Single Leg Deadlifts Instead of Traditional Barbell Deadlifts

Traditional Deadlifts - Who Needs Them?


At HealthOut, we think you should choose exercises that carry the most benefits and the least potential harm.  Because of this mindset, we rarely recommend the common deadlift movement.  For those of you who aren't familiar, a deadlift is a movement in which you lift something off the floor, traditionally with a heavy barbell.

  • Risks of Traditional Barbell "Deads"

    • Your spine will bend and shear

      • Spine bending and shearing moments in your back are inevitable while doing a deadlift.  A neutral or straight back position helps, but never completely protects you.

    • The large amount of weight and the awkwardness of having to take a bar past your knees adds additional force and 'wear and tear' to your spine.

    • Pain is not a good guide - just because they feel okay doesn't mean you aren't wearing your spine out.

  • The Single Leg Deadlift is Superior

    • The single leg deadlift not only strengthens the hip extensors (Gluteals, Hamstrings, Erectors) like a regular deadlift, but it also has a host of other benefits that make it an excellent choice to include in your HealthOuts:

      • You need 2 X less weight

        • Because you work one leg at a time, you only need to compress the spine with 2 X less weight.

      • Your opposite leg 'drags' your spine into extension

        • Kicking the opposite leg upward helps to maintain a neutral spine and decreases forward flexion moments in the spine. 

      • It requires balance

        • Additional muscles and nerves around the side of your ankles, hips, spine, and shoulders are being trained - helping to potentially reduce injury and improve how you move during all of the things you love to do.  The complete list of benefits from balancing are too long to list!

    • Barbells also have downsides logistically.  Compared to dumbbells, they are:

      • Costly

      • Not space efficient/ awkward to use store

      • Potentially dangerous to other gym participants.

      • More time consuming to set up and take down

This week's video below has a demonstration of the single leg deadlift.  If you are switching over from traditional deadlifts, make sure you start with a very light weight to give your smaller stabilizing muscles a chance to 'catch up' to the big ones.