By Micah Kurtz
Micah Kurtz, MS, CSCS, RSCC*D, USAW, FMS, NASE, is in his eighth year as Director of Strength and Conditioning at AC Flora High School in Columbia, S.C., which was won 14 state championships in the past five years, including the 2016 boys’ basketball championship. He also serves as Strength and Conditioning Consultant Coach to nine-time high school basketball national champion Oak Hill Academy, which won the Dick’s High School National Basketball Tournament in 2016. Kurtz is the 2016 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year and is the State Director of its South Carolina Chapter and a member of the Subject Matter Expert Committee. You can follow him on twitter and Instagram @KurtzM3 or visit his website at: www.TheAthleteMaker.com.
In training athletes at AC Flora High School in Columbia, S.C. and Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., one of my go-to exercises is the single-leg Romanian deadlift. This exercise targets the hamstrings and glutes, and because it is a single leg movement, it also trains balance and can help eliminate any asymmetries in the body from right leg to left leg. Additionally, when athletes perform the exercise with one dumbbell, it trains the core in anti-rotation.
Many athletes have weak hamstrings and weak glutes. The demands of sports like basketball, soccer, and volleyball place a high emphasis on jumping, quick burst running, and abrupt stopping—and all these movements are very quad dominant. It is vital, especially for these athletes, to target both the hamstrings and glutes when strength training to balance out that strength imbalance. One of the reasons I want my athletes to have strong hamstrings and glutes is because these muscles play a major role in protecting the ACL when landing from a jump and planting and cutting.
The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is a staple in my programs because it trains the posterior chain, a group of muscles on the backside of the body. All athletes should train both the muscles in their backside and frontside.
The single-leg RDL does this—and more, because the hip hinge occurs while standing on one leg. This movement is much more difficult to perform. It is great for athletes as they are on one leg a lot of the time in their sport.
As a first step, athletes should be taught the double legged RDL. They can then progress to the single leg RDL. The cues for the Romanian Deadlift are as follows:
1. The feet should be about hip width apart.
2. The knees should be slightly flexed.
3. As you descend, your back should stay flat and the shoulders should be pulled back.
4. The hips should hinge and be pushed back as you go down while the knees stay slightly flexed.
5. The barbell should stay close to the body during the entire movement and should be lowered to just below the knee.
6. As you bring the bar back to starting position, focus on squeezing the glutes.
The cues for the single-leg RDL are similar to the above, with these two additions:
1. The rear leg should stay in line with the torso for the entire movement. Lock in the rear leg by squeezing and extending the glute.
2. Hinge at the hips and feel a stretch in the hamstrings of the leg that you are standing on.
When doing the single-leg RDL for the first time, the athlete should first practice the movement with no weight. When adding weight, I like to use a contra-lateral load. That means the weight is in the opposite hand so the exercise is also working the anti-rotation of the core.
Below is a video that shows the movement in more detail.