The Single Leg Deadlift AKA The Drinking Bird Exercise

Bodyweight exercises are a great alternative to traditional barbell exercises, especially if you have limited access to equipment.

The single leg deadlift is a challenging full body movement that requires strength, flexibility and dynamic stability as there is maximal engagement of the hamstrings, glutes and core stabilizers.

Although it looks simple, this exercise can be performed poorly in many different ways.  When you’re performing this exercise, imagine a drinking bird.  As your head and upper body descend towards the ground, your leg is lifted upwards in equal and opposite fashion. In doing so, this will help you balance and keep your back in neutral position.  Having a target slightly in front of you will help remind yourself to elongate your spine.



The biggest mistake that I see is when people allow their hips to turn and rotate towards the ceiling.  To correct this, think about having flashlights on front of your hips.  As you descend, the lights should be pointing downward towards the floor and not towards the side or the wall.

Once you have perfected the form, you can add light dumbbells or kettlebells to increase resistance. Remember, a little weight can go a long way. Start with small increments and ensure your form isn’t being compromised.

When performed properly, you may experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) 1-3 days afterwards.  The reason this exercise can cause soreness is because, as the hamstring muscle is contracting, it is simultaneously being lengthened at the same time. The eccentric contraction of this movement causes the soreness.

Key points:

  • Have a small bend on your weight bearing leg
  • Keep your hips squared
  • Don’t arch your back
  • Utilize weights only if you can perform the single leg deadlift properly



Jessie Wong, Physiotherapist from the Physio Room


*The exercises provided on this website are for educational purposes only, and are not to be interpreted as a recommendation for a specific treatment plan, or course of action. Exercise is not without its risks, and this or any other exercise program may result in injury. They include but are not limited to: risk of injury, aggravation of a pre-existing condition, or adverse effect of over-exertion such as muscle strain, abnormal blood pressure, fainting, disorders of heartbeat, and very rare instances of heart attack.

To reduce the risk of injury, before beginning this or any exercise program, please consult a healthcare provider for appropriate exercise prescription and safety precautions. The exercise instruction and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for medical consultation. We disclaim any liability from and in connection with this program. As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you begin to feel faint, dizzy, or have physical discomfort, you should stop immediately and consult a physician.