The Single Leg Deadlift: A Stronger Way To Build Muscle?
You are probably wondering why do I write this article if it’s not related to the gym or your training goals. Well, let me tell you why.
I have been lifting weights since I was a kid (well actually my dad started doing them when I was born). My first attempts at weightlifting were pretty pathetic. I could barely even complete one rep with barbells. But then something happened…something magical! Something amazing!
I got stronger and stronger until finally, years later, I had become strong enough to lift a huge dumbell over my head without breaking my neck. That’s right; I am now able to squat 500 pounds, bench press 350 pounds and deadlift 300 pounds! Now that’s what we call progress!
Nowadays, I train quite often and have accumulated a lot of experience. And yes, I do believe that I am getting better and better at everything. However, there is one thing that keeps nagging away at me: strength. Strength in general means power and it is the most important factor in any physical activity. You need to be able to move heavy objects around without breaking anything or even causing damage to yourself.
Naturally, it is better to have someone help you with such heavy objects. However, there are times when nobody is around to lend you a helping hand (pardon the pun). This is where your own strength comes into play and this is why strength training is so important. On the other hand, heavy lifting can cause a lot of strain on your body, which is why you should always lift correctly and in a manner that limits the risk of injury.
One of the most common types of strength training is lifting weights. Now, I know what you’re thinking: big bulky guys that look more like the Hulk than human beings. Well, let me tell you, that is not what strength is all about. The secret to gaining maximum strength does not lie in looking like a bodybuilder but in using proper form when lifting.
If you are a beginner, your main goal should be learning how to perform each exercise properly. Once you master the form then you can increase the amount of weight that you are lifting. However, if you try to rush the process by increasing the weight before you master the proper form then you are just asking for an injury.
As your strength increases, so does the risk of injury so it’s important to always listen to your body. If it’s telling you that something doesn’t feel quite right then you need to back off and not push through the pain. There’s no prize for winning the pain game other than an early trip to the hospital and a month of not training at all.
You should also be aware of how each exercise is supposed to feel. There is a difference between uncomfortable pressure and outright pain. If an exercise causes a little bit of discomfort then you can probably continue with the set. On the other hand, if it starts to hurt pretty badly then you need to stop immediately.
With all that being said, I’m not your dad or personal trainer so you are free to listen to my advice or do whatever you want with it. The choice is ultimately yours.
Now, let’s move on to some strength training exercises!
Squats: This is one of the main staples of any strength training program and for good reason. It works your entire body from head to toe including your core. The first step is to stand with your feet shoulder width apart and point your toes out at a slight angle. Next, bend down and grab a barbell with an overhand grip and let the bar rest on the backs of your shoulders. Make sure your knees are pointed straight ahead rather than having them track outwards.
From this position, slowly stand back up. You should find that the motion causes your heels to rise off the ground at the top of the motion. This is perfectly normal and something you want to see happen. Make sure you keep your back straight and do not allow it to bend forward or twist. Lastly, do not rock back and forth before starting the actual lift.
This is called “jumping” and it can lead to injury.
Deadlifts: This is very similar to the squat in that it works many of the same muscle groups. The only major difference is that this exercise focuses on your hamstrings and glutes more than the other one does. The proper starting position is to stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and turn them out the same way as you did with the squat. Next, bend over and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Let the bar sit in the middle of your feet.
From here, slowly stand up while keeping your head forward, your back straight, and your knees bent in the entire time. As with the squat, you should find that the motion causes your heels to rise off the ground when you are at the top. For stronger hamstrings, try bending even further forward so that your head is closer to the ground. This puts more emphasis on the muscles used and will cause them to get bigger and stronger as a result.
Deadlifting has some of the same risks as the squat so you need to listen to your body as you perform this lift.
Barbell Rows: If you want to focus on your upper body muscles then this is the lift for you. There are two types of rowing motions. The first one that we will examine is the traditional barbell row where you hold a barbell and pull it towards your stomach. To begin, stand with your knees slightly bent and your back straight. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and raise it up until it rests against your lower chest.
With the bar in place, pull it towards your stomach while keeping your head straight, your back straight, and your knees bent. Make sure to only move your upper body. As you row the bar up you should feel tension on your upper back and arms. Extend your arms and shoulders completely at the top of the motion and repeat. Do not twist or bend your back as you row or the tension will not be focused where you want it.
The second type of rowing motion is one that uses dumbbells and focuses more on your arms. To do this, simply grab two light dumbbells and raise them up until they are at the sides of your chest. From here, row the dumbbell towards your stomach by bending only your arm and keeping your back completely straight. Extend your arm and shoulder completely when you reach the top of the motion and repeat. Again, do not twist or bend your back as you row or the tension will not be focused where you want it.
Dips: For our final free weight exercise we have dips. Dips are one of the best exercises you can do to build up your chest, triceps, and shoulders. There are two major types of dips; those that use parallel bars and those that do not. For this article we will focus on the parallel bar dips.
Begin by placing your hands on two bars that are positioned at waist height and are far enough apart from each other that you can grab them with an overhand grip. Having two people help you at this point would be very beneficial. They can make sure the bars do not slip out of your hands as you dip and to help you get back up once you are done. If you do not have someone to help you then wedge a sturdy piece of wood in between the two bars to prevent them from slipping out of your hands.
Once you are set, bend your knees and lean forward until most of your weight is supported by your arms. Make sure to keep your back straight. If you begin to lose balance, quickly straighten up and re-adjust. Slowly dip downward until your upper arms is parallel with your shoulders. Extend your arms and shoulders completely when you reach the bottom of the motion and repeat.
These are just five exercises out of hundreds that you can do with free weights. If you want to learn more, you can always take a class at your local community college or search online. An important thing to remember is to listen to your body. If an exercise is painful then do not do it anymore! There is no point in hurting yourself in the name of getting bigger muscles.
When it comes to free weights, you are only limited by your imagination. You can get really creative with how you set up your home gym if you want to. Just keep in mind the different types of free weights and the muscles that they focus on and you should do just fine in designing a decent workout routine.
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Sources & references used in this article:
Implementing Landmine Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift into an Athlete’s Training Program by AN Weaver, CM Kerksick – Strength & Conditioning Journal, 2017 – journals.lww.com
Effects of functional stabilization training on pain, function, and lower extremity biomechanics in women with patellofemoral pain: a randomized clinical trial by RDM Baldon, FV Serrão, R Scattone Silva… – Journal of orthopaedic & …, 2014 – jospt.org
Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription by WJ Kraemer, NA Ratamess – Medicine & Science in Sports & …, 2004 – eclass.duth.gr
Clamshells, the lettuce of exercises by E Somers – sisuseattle.com
Barbell hip thrust by RM Eckert, RL Snarr – J Sport Hum Perform, 2014 – researchgate.net
Single-leg squat progressions by JL Secomb, TT Tran, L Lundgren… – Strength & …, 2014 – journals.lww.com
Programming for speed by N Cooper – Prof Strength Cond, 2011 – uksca.org.uk