Exercises You Should Be Doing: Split Stance Trap Bar RDL

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First things first:  some very cool news.

No, Justin Bieber hasn’t somehow been scissor kicked in the throat.

No, I still haven’t beaten Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.

And no, I haven’t officially earned my Top Gun wings. Yet……;o)

I’ve had something “top secret” marinating.  It’s something that I’ve collaborated on with the guys over at WeightTraining.com, and it’s a little project that’s been in the words for a few months now.

And by “little” I mean the opposite of that. It’s going to be huge. Like, Death Star huge.

I don’t want to give away all the juicy details, but suffice it to say 1) it’s going to be an ever evolving product that’s going to help change people’s lives 2) I’m really excited about it and it’s going to be available to the world starting this coming Monday, Jan. 20th, and 3) I’m pretty much going to win a Nobel Prize for Awesomeness.

NOTE: One of the three above (probably) won’t happen.

I’m going to have full details available by Monday, so consider this the official teaser.

With that out of the way I want to toss a “new” exercise your way that I’ve been parading around the facility and using in a lot of programs I’ve written lately.

I say “new” (in quotations) because it’s not necessarily new in the sense that I invented or anything.  Believe me: if or when I invent something – like, I don’t know, an economy sized, fuel efficient tank, or Grape flavored Spike** – I’ll be the first one to take full credit for it.

Giving credit where it’s due, though, I have to defer all accolades to my buddy Ben Bruno for this one.  This is an exercise that he featured over his blog at some point last year and I’ve been dabbling with ever since.

Split Stance Trap Bar RDL

What Does It Do: In short, it serves as a pseudo 1-Legged RDL, but on two legs.  Let me explain.  Everyone knows that single leg work is important and that it offers a host of benefits from improved balance and hip stability to addressing strength asymmetries and improving athletic performance.

The thing is a lot of people suck at it, and as a result typically don’t do it.  Ever.

While not related to the actual discussion, one of the major mistakes I see most trainees make with regards to their single leg work is that they treat it the same as their max effort work…..which is dumb.

To me, max effort work (1-3 reps) should be relegated to the “big three” like squats, deadlifts, and bench press…..with the occasional overhead press, bent over row, and goodmornings peppered in.

Single leg work, however, 95% of the time, should be treated as ACCESSORY work……and something that’s used to address imbalances or weaknesses.  I can’t tell you how many times I watch an athlete or client try to be a hero and grab the 80 lb DBs for lunges or 1-Legged RDL only to resemble Bambi walking on ice throughout the set.

What good does that do?  Why amp up the weight only to go into knee valgus and risk injury? Sure it may stroke the ego for a few minutes, but there’s no real benefit.

I lean more towards the camp which tells people that single leg work should – generally – be done under the assumption that QUALITY matters.

Reduce the weight, make quality movement matter, and do it right.

That said, for many of us, that inner meathead prevails and just wants to lift heavy stuff.  I get it.

With this variation, you get the added benefit of support from the rear leg…..but too, you can load the weight much heavier and REALLY load that front leg.

So in a way it’s a hybrid single-leg variation.  But not.  Get it?

I didn’t think so.

Key Coaching Cues:  The set up is the same as if you’re performing a regular deadlift, except, you know, you’re going to use a split stance.

No need to be too aggressive here.  I usually coach people to take a heel-to-toe stance, with the brunt of the weight towards the leading leg (the one most forward).

Ideally both feet will be flat, but for some with limited ankle dorsiflexion it’s okay to come up on the toes of the REAR foot.

From there it’s hip hinge city.  Initiate by hinging the hips back trying to keep the bulk of your weight in the front foot.  The objective isn’t to go all the way to the floor, either.  For most, just below the knee to mid-shin is plenty.  Either way you should feel a massive “stretch” in the front leg hamstring.

I prefer to do this for 6-8 reps per leg, per set.

NOTE:  You can use regular ol’ Olympic barbells on this one too.  Or DBs.  So for those who don’t have access to a trap/hex bar, you should still be good to go.

Give it a try today and let me know what you think!

** = get on that Biotest!


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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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