Your lower body power doesn’t just come from your quads and glutes. There are other muscles in your legs that you should pay attention to as well if you want to perform like a superhero in the gym—namely, your hamstrings.
When trainer Don Saladino designs programs that make his clients like Ryan Reynolds and Sebastian Stan look like the superheroes they portray on the big screen, he makes sure to include exercises that address all of the muscles, not just a few of the big movers. That means drilling down to focus on the hamstrings—and one hamstring at a time, even—with moves like the single-leg Romanian deadlift (RDL).
To perform the single-leg RDL, you’ll need a medium-sized dumbbell (you’re only holding one at a time, so no need to grab a pair). The weight should be big enough to give you a challenge, but not so heavy that it makes you tip over.
- Stand holding the dumbbell in your right hand, with your feet slightly staggered so that the left leg (opposite the weight) is forward.
- Your arm holding the weight should be straight, with your elbow locked. Start with a slight bend at the knee in your left leg, which you’ll keep throughout the movement.
- Hinge at the hips and lower your torso straight down, raising your right leg (on the side of the dumbbell) behind you while lowering the weight to about ankle height on your left leg. Extend your left arm out as needed for balance.
- Keeping your spine straight, squeeze your left leg to raise your torso back up to the starting position. The arm holding the dumbbell should stay in the same plane of motion, as if it were on a track.
The biggest key for the single-leg RDL is maintaining your posture. Do this by squeezing your core and moving deliberately—no need to speed through these reps.
Once you’ve gotten a hang of the standard dumbbell version, you can put a slightly different spin on the single-leg RDL by using a dumbbell.
Add the single-leg RDL to your leg days with 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.
By Brett Williams