The Bodyweight Single-Leg RDL is a lower-body exercise that is a great movement to warm up and stretch the hamstrings. It will warm up the calves, glutes and low back. As an added bonus, SL RDLs also will help develop balance and proprioception.
All of these benefits packed into one exercise are why they are one of my favorite movements to include in a warm-up. This is especially true if I’m limited on space.
In this article, I am going to explain how to properly execute Bodyweight Single Leg RDLs including some coaching points, muscles worked, and finally a few alternatives.
How To Do Bodyweight Single-Leg RDLs
- Standing nice and tall, squeeze the shoulder blades back and create tension in the abdomen.
- Keeping a neutral spine, fixing the eyes forward (DO NOT CRANE THE NECK BACK).
- Keep hands beside the ears or together directly in front of the sternum.
- Initiate the movement by lifting one foot off the ground, bending the off-leg knee slightly, pushing the hips back, hinging at the waist, and keeping a slight bend in the knee.
- Create and maintain tension in the arch of the foot and imagine squeezing the floor with your toes. This will help maintain balance and engage the small musculature of the foot and shin.
- The eccentric movement will continue until the torso is roughly parallel to the ground*.
- Once you’ve reached the bottom position, start to extend the hips, keeping tension in the abdomen and keeping the upper back nice and tight, straightening the knees until you return to standing in the starting position.
- Squeeze the glutes in the last 1/4 upward movement to maintain engagement and help with balance.
*How much range of motion you achieve with this exercise will be entirely dependent upon your hamstring flexibility. You should strive to get your torso parallel to the ground while maintaining only a very slight knee bend, but if you can’t get that low – do not force it. Go until you get a good stretch through the hamstring and then stand back tall.
Most athletes will tend to want to rotate and open slightly at the hips to help them maintain balance. Fight against this tendency. Try to keep the hips and shoulders as square as possible throughout the movement.
Maintain the arch of the foot. When performing single-leg movements, it is very important to maintain balance to yield all the benefits of single-leg exercises.
It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back.
Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering the weight) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing the weight back up).
- Glute Muscles
- Lower Back
Bodyweight Single-Leg RDL Alternatives
Looking for something a little different to mix up your warm-up routine? Here are a few alternatives you can try out.
Bodyweight Good Mornings
If you’re really struggling with your balance you have two options.
1) Stand close to an object, like a wall or squat rack, that you can reach out and use for support to help you stay balanced.
2) Keep both feet on the ground and switch to Bodyweight Good Mornings. This way you can get your hamstrings warmed up and keep your workout moving along. (Although I would highly suggest circling back and working on that balance at some point!)
Anti-Rotational Single Leg RDLs
If you’re looking to take to up the challenge on your Single Leg RDLs then I would suggest adding in a band and trying some Anti-Rotational RDLs.
Wrap the band around a stable object like a squat rack. Pull tension on the band and keep hands at the sternum. Now perform Single Leg RDLs just as you did before but now the glutes and core will have to work extra hard to keep the body from rotating.
Supine Straight Leg High Kick
If you just want something super simple to warm up your hamstrings then you can always switch to Supine Straight Leg High Kicks.
Simply lay on your back and lift your leg as high as you can each rep. Simple, easy and effective.
More Links and Info
Looking for more great Warm Up Exercises? Head over to the exercise library where there is a great collection of exercises with step-by-step instructions. All for free.