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Welcome to the blog for nerdy pole dancers!

If you’re looking for ways to train for pole, OFF the pole – you came to the right place, friend!

In this post, I’m breaking down one of my most favourite gym exercises for pole dancers—the single leg deadlift!

I’ll explain the 4 reasons why I love the single leg deadlift for pole dancers as well as give you all my go-to exercise cues, progressions and variations.

Here’s what the single leg deadlift looks like:

Here’s why I LOVE this exercise for pole dancers:

#1 Loads the hamstrings while they are lengthening!

The single leg deadlift is a hip hinge. IMO the biggest benefit for pole dancers comes from the ‘eccentric’ phase of this movement—the part where we are slowly lowering the weight towards the floor. During this part of the movement, our hamstrings are lengthening.

Why is that useful for pole dancers? Hamstrings have been reported as one of the higher injury risk areas for pole dancers, specifically while the hamstrings are lengthened. Find out more about pole dance injury studies here!

Whenever we’re doing a front split based movement on the pole, we’re loading our hamstrings while they are in a lengthened position, so strengthening our hammies—especially in this lengthened position—is SUPER beneficial and has SO much crossover to pole.

#2 Strengthens glutes and hamstrings in the action of hip extension

During the ‘concentric’ part of the single leg deadlift (where we’re lifting up back to the start position), we’re really strengthening our glutes and hamstrings in the action of hip extension.

Yup, you guessed it – this is really important for pole dancers, too! We need strength in hip extension for the back leg in pretty much every pole move ever – basically, any time we’re taking the leg behind our torso, whether that’s for front split based movements, the back leg in our butterfly, or the back leg in our leg hangs…

#3 Builds single-leg strength, balance and hip stability 

Pole dance is all about unilateral movements. In other words, it’s rare that we’re doing the same thing with both legs, so single leg strength and hip stability is crucial for pole – and that’s exactly what the single leg deadlift trains. Magic.

#4 Builds core strength and stability

The single leg deadlift also builds core strength and stability. Particularly in our erector spinae muscles which work to keep our spine tall and neutral as we hinge forwards.

Our deep core stabilising muscles are also working hard to provide stability, along with our mid-traps and rhomboids which are working to stabilise our shoulder girdle. Our lats are also engaged to keep the weights close.

How to do the single leg deadlift

The single leg deadlift is a hip hinge movement. You can see my demo in the video above and some progressions and variations below.

Here are the main cues I use to get the most out of this exercise:

  • Keep a slight bend in the front leg
  • Keep your spine tall and don’t round forwards
  • Push your hips back slightly as move and think about pressing your back leg backwards
  • Keep your pelvis square (just like you would for a ‘square split’) – i.e. avoid rotating your pelvis out to side
  • Aim to keep your ankle, knee and hip roughly in-line
  • Keep the weights close as you move

Wobbling all over the shop?

If you can’t keep your balance, just place the opposite toe down lightly on the floor (check out my video above for the full demo of that) – you’ll still get all the great benefits of this exercise, it just takes out some of the balance and stabilisation demands!

Progressions for the single leg deadlift

Woah there tiger! Before you jump into the single leg versions, it’s useful to spend a little time first understanding the hip hinge movement bilaterally (i.e. a standard deadlift movement) if you are not yet familiar with this movement pattern. Once you ‘get’ the hip hinge on two legs and it’s all making sense, THEN it’s time to single leg the hell outta this shizzle!

The first progression I usually use for the single leg deadlift is either the reaching single leg deadlift, which looks like this:

Or an un-weighted staggered stance single leg deadlift, like this:

Another great alternative is to pop that back knee up on a bench!

Variations of the single leg deadlift

You can do the single leg deadlift with a weight in each hand, like I’ve demoed above.

You can also use just one weight, instead of two! You can hold the weight in the same hand as the working leg…

…or in the opposite hand…

You’ll find that holding one weight adds to the unilateral nature of the exercise, challenging your stability and core even more! Bring it on, I say!

In summary: the single leg deadlift is such an excellent exercise choice for pole dancers! As part of a structured training programme, it really can have a big impact on your strength and resilience for pole dance! 

Want to know how to incorporate exercises like the single leg deadlift into your training for pole? That’s what my book Strength and Conditioning for Pole is all about! Available now in paper copy or ebook! Let’s pole nerd! 🙂

Content on this website is provided for educational/informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should consult your Doctor or Health Care Professional before doing any exercises or fitness programs to determine if they are right for your needs.


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