The Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift (or “1LDL”) is one of the best ways to build unilateral leg strength, coordination and tone – especially in the glutes.
In Phase 1 of the Visual Impact Kettlebell Course, I use the 1LDL as way to prep the glutes for more intense hinge work with the EMOM Swings and Cleans & Snatches later in the program.
Making sure that your glutes are firing is key to having a strong & powerful kettlebell swing which will carryover to other sport and life activities that involve “triple extension”.
Triple extension is the simultaneous extension of your hips, knees and ankles. We use it in exercise because it’s vitally important in gait. It’s especially important to athletes since triple extension maximizes lower body force production in sprinting and jumping.
But because the Single Leg Deadlift is performed with the free leg in the air, balance can sometimes become an issue.
And in the past, this has been a deterrent to do the exercise altogether… BIG MISTAKE.
To overcome balance issues with the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift, here are a few tips…
Go barefoot or wear minimalist shoes.
Wearing big, cushy running shoes will not allow you to “feel” the ground and since you have hundreds of sensory receptors on the bottom of your feet, you’re more likely to lose balance. If you do use shoes, try to use “minimalist” shoes with very little cushioning (I like old school Converse All Stars… aka “Chucks”) and/or a wide toe box (so that your toes can spread and you have more surface area contact on the ground).
Focus your eyes on a single spot slightly in front of you.
Because a majority of your ability to balance your body in space comes from your vision, it’s always best to make sure you are concentrating/focusing on one spot slightly in front of you. When your eyes wander, your body has to adjust ever so slightly which can cause you to lose your balance. When I am coaching the Single Leg Deadlift, I always ask my athletes to focus on a spot about 10-feet in front of them. This will naturally put your head into slight extension and will allow you to focus on the same spot with a favourable head position both when you go down into the hinge and when you’re standing.
Create tension in your body… especially in the non-working leg.
Creating tension in your shoulders (pull them down and back), your abs and your non-working leg (the leg that is off the ground) is key to maintaining balance. If you can turn your entire body into a “plank of wood”, then balancing on one leg will be easier because there are less moving parts.
Sometimes though – maybe because of orthropedic issues, vertigo or even excess bodyweight – someone can’t do the 1LDL proper.
So there are 2 primary variations that I recommend – the “Sliding 1-Leg Deadlift” and the “Kickstand Deadlift”.
Check out the video below to learn how to do these “easier” variations of the Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift…