What is the best exercise of all time? How do you make a claim like that and what does that exercise have to do for the body to fit that mold? For some strength coaches it's the squat, for some the bench press or the clean. I think all of those exercises have their place and there is a spot in my heart for the squat for sure, but that is not it. You need an exercise that works wonders for a wide population of clients and athletes. An exercise that provides a ton of value for those that learn it and do it on a consistent basis.
This exercise is the Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (SLRDL). I use this exercise for my youth athletic development program mostly, but it also has great application for the back pain client, knee pain client, the powerlifter or the general fitness client and here's why.
-The SLRDL is a single leg movement.
There is a big debate in the strength and conditioning community in regard to if single leg strength exercises are worth doing or if just sticking to double leg exercises is sufficient for athletic development. Though it has been shown that bilateral movements allow athletes to produce more force because they have greater stability, it also has to be noted that it is very rare that athletes are producing force standing on both legs on the field of play. Single leg training gives the athlete positional strength and the familiarity with producing force while standing on one leg which is common in athletic events. Even though every time you have less stability in a movement pattern you sacrifice force production, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. You need both single leg (unilateral) and bilateral movements for a well rounded program that produces great results for athletes.
-The SLRDL can challenge frontal plane stability.
With the SLRDL, like many other exercises, you can challenge the frontal plane by changing where you place the load on your body. Your frontal plane invovles your lateral stability muscles, the muscles that keep your body from falling to one side when you are walking around or changing directions, The SLRDL will challenge your frontal plane by forcing you to stabilize your hips and make sure they are balanced. The different positions in which you can hold the load in an SLRDL are shown here.
Many people do not have balance in the frontal plane. This can cause knee pain and back pain. I have found the SLRDL to be a great exercise to combat these issues.
-The SLRDL is a great way to implement movement variability.
Movement variability is important for injury prevention. Most injuries are caused by overuse or contact. Overuse can happen by using the same exercises over and over again. This can be a problem in many sports (especially powerlifting) or general fitness programs. For the most part people will stick with the same exercises or stay in the sagittal plane (ex: running in a straight line, lifting, and flexion or extension of shoulder elbow or knee in front of or behind you) for the most part and this causes some issues if you don’t change your movement patterns regularly enough. One easy way to do this is to add in movements that are on one leg like the SLRDL. As shown above it is really easy to vary this movement just by changing the placement of the load.
The SLRDL is my favorite exercise for these reasons. Give it a try and let me know what you think of it. If you do it right your glutes will be feeling it for days ;)