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Columns: Exercise Technique

Implementing Landmine Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift into an Athlete's Training Program

Weaver, Ashley N. BS; Kerksick, Chad M. PhD

Editor(s): Dawes, Jay PhD, CSCS*D, NSCACPT*D, FNSCA

Author Information
Strength and Conditioning Journal: February 2017 - Volume 39 - Issue 1 - p 85-90
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000279
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Abstract

DESCRIPTION OF THE EXERCISE

The landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift (landmine SL RDL) is a multijoint movement that primarily focuses on muscles that comprise the posterior chain and core of the athlete. It is unique because it is a unilateral movement that offers elements of both a free weight and machine-based movement. The gross movement pattern is an advanced progression of a traditional bilateral barbell-loaded Romanian deadlift (RDL). The unilateral aspect of the landmine SL RDL provides a unique training effect, in where this variation emphasizes certain muscle groups while deemphasizing others.

MUSCLES INVOLVED

The primary muscles that are active during a landmine SL RDL are the hamstring group (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus), gluteals (maximus and medius), and the core musculature throughout the trunk (rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, transverse abdominis, and erector spinae group) (4,6). As primary movers, the hamstrings and gluteals work in a coordinated fashion to complete the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement while the athlete's core provides the necessary stability through which all forces are transferred, supports the weight that is being lifted, and helps protect the spinal cord (4,6).

BENEFITS OF THE EXERCISE

The landmine SL RDL can be used to build a foundation for more advanced Olympic-style lifts such as power cleans and as an effective sport-specific movement for many individual- and team-sport athletes. By completing this lift properly, the athlete's body will learn how to maintain proper alignment and stability of the spine throughout the lift (1). By strengthening the muscles used in this lift, the athlete will be able to move into more advanced movements that may help to increase their rate of force production and the development of power. Coaches are advised to use a variety of exercises as part of an exercise program to prevent staleness and overtraining. In this respect, the landmine SL RDL can be used in place of a traditional bilateral (barbell or dumbbell loaded) RDL or other unilateral variations of the RDL as a way to provide variety during workouts while stressing similar muscle groups as those used in the RDL.

The landmine SL RDL has characteristics of free weights as well as fixed plane exercise machines. Most free weight resistance exercise can be classified as a core stability exercise (4,6). This particular lift requires the athlete to activate the muscles located throughout their trunk to maintain proper form throughout the full range of motion. Another benefit of the landmine SL RDL (like those seen more so with free weight movements) is the increased kinesthetic requirement resulting in the athlete developing an increased awareness of body position and spatial arrangement that occurs throughout the exercise (3). An increase in body awareness has previously been shown to improve motor fitness skill and overall sports performance (2). However, the landmine SL RDL also shares benefits commonly seen with machine-based exercises as it relates to safety. For example, other single-leg variations of a RDL, such as performing a single-legged barbell–loaded RDL, can be difficult because of the body position that results in improper barbell placement. Placement of the landmine equipment, weighted plate, or wall, in a fixed position on one side of body can help place the athlete in a more favorable body position that ultimately can help increase an athlete's balance throughout the full range of motion, before progressing to a more complex or challenging movement pattern.

This exercise can be used as a way to provide progressive overload to the athlete throughout a training program and prevent the athlete from adapting to the training. Coaches can start the athlete using traditional RDLs with a barbell or dumbbell, then move into implementing the landmine SL RDL, or some other variation. By changing the exercise, the athlete will be exposed to a different training stimulus, which may facilitate progressive muscular adaptations.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION

Because many sporting movements are unilateral in nature, the development of unilateral strength and power in athletes is important when sport-specific training is being implemented. Using exercises such as the landmine SL RDL, the athlete is required to focus on using a single weight bearing limb to move through the whole range of motion. Through the use of unilateral exercises, coaches can mimic the biomechanics seen in the athlete's sport by focusing on building strength, power, and stability in each individual limb (5).

The landmine SL RDL is considered a closed kinetic chain exercise, which has been used by numerous physical therapists and athletic trainers as a key part of injury prevention and rehabilitation programs (5). An athlete with a lower-body injury (hamstring strain, low back issues) can use the landmine SL RDL to increase stability and strength throughout the posterior chain if appropriate weight is applied. A primary advantage with unilateral exercises is that the athlete cannot compensate using their stronger or noninjured limb to dominate the movement pattern, which is a common outcome during any bilateral closed kinetic chain movements.

Because of the inherent instability that arises from performing any type of unilateral exercise, the number of sets, repetitions, and resulting fatigue must be taken into account to ensure programmatic goals are being met and the athlete's risk for injury is decreased. In consideration that the landmine SL RDL involves the upper-body, lower-body, and core musculature, a proper loading scheme should be developed to allow for safe execution while still effectively meeting prescribed goals. Compound exercises, such as the landmine SL RDL, can tax a number of different muscles, which can be challenging when dealing with athletes on an individual basis. Depending on where the athlete's strengths and weaknesses lie, this can largely impact their mobility as well as their ability to complete the programmed sets and reps. A coach must pay particular attention to each athlete and coach them through safe and effective completion of the movement. As fatigue sets in, proper technique must be reinforced to maintain an effective movement pattern and minimize injury risk.

Consequently, care and attention should be made during the introduction of a movement such as the landmine SL RDL. Like all other movements, independent of complexity, the athlete must learn and follow proper technique. This is a particularly salient point for a unilateral movement and more so for any exercise that involves the entire kinetic chain of the athlete.

SET UP

The equipment needed to perform a landmine SL RDL is a barbell, weights, and the landmine plate that attaches to the barbell. This equipment allows the barbell to move in any direction. If the coach or athlete does not have access to the piece of landmine equipment, weighted plates or a corner of wall can be used to set up the landmine exercise (Figures 1 and 2). To accomplish this, place a large heavy plate on the floor and place one end of the bar in the hole of the weighted plate so that the barbell is perpendicular to the wall. The opposite end of the bar is where the athlete can adjust the load. If placing the barbell against a wall or in the corner of 2 walls, ensure that the wall is strong enough or adequately supported to avoid having the bar being pushed through the wall.

Figure 1.
Figure 1.:
Landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift set up (barbell and weighted plates).
Figure 2.
Figure 2.:
Landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift set up (barbell, weighted plate, and wall).

STARTING PHASE

The athlete will start in an upright position while grasping the bar in a neutral grip with the contralateral hand (to the planted foot) at hip level with a slight bend in the knee of the planted leg. The athlete should keep their shoulders retracted, head and eyes up, and their core stable throughout the whole lift. Once stable, the athlete should lower the bar through flexion of the hip of the planted leg. This will leave the athlete in a position where one leg is being held up off of the floor, and the other leg firmly planted on the ground (Figure 3). Before the athlete can move to the next phase of this exercise, they must be able to maintain proper balance.

Figure 3.
Figure 3.:
Landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift starting phase (right hand holding bar with left leg planted on the ground).

DESCENDING PHASE

Although maintaining balance, the athlete should slowly descend the bar as the transferred forces through the planted foot and leg will shift the glutes rearward with the plant side being driven further into flexion as the weight lowers toward the floor. As the weight lowers, the non–weight bearing leg will raise into the air. The athlete is encouraged to focus on moving the rear leg and torso as one unit (Figure 4). The distance the athlete will be able to travel is dependent on the athlete's flexibility through the hamstrings. Instruct the athlete to only lower the weight until they are able to feel a slight pull through the hamstrings on the weight bearing leg. A typical error made by some athletes is losing a neutral spine position as they lower the bar, leading to poor form across the back and shoulders.

Figure 4.
Figure 4.:
Landmine single-leg Romanian deadlift descending phase.

RETURN TO THE STARTING POSITION

Once the athlete reaches the bottom of the movement, they will quickly contract their glutes and hamstrings to drive the non–weight bearing leg back to the starting position. The athlete should then be standing in the upright position, as they were in the starting phase (Figure 5). Once the athlete has completed the sets and reps for that side, instruct them to switch hands and legs and begin from the starting position.

Figure 5.
Figure 5.:
Returning to the starting position.

KEY NOTES

  • Make sure the athlete is able to maintain a tight core and a neutral spine. The back and shoulders should not round through the motion. Lack of hip and hamstring flexibility can be a cause of “reaching” with the upper body, which puts the body into an unfavorable biomechanical position (Figure 6).
  • Two different approaches are typically used in regards to the positioning of the athlete's head and neck during the lift. Some coaches prefer that athlete's head and neck be in line with the spine throughout the range of motion, causing the athlete to face the ground during the descent phase. Others insist that the athlete's eyes and head should remain up and “lead” the return to the starting position (Figure 4). At the moment, there is no consensus on the best head and neck position during the landmine SL RDL, and coaches will either adopt one approach or the other.
  • Make sure the non–weight bearing leg is in line with the torso. As the athlete is lowering the weight toward the ground, the torso will tilt anteriorly as the non–weight bearing leg raises into the air. An excellent coaching cue is to have the athlete feel more weight going through the heel of the planted foot as opposed to feeling excessive weight transfer onto the forefoot and toes.
  • To maintain a center of gravity that is close to the athlete, the barbell should be in a close position to the athlete's body throughout the entire lift. Migration of the barbell away from the athlete's body will result in an unfavorable biomechanical position that will place unwanted strain on the back and increase the risk of injury.
  • As the athlete enters the bottom of the descending phase of this lift, instruct them to move their torso and rear leg as one unit with their head up, shoulders back and eyes looking forward and up. An excellent coaching cue for this aspect of the technique is to place a polyvinyl chloride pipe or broomstick along the athlete's back, hip, and thigh region and coach the athlete to maintain contact with all points throughout the entire range of motion. Athletes who have limited range of motion will likely need to lower the load and work on their flexibility. In addition, for athletes with limited range of motion, the hip on the planted side may “open up” or externally rotate as the bar gets closer and closer to the floor. Another possible coaching tactic is having the athlete attempt to limit the external rotation of the hip through the descending phase of the movement.

Figure 6.
Figure 6.:
Poor form. Take notice of rounded (kyphotic) spine and shoulders rolled forward.

REFERENCES

1. Bird S. Exploring the deadlift. Strength Cond J 32: 46–51, 2010.
2. Faigenbaum AD, Kraemer WJ, Blimkie CJ, Jeffreys I, Micheli LJ, Nitka M, Rowland TW. Youth resistance training: Updated position statement paper from the National strength and Conditioning Association. J Strength Cond Res 23(5 Suppl): S60–S79, 2009.
3. Hilbert S. Point/Counterpoint: Free weights versus machines. Strength Cond J 21: 66, 1999.
4. Martuscello JM, Nuzzo JL, Ashley CD, Campbell BI, Orriola JJ, Mayer JM. Systematic review of core muscle activity during physical fitness exercises. J Strength Cond Res 27: 1684–1698, 2013.
5. McCurdy K, Conner C. Unilateral support resistance training incorporating the hip and knee. Strength Cond J 25: 45–51, 2003.
6. Willardson JM. Core stability training: Applications to sports conditioning programs. J Strength Cond Res 21: 979–985, 2007.
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