Single Leg Deadlifts for Hamstrings

When we’re looking at the function of the knee we really cannot afford to overlook the role of the hamstrings. They’re the large group of muscles at the back of your thighs that bend the knee and straighten the hip and we know from research that they’re crucial for functional knee stability, especially during their eccentric phase of contraction.

If you’ve tried everything and still haven’t resolved the problem with your knee (or any other part of your leg or lower back) why not give this a go? What’s the worst that could happen? You get stronger hamstrings!

If you’ve been following our blogs on building strength here at MOH then you’ll know all about how good eccentric loading is at achieving that. If not here’s the short version. It builds strength and endurance in muscles, and promotes tissue integrity at the tendons.

The Movement

The single leg deadlift (also known as the tippy bird or single leg hip hinge) basically requires you to hip hinge through one hip, while keeping your trunk and the other leg fairly straight and rigid.

  • Start by standing with feet at a comfortable distance apart
  • Shift your body weight over your right leg and bend that knee slightly, just enough to unlock the joint. This will give you better balance during the movement.
  • With your left leg, keep it in line with your torso so that it forms one straight line
  • Your arms typically in front of you but anywhere they are comfortable will do fine
  • Brace through your core and slowly tip forward, hinging from the right hip.
  • Try not to bend your right knee any further during that forward tip or you’ll lose tension in the hamstrings
  • Go as far forward as you can while maintaining balance and control. The video shows Paul with a box to tap which is a good way for setting goals when you first start
  • If you’re doing this right you should start to resemble a Lego man. Your body and left leg is rigid, acting as cantilevers while pivoting about your right hip, your hips are squarely forward facing and swaying from side to side is minimal to maintain balance
  • Once you’ve tapped, reverse the process back to a standing position.
  • Once you’ve done a few of these, swap legs and repeat the entire process.
acute pain in a woman
hamstrings male muscles

The Progression

The ideal motion for this exercise is for balance and control during the movement. Initially it may be challenging to maintain balance as you tip forward, and you might find yourself flopping from side to side. If that’s the case start with a higher target like the back of a chair. Once you can do that comfortably lower the target from the back of the chair to the seat, to a box, and eventually to the ground. When that gets too easy its time for more weight.

As before a dumbbell or kettle bell should do fine. Pick a suitable weight to make it challenging without significantly compromising balance or control.

Want to know more?

You can learn more about the MOH approach to knee pain and improving hip function by checking out blogs in the MOH knee series;

For more information, ideas and exercises check out our Health Tips blog.

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