Tip: The Cure for Pancake Butt

Build your glutes and bring up your hamstrings with this clever exercise variation. Check it out.


Improve your single-leg strength, boost your balance, and (of course) build better glutes and hamstrings. How? With one exercise. This one:

"Tight" Single-Leg Deadlift

How to Do It

  • Set yourself up in front of a power rack or unused piece of gym kit. You want to be able to hold it at around chest height.
  • Hold a dumbbell in the same hand as your forward working leg. Notice the angle of the dumbbell and how the handle and your grip stay tight into your leg the entire time.
  • Take one leg off the floor and, using the support to remain balanced, begin to descend into your single-leg deadlift.
  • Try to shift as much of the weight as possible onto your lead-leg glutes. Really "sit" into them.
  • Focus on pushing your hips back, but at the same time allowing some bend of your supporting knee.
  • Don't use the support to assist with lifting the weight, only to keep you balanced while focusing on hitting your glutes and hammies as hard as you can.
  • As you fatigue you can then begin to use the support to assist you on the lift upwards, while the downwards motion should still be all you. This is optional, but a good way to reach closer to failure when you might be feeling extra masochistic.

Why This Exercise Works

Regular single-leg deadlifts are a great option if you're looking to build strength, stability, and a bulletproof lower body. The trouble is, your lack of balance can get in the way. And, while practicing on one leg without support is important to get better, it's not doing much for your pancake butt or weak hamstrings in the meantime.

Doing single-leg deadlifts with support allows you to improve strength and stability one leg at a time, without getting too wobbly. This can either help you build up to the more unstable stuff over time – if that's a route that fits your goals – or you can just stick with the partial support to build better glutes and hamstrings. Tight single-leg deadlifts meet in the middle, pleasing both the "functional" camp and hardcore meatheads alike.

Keeping the dumbbell in close and on the grounded-leg side (ipsilateral) make these deadlifts back-friendly while emphasizing the glutes and hamstrings of your lead leg even more. Tight single-leg deadlifts are somewhat of a hybrid between a single-leg Romanian deadlift and a skater squat, with the backside-building benefits of both.

Sets and reps depend on your goals and phase of training. Broadly, start with 3 sets of 8-12 on each leg, and don't be afraid to go heavy. Your balance won't be holding you back!

Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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