Functional lower-body strength is a key part of completing daily activities.
The ability to perform movements off a single leg without struggle or strain is a wise goal for athletes. Single-leg training is more beneficial for improving balance than double-leg training and can also make athletic movements more explosive and efficient.
There are many single-leg exercises that accommodate lower-body strength, improve stability, and reinforce proper knee and ankle alignment. One that many people focus on is the Single-Leg RDL.
The Single-Leg RDL teaches you to stabilize and control your body, which allows for an increased rate of force production. The standard Single-Leg RDL also assists in eliminating imbalances and energy leaks while building proper “trunk” strength via powerful glutes and strong hamstrings.
I program loaded and unloaded Single-Leg RDLs. Yet I find it alarming we do not include more single-leg movements when training. When programmed correctly, such exercises can provide huge benefits to an athlete’s performance. For example, when a basketball player drives to the basket, they must be able to explode off one leg and handle the external forces opposing their jump shot, layup or dunk. For such reasons, I believe we must program more unilateral exercises that teach proper stabilizing techniques through uncontrollable means. That’s why I love the Single-Leg Zercher RDL.
The Single-Leg Zercher RDL allows an athlete and coach to train one’s body alignment to prevent rotation throughout the core “trunk” musculature and posterior chain. Similar to any contact sport, the Single-Leg Zercher RDL demands strength, explosive power and control throughout the movement. Additionally, this single-leg variation encourages hamstring mobility and can expose a huge number of faulty movement patterns.
The Single-Leg Zercher RDL is an advanced variation so make sure you master the basic Single-Leg RDL first. More importantly, please first perform the movement with an unloaded bar to make sure your form is sufficient. If so, you can then introduce a greater load. Here’s how to perform the movement:
Set up a squat rack so the pins are just below your elbows.
Put the barbell in the crease of your elbows.
Keep your elbows tight to your sides.
Squeeze your hands together or have palms facing the ceiling. Here is a trick: You can externally rotate your hands out, which activates the lats even more. Keeping the bar up on your chest will help you during the lift.
Sit your hips back to lift back one knee. The straight/quadruped leg does not have to be straight.
Try to keep your back flat and bend at the waist until the bar is about even with the top of your knee (dependent upon your flexibility)
Drive through your foot while pushing the hips forward to explosively stand up and return to the starting position.
Cues such as keeping the eyes down, keeping the core tight and stiffening the neck can help an athlete perform this exercise correctly.
Sets/Reps: 3×6-8 each side