Build Lower Body Balance And Strength With One Exercise

The magic of the SLDL

Photo by Mateo on Unsplash

In my opinion, the single-leg deadlift, or SLDL, is a must-have exercise for anyone thinking about or currently engaged in a resistance training program. It’s a great way to learn about the hip hinge movement, as I have written about before here. It’s one of the first exercises I do with any new client to assess their balance and leg strength. It promotes better balance, strengthens the gluteus and hamstring muscles, and is easily scalable, depending on the fitness level of whoever is performing it. Watch the brief video below to see the progression from easy to hard.

Let’s review the easiest version first. As you can see, the shorter the distance you have to hinge forward, the easier the movement is. Also, the higher up the object you’re reaching for is will make it easier as well. A good height to start at would be something roughly at the level of your knee.

The next progression is to move the object you’re reaching toward either farther away from you, closer to the ground, or both. This simply increases the range of motion of the exercise and challenges your balance to a greater extent since you’re moving further away from your center of gravity.

Next, instead of reaching out, the focus turns to hinging and reaching towards the floor. This is where things can get tricky. If you don’t regularly work on doing single-leg movements this version can be surprisingly difficult.

Finally, we have the weighted version. Start with a light weight, it won’t take much to make it harder. The combination of your body weight being balanced on your leg and working against the additional resistance will make this a considerable challenge.

Let’s review a few cues to keep in mind to execute the lift properly

* GO SLOW, this can’t be emphasized enough. The slower you work through the range of motion, the easier it will be to balance. Going too fast will make you more unstable and more likely to lose your balance. As you get better you can go faster, but as with any resistance exercise, you want to maintain a steady pace throughout the movement.

* Maintain a slight bend in the knee you’re standing on, and hinge at the hips to initiate the movement.

* When you reach the bottom of the movement, actively squeeze your glutes to pull yourself back up the starting position.

* Add weight to the exercise once you can complete a set without losing your balance

* Don’t get discouraged! This can be a humbling exercise, especially if you’re someone who regularly exercises. If you don’t train your balance regularly this can be sneaky hard. The good news is though that only after doing this a few times you’ll get much better very quickly.

* Try doing it with your shoes off. Shoes block some of the receptors on the bottom of your feet that help you balance, by going barefoot you’ll get more feedback and master the movement quicker.

The SLDL is a great way to increase your lower body balance, strength, and coordination. It can be incorporated into any training protocol from beginner to advanced and is especially helpful to those at increased risk of falls because of the improvements in balance it will cause.

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