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What's The Point Of The Single Leg Deadlift

May 19, 2021

“What’s the point of this exercise?” is something that might’ve crossed your mind at one point or another during a workout. That’s normal since many exercises feel unnatural or even uncomfortable. 

Perhaps the least comfortable is the single-leg deadlift. For this exercise, you stand with a kettlebell or dumbbell in one or both hands and lift one leg straight back while leaning forward with your torso.

You’ll quickly learn that the single-leg deadlift requires balance. Standing on one leg and moving with control is challenging enough. Adding weight takes the exercise to a whole ‘nother level. As you fight to focus and maintain balance, it’s easy to forget that you’re actually strengthening something.

The name partially describes the exercise - single-leg deadlift. It may not look like a deadlift, but there are key similarities. The first is that your knee doesn’t bend very much, most of the action comes from the hip joint. Regular deadlifts emphasize the hips over the knees.

When you use your hips to lift the weight, the muscles used are primarily the hamstrings and glutes. In the single-leg deadlift, the hamstring does most of the work. Your hamstrings come out of the sit bones in your butt and go all the way down to your knees. That’s a long muscle!

It can be hard to feel the hamstrings working. Most people don’t feel a burning sensation like they do in other exercises. Instead, you might feel a stretch. However, if you wake up and your hamstrings are sore for some reason, it’s probably from single-leg deadlifts!

Keep in mind that it’s a tough exercise. Give yourself time to learn the movement and slowly increase the weight you use. As your balance and coordination improve, you’ll be able to use more weight and feel the exercise.

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