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Why is Single-Leg Deadlift Not from Dead Position?

I could be way off here but i thought one of the primary things about a dead lift is that it starts on the ground from a “dead” position and you hinge/pull up. The down isn’t that important in fact many just drop the weight. I am interested in the single leg deadlift. Every example of this i see seems to focus on balance and a controlled up and down hinge. the weight never actually gets to a “dead” or on the ground point. Is there a variation of the single leg deadlift that more resembles the 2 leg barbell deadlift with a start on the ground and focus on the up hinge?

If you are doing a single or resetting between reps, then yes, each rep will start from a dead position. If you are doing multiple touch and go reps, then only the first is truly from a dead position. It doesn’t mean the rest of the reps aren’t deadlifts, though.

One of the big differences between dumbbells vs a bar is the diameter of the dumbbells vs plates on a bar. In the latter, the bar will start much higher off the ground than the dumbbells. So, if starting with the dumbbells on the ground, it’s more like a deficit deadlift than a normal deadlift. A lot of people won’t be able to get into a good position and others just don’t want to start that low.

An option could be to start with the dumbbells on blocks or plates, so the handles are at a similar height to a bar. Or, just start from the top.

If, for some reason, you’re going for a max single, than start off blocks. If not, then it doesn’t matter if you start from the top or bottom.

The important thing is form and making sure it’s a deadlift motion and doesn’t turn into single leg RDLs.

This speaks to me. And the blocks idea is perfect and I think solves all the issues I was having with trying to simulate a full deadlift with DBs and single leg. Only have up to 90lb dbs and no gym access due to COVID. Thanks a ton!!


I was tracking until this. It’s likely my ignorance, but I thought a single-legged deadlift implied an RDL pattern. What’s the main action you’re trying to get out of doing a more conventional motion single-legged?

I feel it’s worth stating that I grew significantly bigger and stronger when I stopped dropping the eccentric and focused on controlling the bar on the way to the floor. There is a LOT of room for growth in the eccentric phase of the deadlift, and many big and strong lifters ensure to practice it.


For the first part, the main difference is that in a RDL (and I know you already know this, it’s mainly for others), you’ll have a slight bend in the knee, but it’s mainly a hip hinge where you’re pushing your hips back while hinging at the waist. With a single leg deadlift, you actively bend more at the knee as well as the hips, so like an actual deadlift, as you go through the ROM.

Now for the second part, why you’d do a single leg deadlift, that I don’t know. I’ve never done one and had to google it myself. I’ve done single leg RDLs before and probably would stick to that. If I wanted something with knee flexion, I’d go with a Bulgarian split squat.

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I travel a good bit in a travel trrailer and with COVID I have no access to a gym. I’m trying to get a basic dead lift workout with only Dumbells. my main goal for lifting is for general health and golf if that is helpful.

I agree with this, I never actually dropped the weight either just thought to mention it to highlight that there seems to be more emphasis on up vs 1LRDL where it seems to be a balancing act up down.


Gotcha! Thank you both. I agree with @Tougher and totally understand @lager911’s reasoning. I still wouldn’t want to do it, but I get it.

The form for single-legged deadlifts aka King deadlifts is spoken about in this article.

You don’t have to come to a dead stop in any deadlier variation.

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The DL is not a particularly good promoter of either general health or golf, and thus is not a well-motivated exercise for you. This renders your efforts to MacGuyver DLs out of DBs unnecessary.

Instead of dissecting the form of an exercise you need not do, consider training your hip girdle with one of the exercises depicted in the link @BrickHead provided. To my eye, these would be much more effective than any single-leg DL (I still can’t believe I’m writing those words) vis a vis promotion of health and golf.

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Please elaborate on this.
I feel like everything i read sings the praises of the deadlift and general health. Maybe sqauts but is there a better exercise for general health and strength than the deadlift?

Isn’t this a shrimp squat

Edit: I guess I could have read all of the post…yes it is a shrimp squat. I just don’t feel like this is a deadlift motion. It’s less of a deadlift than a trap bar deadlift

I don’t know what you’re reading, but the DL is a terrible training movement. It doesn’t work any muscle in a particularly effective manner–you name a muscle worked by DLing, and I’ll give you three exercises that work it twice as effectively. Further, it has a horrendous cost/benefit ratio–it’s extremely taxing, but with little to show for it in the way of improved muscle mass. Related to this, I would suggest that the popularity of DLing among non-PLers stems from a simple yet fundamental mistake–they assume that the effectiveness of a movement correlates with how exhausted you feel after doing it. If this were true, DL would indeed be a great exercise–but it’s not.

OTOH, the DL is an excellent movement by which to demonstrate overall strength. This speaks to a point @T3hPwnisher has made repeatedly: You don’t DL heavy in order to get big and strong; you get big and strong in order to DL heavy.


If I didnt’ compete in powerlifting, I would never deadlift.

If I were training for general health, dumbbell RDLs and single leg dumbbell RDLs would be idea for me.


Well this causes me to rethink everything i thought I knew. Thank you for taking the time to elaborate. I always viewed Deadlifts as the alternative (opposite?) to squats and doing squats one day and DL another (IAW just about every W/O program I have looked at, 531, 5x5, SS etc) was pretty standard. I really have no desire to demonstrate my strength in a weight lifting sense.

I view the DL as one exercise that works all of the muscles it works vs needing individual ones for each particular muscle thus saving time in my W/O.

So RDL is actually what I should be doing alternate days from Squats?

I like RDLs much more than conventional deadlifts. I tend to do them on the same day as squats, because I’d rather have fewer days of significant lower back stress. That’s certainly open to other opinions/ experiences.

When I’m in a “I want to deadlift” phase, I actually think I get a lot more tension out of rack pulls. Think about what a conventional deadlift gives you:

  1. The bottom is maybe 1/4 squat - you already trained that more effectively
  2. There is some isometric lat tension, but that’s not a full rep, most people have trouble holding it, especially as you pass the knees
  3. Same concept as #1 for hip extension - if you actually finish the rep hard at the top (most probably don’t), you get a partial ROM hip thrust… were you going to make that a big focus in your life anyway?
  4. Lower back contraction follows closely as the lat tension in #2 - you may or may not be great at holding it, and it’s never going to actually go through a “rep” unless you’re looking for herniated discs
  5. There’s typically little emphasis on the eccentric. Even when you try to slow the negative, you’ve basically got two choices: either drop quickly at the end or necessarily limit your weight lifted to avoid the risky pass of the knees on the way down (I’ll admit the limit is the weakest part of this argument, because we could say that of any lift)
  6. It might train your grip, but is that worth the cost to this exercise?
  7. I don’t get any trap out of this, but maybe I’m unique. The folks I see touting the deadlift for trap development are ending their set with shrugs. Again, cost/ benefit is low here: a set of shrugs costs nearly nothing in terms of either gym time or recovery time; the deadlift is one of the higher investments in both

I’m certainly open to anyone disagreeing, and I do often deadlift because it’s just a personal “I want to to” sometimes, but I don’t think it’s a go-to muscle-builder.


Dumbell RDLs are one of the most overlooked movements IMO. When I do them I can feel my hamstrings and glutes working and they transfer to other movements very well. They hit a “fundamental movement pattern” much better than a barbell DL or even barbell RDLs.


These respectful (of my naivety), constructive and helpful response are why I read T-Nation instead of the rest of the internet. (and am now going to participate more in forum)