Jul 12, 2018
Transfer to the Field

As a coach, you probably want your athletes’ work in the weight room to transfer onto the field of play. Instead of adding exercises for the sake of exercise, consider adding the single-leg kettlebell Romanian deadlift (RDL) to your program. Not only does this movement build your athletes’ balance, but it also strengthens hip extension. And in an article for his blog, John M. Cissik, MS, CSCS, explains that hip extension is important for many sports skills.

“First, hip extension trains the hamstrings/glutes/lower back in a way that is similar to how they are used in sports,” he writes. “In sports, we rarely get to lay on our stomach, flex our knee, and bring our heels to our hips. Normally we are driving our foot towards the ground with a pretty rigid leg.”

And that’s not all. The single-leg RDL is also a unilateral exercise. According to an article from Stack.com by Performance Director Andy Haley, this aspect can help get rid of strength imbalances on either side of the body while also improving lower-body stability. Cissik echoes this sentiment, while also explaining that the unilateral nature of this exercise trains the ability to lever off one side of the body — a quality that is used in many sport-specific movements.

While this exercise can be very useful for any athlete, it is often done incorrectly, which can decrease the amount of benefits gained and can even lead to injury. To help with this, here are the steps to carrying out the single-leg RDL laid out by Cissik:

  1. Stand up with a kettlebell in your right hand.
  2. Pull your shoulders back and elevate your chest.
  3. Push your hips back and lower your upper body (and the kettlebell) towards the floor.
  4. As you do this, your straight left leg will come up behind your body serving as a counter-balance to your upper body.
  5. Reverse directions and perform the desired number of repetitions before changing legs.

When adding this exercise to your program, Cissik recommends 8-12 repetitions per set. However, he also admits that implementing the single-leg RDL in a group setting can be hard as it requires supervision, space, and enough kettlebells for each athlete. To remedy this, he suggests having athletes engage in this exercise during warm ups or even group conditioning.

“In either situation it can be a station,” writes Cissik. “In either situation the exercise can be done for time, as opposed to repetitions. By doing it for time, this also means that the amount of weight the athlete handles will be reduced. For example, performing sets of 30-60 seconds as opposed to 8-12 repetitions.”

To make even more certain your athletes are doing the movement correctly, Haley offers a five step process to perfecting the single-leg RDL technique. First, have your athletes perfect the hip hinge. Then, have them move into double-leg dumbbell RDLs, focusing on keeping the dumbbells close to their legs throughout the repetition. Third, have them perform the single-leg RDL while holding onto something and then progress them into performing a single-leg RDL without any weight. Once they are able to do this, your athletes should be ready to move on to the full exercise.

“Now it’s time to load up,” writes Haley. “Gradually add weight, and increase the load only if you can perform reps with perfect technique.”

To learn more about the single-led RDL, and to see it in action, check out this video from Bret Contreras, CSCS.

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