16 Wed

My Favorite Exercise

My Favorite Exercise

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI 

Let me tell you about one of my favorite exercises. First of all, a good exercise should accomplish what it’s supposed to do, get a part of you stronger. Second, it should ideally include multiple joints at one time, thus creating even strengthening throughout a limb. And third, since it uses multiple joints, it should also be functional, making movements that you do in everyday life and in sports, easier and less stressful to the body. With those three things in mind, let me introduce you to one of my favorite exercises, the single-legged deadlift.

What? Deadlift? Sure there are many detractors and criticisms to the old classic deadlift. Who does the deadlift nowadays, anyway? (Besides those CrossFit guys, and they’re crazy…) You basically take the weight from the ground, using two hands and pick it up to waist high. Simple. Yet it was during this one simple motion that I was introduced to the world of physical therapy back many years ago in high school football camp. We did all the major movements: bench press, squat, and then the deadlift. One day, doing a deadlift of considerable weight (for a high-schooler), I felt a “pop” in my back and I dropped the barbell with a crash. I didn’t know it then, but I just experienced my first herniated disc in my back (It happened again years later under different circumstances, but that’s a story for another day).

So back to the single-legged deadlift and it’s superiority over the classic two-legged deadlift that caused so many problems for me.


First, the single-legged deadlift saves the back by using one leg as a counter weight to the trunk. Second, using only one leg, you also train balance and stability in the hip you’re standing on, making it a double-whammy exercise. Third, it’s functional, how many times a day do you happen to drop something on the floor and have to pick it up? That’s the single-legged deadlift.

GluteusIt’s a great exercise because it also targets the “king” of your lower body: the gluteus maximus, and the “queen”: the gluteus medius. These two muscles in your hip drive your leg movements and control the kinematic chain (see my previous post, What’s a Movement Screen). Generally if you sit all day at work, you’re probably suffocating the king and queen, resulting in their weakness and inability to function and contract during sport movements or just walking or taking stairs. So, get up, get moving, and try out one of my favorite exercises to wake up the “king” and “queen”.

If you have any further questions, or want a demonstration of the single-legged deadlift, you can contact our physical therapists at Professional Physical Therapy and Training located in the Madison and Summit YMCAs.  

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