Barbell Deadlift VS. Single Leg Deadlift

A while back I wrote an article about unilateral vs bilateral training (you can find that HERE). In the article I compared the bilateral back squat to the unilateral Rear Foot Elevated squat (or RFEs as they’re known at the gym). I was trying to show how humans are stronger on one leg than they are on two legs. Walking and running, for instance, are unilateral movements…if done correctly of course. If you’re ever in a nursing home, notice how the people there shuffle around, barely picking up their feet to get them from place to place. This doesn’t naturally happen, meaning we don’t slowly become shufflers as we get older. The shuffle is simply a product of not moving which leads to tight hips and shoulders which leads to bad balance which leads to….well, the shuffle. Anyway, I digress, back to the subject at hand.


The post I wrote up back at the beginning of the year shared the results of my self-experimentation, which led to a lot of disbelievers (most of whom subscribe to the bodybuilding style of lifting, one body part a day….more on this in another article). Without any video evidence, the only thing I really had were numbers. This time around, I decided to compare the barbell deadlift to the single leg deadlift (SLDL) and remembered to pack the camera for support.



The weight on the barbell deadlift ended up being 365lbs which I got for 4 reps. This was last week (9/29/14). This week (10/6/14 without video evidence) I tried 375lbs and stalled out at 2 reps. Cut this in half and my SLDL weight should be 182.5 for a set of 4 reps.



Today (10/8/14) was SLDL day and the weight ended up being 200lbs for 4 reps. Double this and my barbell deadlift weight should be 400lbs for 4 reps. Do the math and in this instance I’m about 10% stronger on one leg than on 2 legs.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this article to bash bilateral training. We do bilateral training with our athletes and general population clients. You can actually use more weight in bilateral movements, which will elicit a bigger hormonal response. Taking bilateral training completely out of your routine is not what I’m trying to accomplish. This article is meant to show you that unilateral training should atleast share, if not be the main focus in your strength training efforts. We’ve shown significant strength improvements focusing on movements such as the Rear Foot Elevated squat and SLDL, with less aches and pains. Find someone who back squats and deadlifts on a regular basis and you will find someone with back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain or hip pain (or all of the above). Some of this has to do with lack of discipline in their form and tempo, which if corrected would get rid of some of these aches and pains. It’s much harder to mess up a unilateral exercise than it is a bilateral exercise.

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