Where does most strength and stability come from? The answer is the hips. For people who use strength training as a way to accentuate athletic performance or just want to build a better base, maximizing balance and stability should be high on the priorities list.
Exercises that work with balance not only improve performance but also help create stronger neural pathways in the brain. That equals faster reactions along with strength gains. The hips are the key to balance and stability because they are the closest joint to the center of our mass and control our two primary points of stability; the legs.
Getting a Leg-Up
The Single-Leg Romanian deadlift is possibly the best single exercise you can do to maximize strength, stability, and balance training. You can easily incorporate this exercise and short routine into your normal leg day to help increase performance. It is also a great way to warm-up.
- No Weight Single Deadlifts – 1 set of 25 reps each leg (good form but as fast as possible)
- Dumbbell Single Deadlifts – 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps each leg (normal rep speed)
- Sandbag Deadlifts – 1 set of 8 to 12 reps (medium rep speed)
Now that we have the routine, let’s look at the exercises to make sure it is clear what it is that is being done.
- Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (no weight) – Stand with your feet at about shoulder-width apart. Closer or further makes your starting balance point easier or harder. Raise your right foot and extend it back behind your slightly. Keep your back in a neutral position, tighten your abs and core, and squeeze the glutes. Then push your hips back as you bend at the waist. Like a lever your right leg raises behind you as you bend at the waist with a flat back and your arms reach out towards the floor. Stop when your back and right leg is parallel to the ground, pause, then return upright squeezing the hamstrings and glutes. This is the easiest way to do the exercise because you only have your bodyweight to contend with. Going as fast as you can adds difficulty along with the higher rep count.
- Dumbbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift – The exercise is the same as the no weight version but you will hold a dumbbell in the hand opposite of the weight bearing leg. This adds a wrinkle to balance as your body has to compensate for weight on a single side.
- Barbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift – As before but this time hold a barbell in both hands with a shoulder-width grip. The barbell will naturally travel down and forward as you bend at the waist. A key point is to load the barbell with smaller plates like 25’s and 10’s to allow a greater stretch.
A Serious Challenge
If your goal is better overall fitness and athletic performance then this routine should provide a very useful challenge. Balance and quick reactions are such a vital point of athletic performance. Training the hips and core in this manner will help give you a leg up on the competition along with building strength and endurance in a key area of the body for normal everyday activities.