamstrings! This program will expose your hamstrings in a safe and effective manner to prepare you for high-level activities! Learn more by clicking HERE.


2) No Weight to Barbell to Dumbells

With my clients, I always like to start off learning the movement with no weight. Once you are ready to add weight, start off with a barbell. Itโ€™s much easier to maintain your balance with a single external load (barbell) than two separate external loads (dumbbells). Only after you can maintain your balance consistently with a barbell should you progress to using individual dumbbells. Check out this post on the differences between the dumbell vs barbell deadlift.


3) Use a Mirror

In addition to tempered progressions, there are a host of small tricks you can use to help maintain your balance when performing the single leg Romanian dead lift. First off, use a mirror! Using a mirror gives you visual feedback to adjust your body positioning, which will help your balance.


4) Keep Your Hips Level

Keep your hips and pelvis level on a horizontal plane. Itโ€™s extremely common to turn out the hips during this movement, which can be a sign of intrinsic hip external rotator weakness. This ultimately tilts your pelvis and center of balance, actually making the movement harder than it needs to be. A quick fix to this is to ensure that you keep your back foot pointed down. This will help maintain a neutral hip and pelvis alignment. Try the drill below to work on keeping your hips level!

Foam Roll Assisted RDL



Lastayo, Paul C., John M. Woolf, Michael D. Lewek, Lynn Snyder-Mackler, Trude Reich, and Stan L. Lindstedt. “Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Their Contribution to Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Sport.” J Orthop Sports Phys Ther Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 33.10 (2003): 557-71.

  • Jason Berner
    Posted at 06:50h, 09 August Reply


    When performing the single leg Romanian deadlift is the foot of the moving leg in a dorsi or plantar flexed in the down position? From what I got from this article the ankle is best in the plantar flexed position for better balance and to strengthen the muscles of the feet.

    Thank you!

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 08:12h, 09 August Reply

      Hey jason, the top foot position doesn’t influence the exercise because your stance is on the opposite foot. So choose whatever position is you prefer!

  • tk
    Posted at 21:48h, 27 December Reply


    I’ve been doing single-leg RDLs, squats and reverse lunges with weights, but also standing cable hip extensions and flexions to focus on my hips. Do the cable exercises duplicate the first three exercises so much that I’b be better off deleting them form my workout…and concentrating more on the free weight ones?



    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 21:03h, 06 January Reply

      We are big fans of free weigths if you are able to and you have the requisite control. So save time and just do the free weights! Cheers!

  • Anthony Allison
    Posted at 05:07h, 01 February Reply

    The single-leg romanian deadlift is a complex drilling that functions as a stabilizer and strengthens the cross-body connection. This physical training has more than just muscular benefits. One-legged romanian deadlift is also referred as posterior. It normally tears the muscle groups present on the back of the hips and legs. Thus, performing the 1-legged RDL on a regular basis improves your body balance, ameliorates your strength imbalances, improves mobility and range of motion, and increases the stability of your hip, knee, and ankle. Taking every aspect into consideration, I feel that this exertion is a worthy incorporation to your workout assortment.

  • onesie for adults
    Posted at 04:10h, 08 August Reply

    After I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 08:27h, 08 August Reply

      Hello! Hmmm, I do not think we have run into this issue before. On the emails that you are getting, is there an unsubscribe button? Can you please forward us a copy of the email to theprehabguys@gmail.com? Thanks

  • Forrest
    Posted at 18:38h, 09 November Reply

    I asked my PT what I can be doing to get ready for Nordic ski season, and she told me to do these. She has me doing them with an empty cup, no weight but it forces me to go all the way down. I spend 15 to 20 minutes doing this. Very challenging!

    Cross country skiing involves hills, which means speed. You turn by unweighting one leg – again sometimes at high speed. There’s a similarity in how these feel. And improving balance is always a good thing.

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 16:37h, 13 April Reply

      100%% Single leg RDLs are one of my favorite exercises for the reasons describe in this article. hope you killed it this and last season on the slopes!

  • Thirunavukkarasu
    Posted at 06:56h, 19 July Reply

    Should we always start with barbells?
    This article is a great read and contains useful information for me.

Post A Comment