Tip: Dumbbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Add this RDL variation to your leg day... especially if you have cranky knees.

RDLs shouldn't result in knee discomfort and are among the best tools for strong hamstrings that stabilize knees. Strong mobile hips, hamstrings, and glutes moving in a proficient hinge pattern alleviate many issues lifters have with poor loading patterns that result in knee and low back issues.

But avoid the locked-knee straight leg deadlift to eliminate the risk of hyper-extending knees under load. Straight knees also tend to lead to a rounded lower back.

Bilateral RDLs work, but I've chosen the single-leg version here because they provide more training stimulus in more planes with less overall system stress. These are often taught with offset load (a dumbbell in only one hand vs. both), but for ease of learning through better balance, we'll use a symmetrical load.

A barbell or pair of dumbbells or kettlebells will work, but the barbell is harder to balance and learn.

Instead of focusing on pivoting forward, control your back leg as you slowly elevate it. Imagine lifting your back foot and tipping yourself like a jug of water. Pivot the hips back and torso forward to your fullest available hip range of motion.

Feel the stretch through the hamstring and up into the glute. (These take practice to maintain balance.) Maintain a slight knee bend, neutral spine, and straight feet. Perform all reps on one leg and then switch.

Andrew Coates is a trainer who is focused on strength development for everyday people and young athletes. He’s a fitness writer, speaker, and host of The Lift Free and Diet Hard Podcast.

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