Single-Leg RDL

Dose

Perform 2 sets of 8 repetitions on each side per day, using bodyweight, until symptoms resolve. Continue using this exercise twice a week after symptoms have resolved to maintain hip strength and mobility. Place dumbbells in the hands for extra resistance once you are comfortable doing the exercise with bodyweight. Check out the FAQ titled: ‘How much resistance should I use when exercising?’ for more information on appropriate weights.

Purpose

Many hip, knee, and lower leg symptoms can be associated with poor control of the hip musculature. This exercise challenges the hip, back, and leg muscles while improving balance.

Method

Stand on one leg, with the knee bent just enough so that it is not locked. Make sure the back is straight and the hips are both facing directly forward, rather than opening away from the stance leg. Push the hips back and bow forward until you feel a stretch down the back of the leg you are standing on. Make sure the hips both face the ground as you pause at the bottom before pushing the heel into the ground to reverse the motion, hinging the hips until you are standing up straight. You should feel this exercise stretching down the back of the leg and activating the muscles in the outside of the hip.

Common Mistakes

• Bending at the lower back instead of the hips. This is very easy to do when you are not accustomed to hinging at the hips. It will result in the back being rounded, and you will not feel as much engagement in the back of the leg or the hip. To avoid this, imagine your hips form a bowl facing upwards (place your hands around your hips and imagine holding a bowl) and your ribcage is a bowl that is upside down (place your hands around your ribs and imagine holding an upside-down bowl). To ensure you hinge at the hips and not the lower back, imagine keeping those bowls stacked on top of one another throughout the entire movement. To hinge from the hips with the bowls aligned (so that the back is neither excessively arched nor rounded), imagine there is a rope tied around your hips just below the bony part on the front of each hip. When hinging, imagine the rope is pulling your hips straight back towards the wall behind you, causing you to jackknife at the hips while the back stays straight. You will feel a stretch in the hamstring as you hinge forward. If you are having trouble with this, try the Standing Pelvic Tilt exercise available in this database for more practice moving the lumbopelvic region and keeping the ‘bowls’ aligned.

• Extending the neck in the bottom position. The head and neck should stay neutral with the rest of the spine throughout the exercise. Try not to look up as you hinge towards the ground. Instead, your eyes should follow the arc of your body, looking straight ahead in the upright position and then directly at the ground in the bottom position.

• Performing the exercise with crooked hips. To recruit the muscles in the hip, try to keep both hips level with each other during the entire exercise. It is very common to have the stance hip lower than the non-stance hip in the bottom position, so try to mitigate this by imagining there is a glass of water sitting on your lower back, and you are trying not to spill it by tipping to the left or right.

• Bending the stance knee excessively. The knee should stay bent just enough so that it is not locked. Most of the motion occurring during the exercise should occur at the hip, and the weight should stay in the heel of the stance leg.

• Using the lower back to raise from the bottom position. When the muscles in the back of the thigh and hip are under-active, it is common for the body to recruit the muscles that arch the lower back to lift the trunk back into the standing position. This will cause the back to arch at the bottom position and will reduce the effect of the exercise. To avoid this, try performing the Drawing In exercise available in this prescription when you are in the bottom position to prevent the back from arching. Try to avoid thinking about lifting the body back up into the upright position and instead focus on pushing the heel into the ground and pushing the hips forward into their straightened position.