PERFORMING A BETTER SINGLE LEG RDL
-New twist on old progressions
-Nailing the SLRDL set up everytime
-Some of the best cues I've seen work for clients
The SLRDL is a great movement for gen pop and athletes alike. The movement can be used to train balance, unilateral hinging strength, unilateral anti-rotation of the core (in all the variations shown), and just over total body kinesthetic awareness.
However, this blog post was spurred from recently seeing a lot of sub par SLRDL being performed (to no fault of the athletes). As coaches- we need to take our time and properly progress/regress movements to suit our client's or athlete's movement needs. Otherwise- we are wasting their time when it could be spent with a more efficient movement.
Before we break it down- let's see what the goal is and how the movement should look...
Some clients and athletes will be able to get to the SLRDL pretty quickly and may not need a lot of help getting there. But for those that do, what are the steps to get there?
MY FAVORITE PROGRESSIONS:
1. 1.5 Stance/ Floorslide RDL
I use these two interchangeably as the progression for people first learning the movement.
Both are hinging movements with a 2 foot base, but now we are shrinking that base or starting to make it more dynamic, mimicking the full single leg version.
The 1.5 Stance I first saw during my time at Equinox, and I believe the trainer had gotten it from Jason C. Brown. Essentially, all you do is use the back foot as a kickstand to allow you maintain your balance, with more of the work being exerted by the front leg. Check out the set up below.
A big piece here to watch out for is that back foot opening up or twisting (a common compensation I'll talk about in the cueing section). This is the PERFECT time to let the client know that back foot/hip has to stay facing forward and locked in. This is usually what I refer my clients back to when form starts breaking down in the full version.
Once the client shows mastery with a wider base- simply narrow the stance.
Now, to make it more dynamic I may use the Floorslide RDL instead.
I'm utilizing the same principles in this movement as the 1.5 stance- still a 2 foot progression for balance purposes, still locking that moving leg in so it doesn't twist out, still working the hinge pattern (albeit a shorter ROM). However, because of the dynamic nature of the movement I am starting to give them more movement competency working towards that full SLRDL.
One thing to note is that the client may want to shift the weight on the back foot. Obviously this isn't what we want if we want them performing a beautiful SLRDL. A cue that may be useful here is "the floorslide is a piece of glass, don't crush it" or something to that effect.
2. Rear Foot Elevated SLRDL (RFE SLRDL)
Think of this as the next progression of the Floorslide variation. The benefit to elevating the back leg is an increased ROM and now we can start really creating length in the moving limb.
For the set up you can select various box heights depending at how proficient the client is at the movement and how well they can dissociate their hips (FMS Active Straight Leg Raise). Usually you would want to work towards a box at about hip height (any higher then this and the client is probably just moving through their back and isn't truly hinging anymore, (ie every IG fitness models' RDL form). If you are at a gym with a box you can get creative. Another nice option I've seen/used is using a rower as the seat slides for you.
Really like this one (wish I knew who I got this from- can't take credit for being creative enough for this)! This is the most similar regression to the full SLRDL in my opinion. Be careful of the same issue as in the floorslide variation- just make sure there isn't too much pressure on the back leg as it moves.
3. "Soft Touch" SLRDL
This is a fantastic micro-regression I have seen for awhile but only recently saw research on. In the book Attention and Motor Skill Learning by Gabrielle Wulf, she mentions a study done by Riley et al done in 1999...
"...These authors measured postal sway when participants, standing upright with their eye closed, touched a curtain very lightly with their fingertips. (A curtain, as opposed to a solid stationary object, was used because it did not provide any mechanical support for posture.) Participants were instructed to minimize any movement of the curtain resulting from their touch. The interesting finding was that touching the curtain significantly reduced postural fluctuations compared to not touching it."
The book goes on to speak more about the benefits of external vs internal cueing and attentional focus (going to be writing another post on this soon), but for our sake and the SLRDL we can leverage this to our advantage to work on grooving a solid technique.
Have the client or athlete stand next to a DB rack or bench at about hip height (this is because this is the height of the fulcrum, or pivot point, of the movement). Allow them to LIGHTLY touch the object, but make it clear that the object is just an ASSIST and they shouldn't be putting too much pressure into it to balance. If for some reason the assist suddenly collapsed- they shouldn't lose their balance.
Assuming everything else on the SLRDL looks decent (engaged upper back, length in the limbs, solid hinge pattern, etc) but balance and the foot's interaction with the ground is the limiting factor, this is a great option to help the client feel more balanced.
My favorite cues:
"Hinge/ belly button over shoe laces"
This is such a simple cue I picked up from Dr. Quinn Henoch (who has a ton of great mobility stuff!). Many times the set up alone is the down fall for a lot of clients. If we look at the SLRDL, the two biggest pieces in my opinion is the hinge and also balance. If we have those two pieces, the SLRDL usually looks pretty good. So, lets emphasize those two in the set up of the SLRDL...
1. Banded SLRDL
With a simple addition of a band around the heel, the person now has something to push against. A lot of times a client can't feel that they aren't staying long and reaching the heel through space (which helps them stay in balance). This is one of the reasons I love tactile feedback in general- it simply allows the person to know where they are in space.
With a lighter band, have the client step on the band and set it over their shoulder. Coach the client to push the band away. They will feel right away if they are doing it correctly or not.
2. Tap the heel
As a coach in a large group setting, we don't always have the option to give out bands to everyone that needs them. A simple solution is to tap their heel with your hand. Again, just physical feedback for them to fight your tapping and not allowing you to push them off balance.
Setting a goal for the client to reach is a great way to see progress as well can constantly set the target higher and higher until they are at a satisfactory height. A great piece of equipment for this is the smith machine. Set the distance further and further to encourage the reaching we are looking for in the back leg. Then, as the client demonstrates competency in reaching the bar for a set or two, bump the bar up to the next set of pins.
Allowing the client to focus on the bar also places the importance on the moving leg driving up, as opposed to the weight (usually a dumbbell) lowering down.
1. "Reach through your heel and crown of the your head"
Tension and creating length helps activate different muscle to help create balance.
2. "Drinking Bird" or "See Saw"
Establishing that as one leg moves, the trunk moves as well. When the leg stops moving, the trunk stops moving. This is where a lot of low back issues creep in if tension can't be maintained.
3. "Quarter under Heel"
Dr. Pat Davidson had a great one with this. Have the client imagine there was a quarter (or even a bug they have to squish) under their heel helps to create some type of relationship with the heel and the ground as most people float forward to their toes.
4. "Tennis Ball"
If someone is losing upper back tension- I like to cue them to imagine they were holding a tennis ball between their shoulder blades. Sometimes I'll even put my fist there to give them the target of where to generate tension.
5. "Flash Light"
This is one of my favorite cues for trying to keep their toes and hips locked in. If there was an imaginary light on the hip of the leg that is moving, the goal for them is to shine a flashlight right next to their down sneaker, and not shining out to the side.
The SLRDL is a great movement for everyone to try to master. Instead of letting it get butchered however, break it down to the appropriate level for the client. The goal is to always be in balance, keep good tension in the appropriate places, and to create length through the moving leg.
Let me know if you have other tips/cues that you love for the SLRDL.