Workout of the Day: Ipsilateral Curtsy Single Leg Deadlift

Long name, amazing results! This exercise, which I must give credit to Coach Bret Contreras, is an excellent unilateral posterior leg exercise. Developing unilateral hamstring and gluteal strength is important as this reduces pre-existing or prospective strength imbalances between the two legs. A problem with unilateral exercises, particularly deadlifts, with recreational trainers is that exercises like the single leg deadlift can be difficult because of trouble with balance.

The added benefit to the curtsy single leg deadlift is the added stretch to the gluteus medius, which is the glute muscle at the back side of the hip. This added stretch forces the muscles create more cross-bridges within the muscle fibers to complete the repetition, thereby producing a greater amount of work within the muscle and improved muscle hypertrophy. For the non-”sciency geeks”, this translates to better looking glutes.

With the ipsilateral curtsy single leg deadlift, both feet maintain contact with the floor, which makes it easier to maintain balance. If balance issues still arise, holding on to a machine or bench for balance assistance is a helpful option. To set up for this exercise, think of a curtsy, where one leg is in front and the back leg is on the opposite side of it’s natural position (i.e. right leg on left side). Do not reach too far to the opposite side with the back leg, as this could place excessive stress to the lower back and front knee at the bottom of each repetition, so a good tip is to stand facing a wall and keep the hips parallel to the wall when going into the curtsy.

Just as the conventional deadlift, focus on allowing the hips to slide backwards, horizontally. A common mistake with deadlifts is when one allows too much vertical movement of the hips, which eventually turns the exercise into a forward torso leaning squat. Descend the torso until it is close to parallel to the ground while maintaining a straight back. Feel for the stretch in the front leg’s hamstring and glute as you approach the bottom of your repetition, as well as feeling those muscle groups contracting in your ascent.

This exercise can produce great results with heavy weight, moderate repetition (6-8 reps) or light weight, high repetition (15+ reps).

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