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  • Writer's pictureSarah Barbosa

Why the Single Leg RDL is the Perfect Lower Body Exercise for Gymnasts

When it comes to gymnastics, perfection and making it look effortless is everything. Each skill demands not only strength but also impeccable balance and stability. This is where the single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL) shines as an essential exercise for gymnasts.

The single leg RDL for gymnasts

Here's why it's so great for gymnasts:

Mimics Landing Positions

Whenever you can use exercises that directly correlate to the movements/positions of an athlete, you have a winner. The single leg RDL mimics the landing position of skills such as side aerials or back layout step outs. It's even great for the landing position of leaps.

Strengthens Key Muscles to Reduce Injury Risk

The single leg RDL targets the muscles in the hip and lower back, which are crucial for maintaining proper form and stability during landings. Landing skills on both feet is hard enough on the body, but landing on one foot... there is a LOT of force that travels from the foot, up through the leg and to the back.

A lot of force can lead to greater chance of injury. Besides making sure your technique is solid, a way to help prevent injuries is to build up the muscles this way the landing force gets spread out and absorbed by the body. A stronger muscle can handle greater forces. Therefore, building up the muscles in your back and hip with this exercise helps your body better absorb the forces and decreases injury risk.

Prevents Knee Cave

Knee cave is when the knee moves towards the midline of your body. When landing a skill on one leg, it's common to see a gymnasts' knee move inward. This indicates the hip and/or ankle is not strong enough to control the knee, and this instability can often lead to pain in the knee or other areas.

The single leg RDL, when done correctly, helps engage the muscles in the back of the hip, such as the glutes and small hip rotator muscles. These muscles are often underdeveloped in gymnasts since gymnastics tends to bias more stronger muscles on the front of the legs.

Building the strength with the single leg RDL can greatly enhance the stability and alignment of the lower body.

Reduces Deductions

In gymnastics, stability is key to minimizing deductions. Wobbles and unsteady landings can cost valuable tenths. By incorporating the single leg RDL into training, gymnasts can develop the necessary strength and stability to have more solid landings, thereby reducing the chance of deductions and enhancing their overall performance.

How do you perform it?

Check out these videos below showcasing some common cues I use to teach the single leg RDL:

In general, performing a strengthening exercise 2x/week for 3 sets of 10 reps is a good start.

In conclusion, the single leg RDL is a perfect exercise for gymnasts due to its ability to simulate landing positions, strengthen crucial muscles, control knee cave, and enhance overall stability. By integrating this exercise into their conditioning, gymnasts can improve their performance, reduce the risk of injuries, and achieve more flawless routines.

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