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Performance Tip - The Single Leg Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

By Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS

The single leg deadlift is an outstanding exercise for every tennis athlete at any level. It has multiple purposes depending on the age and stage of the athlete and also the resistance used during the exercises. For all tennis athletes the Single Leg RDL should be incorporated into the tennis-specific dynamic warm-up. If this exercise is added daily it improves the balance, coordination and stability of the glutes and muscles of the core (including muscles of the lower back). As single leg strength and stability is very important in nearly every movement on the tennis court, developing the ability to stabilize the hip while performing this hinging movement develops the sensorimotor abilities needed to handle unanticipated movement related stressors on-court while improving general hip stability. Once the athlete develops the appropriate balance, coordination, strength and stability to perform 12 repetitions on each leg without any noticeable shift in hip position or loss of balance the athlete can progress to adding dumbbells to increase the resistance. Once an athlete can perform 12 repetitions with great technique, the next progression is to add a barbell.

Technique Execution and Coaching Cues

  1. The athlete stands upright and allows for a slight bend in the left leg (no more than a 30 ̊ bend at the knee). The athlete gradually lifts the right leg from the ground and slowly bends (hinges at the left hip), instigating the movement so that the upper body moves forward and the right leg moves backward while maintaining both the upper and lower body as straight as possible.

  2. The athlete will contract the core muscles, squeeze the glutes and keep the shoulder blades back and down (depressed) during the entire movement.

  3. When performed correctly it should be possible to draw a straight line from the athlete right heel to the back of the head.

  4. After holding this position for approximately two seconds, the athlete will slowly return to the initial start position and repeat on the opposite side of the body.

  5. This sequence will continue for the appropriate number of repetitions. 10-15 is usually recommended.

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Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CTPS, CSCS*D

Dr. Kovacs is a performance physiologist where he combines research and education to improve tennis-specific performance. He oversees the sport science area for the United States Tennis Association. He also works in the Coaching Education and Sport Science department for USTA Player Development. He is

a Fellow of the ACSM and a Certified Tennis Performance Specialist (CTPS) and the Executive Director of The International Tennis Performance Association (iTPA). The iTPA is the worldwide education and certification organization for trainers, coaches and specialists who have a passion for tennis-specific performance enhancement and injury prevention. He can be reached at

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