Deadlifts, the word that brings awe, fear and a little bit of excitement when you hear it.  They can be an integral part of any workout routine, but if done incorrectly, can be damaging to your health.

There are many deadlift variations, including the sumo, single-leg, conventional and Russian. The deadlift is one of the only exercises that can work all muscle groups including your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, calves, quads, upper back and arms, hips, glutes, and hamstrings, depending on variation, which is why it is a huge benefit to add them into your workout routine.  

The single leg deadlift (SLDL) is a basic hinge movement and can be done with, or without weights.  Now, just because the move in itself is basic and easy to understand, does not mean that it is easy to perform without falling flat on your face.   The benefits of a single leg deadlift outweigh the frustration and occasional knock to the old ego when you face plant the floor, by working on foot, hip and torso stability as well as core, hamstrings and glutes. 

How to SLDL - Stand with both feet under hips. Move your weight over to your right leg which should be nice and straight with a slight bend at the knee. Move left foot back (like you are trying to kick a wall behind you) keeping your leg straight whilst slowly hinging at the waist, tipping your torso forward until it is nearly parallel to the floor. Keep your arms straight, at shoulder height, and at a 90 degree angle to the floor.  When you are at the bottom position, your arms, head and left leg should be in a straight line.   To get up, pull your left leg forward while keeping it straight, and lift your torso up until you’re standing again. That is one rep done!  You should aim for 6-10 reps on each side, and around 3 sets of each.  You can add in weight once you have mastered the movement. 

No deadlifts are easy.  Each variation uses different muscles and movements, so if you have limited hip mobility, you may find sumo deadlifts the hardest.  Dumbbell deadlifts can be harder for those with less coordination whereas stiff leg deadlifts will be harder for those with less range in their hamstrings. 

The best deadlift for a beginner is a basic one.  You should master the basic hip hinge first before adding in weight.  

The Hip Hinge: -

  • Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. 
  • Place the dowel/broomstick vertically on your back. Grasp one end with your right hand in the natural curve of your neck and the other end with your left hand in the small of your back. Make sure the dowel is touching the back of your head, your upper back, and the area where your low back meets your glutes.
  • Move your weight to your heels and push your hips back towards the wall behind you while you hinge forward at the hips. As you hinge, the dowel should not lose contact with those three points. If it does, start again until you get it right. 
  • Lower your torso until it’s midway between vertical and parallel to the floor. Pause. Keep a slight bend in your knees during the downward and upward phase. 
  • Reverse the movement by contracting your glutes and pushing your hips forward and upward to return to the starting position. 

Once you have mastered the hip hinge, you can add in some weight and try your deadlift action.

  • Your feet should be spaced hip-width apart with your grip just outside your legs.
  • Use an overhand grip.
  • Your back should be flat—neutral spine—from start to finish.
  • Your shoulders should be back and down.
  • Your hips and knees should move together to transfer the bar from the ground to an upper-thigh, locked position.