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Exercise Spotlight: Single Leg Deadlift

single-leg-deadlift-laurenbrooks-450x338The single leg deadlift should be in every strong girl’s training arsenal (and in every strong male’s for that matter).

This exercise—often referred to as the non-surgical butt lift—is unique in that it allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of learning how to stabilize on one leg, while training each side of your body without favoring or over-compensating.

Although I’m a huge fan of the traditional deadlift, the benefits and versatility of the single leg deadlift outweigh those of the traditional deadlift, in my opinion.

The single leg deadlift teaches you an impressive array of skills.

Right from the start you learn how to root your bare foot to the ground and hinge in a pattern that fires up the entire posterior chain.  Might I add that this exercise creates a phenomenal and strong rear end. As an added bonus, many of my students have reported to me that they’ve noticed a smoother, tighter appearance since incorporating this exercise into their training.

I recommend learning this entire movement before picking up the kettlebell.  Once you’ve mastered the movement, you can use one kettlebell or two kettlebells to increase the difficulty of the exercise.

Single-Leg Deadlift

  1. Root your foot by gently stomping your foot on to the ground. In order to complete a successful rep you must have all 5 toes on your stabilizing leg and your heel firmly planted on to the floor.
  2. Slowly hinge your hips back while also hinging your knee until you have a very flat back.  (No rounding of the back is permitted!)
    The moving leg should be straight out behind you, with minimal knee bend to keep your spine aligned properly.  Remember that the torso and the back leg have a seesaw relationship so the higher your back leg goes, the lower your chest goes, being careful to never let your chest drop lower than your hips.
  3. As you hinge back and sit deep in to the single deadlift position, feel for the bell that is placed right outside your stabilizing foot.  Note: Do not look down at the bell. Your vision should be straight ahead or on the floor about four to six feet in front.
  4. Firmly grip the handle of the kettlebell, make sure your shoulder is pulled back so your lat engages properly during the entire movement.
  5. Hinge your hip forward while bringing the bell with you. Lock out your stabilizing leg and squeeze your glute.

single-leg-deadlift-side-view-laurenbrooks-450x338Now that you know how to perform a Single Leg Deadlift, here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate this amazing glute strengthening exercise in your workout, plus two sample full-body workouts you can try today!

  • Place this exercise at the beginning of your training session. This is considered a “grind” lift, therefore you want to feel very fresh when attempting this exercise, especially if you’re a beginner. You’re more likely to get injured if you perform this exercise when you’re already fatigued.
  • Beginners should focus just on the movement pattern alone, with a very light weight or no weight at all. Reps can range from six to 10 per side when learning the pattern.
  • Intermediate and Advanced trainees can use much heavier weight, whether it be with one or two kettlebells.  The suggested rep range for moderate to heavy (weighted) Single Leg Deadlifts is four to six reps per side.

Full-Body Beginner Workout

A1. Elevated/Incline Push-up x 6-10 reps
A2. Single Leg Deadlift x 6-10 reps per side

Perform both exercises back to back with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between.
Repeat two to three times

B1. Inverted Row x 8-10 reps
B2. Goblet Squats x 8-10 reps
B3. Weighted Glute Bridge x 8- 10 reps

Perform both exercises back to back with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between.
Repeat two to three times

Full-Body Intermediate/Advanced Workout

A1. Push-ups x 5 reps
A2. Single Leg Deadlift 5 reps per side

Perform both exercises back to back with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between.
Repeat three to four times.

B1. One Arm Rows x 6 reps per side
B2. Goblet Squats x 6 reps
B3.  Heavy Swings x 10 reps

Perform both exercises back to back with 30 to 60 seconds rest in between.
Repeat three to four times.

Learning safe, proper technique is one surefire way to ensure you get the most out of your training program and stay injury-free. If you’re looking for a little more guidance with your workouts and exercise technique, we can help!


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About The Author: Lauren Brooks

Lauren Brooks, Senior SFG, is the owner of On The Edge Fitness in Encinitas, California. Teaching a variety of men and women, especially mothers, how to be strong, empowered, and ready for life is what she does. Lauren is the creator of The Kettlebell Body DVD, along with the popular series Ultimate Body Sculpt and Conditioning with Kettlebells. Mother of two little girls, Lauren continues to lead by example. You can find out more about Lauren by visiting her website or her blog, which includes recipes, workouts, and continued inspiration.