The Romanian Deadlift

Deadlifting was something beginning with my previous trainer. We used a hex bar, you stand inside of the bar, and lift straight up. It was one of those movements that didn’t seem possible during my youth. So, when the opportunity to work on the deadlift began, it was exciting. The hex bar was worked with for a couple years. As the recent switch in my physical trainer took place, so did the change of many exercises. When changing from one trainer to another, there can become a change in philosophy. The change in philosophy can often be a good thing. Bernard took me away from doing the hex bar deadlift. He has always had the philosophy of working my limbs independently of one another. This idea meant he would like to reach the point of performing a single legged Romanian deadlift or RDL. My first experience with watching the RDL using a single leg, had me pondering how the movement was going to be performed. It looked to require balance and stability that felt shaky. We had overcome so many things seemingly impossible in my mind. By this time, it was beginning to feel we could learn almost any movement inside the gym. It might take us some time, but we had been making a habit of achievement.

Performing the RDL on a single leg requires some balance. As you reach down to the floor in pursuit of picking up a weight, you do so on one leg. The leg not providing the balance for the body moves backward off the ground. The movement appears to me like using the body as a lever. From the waist, the movement takes the body forward, with one leg stretching behind. The only balance point being given becomes a single straight leg. When the movement began for me, it started off shaky. The requirement of engaging the core and keeping the back flat was challenging to think about. While moving toward the ground on one leg, it felt as though a fall was going to happen. With each leg, leaning forward would cause me to wobble, usually leaning to the point have sticking out my other leg. It was going to take time in learning how to extend my off leg back. The goal would be to gain trust, enabling me to balance on my one leg. Balancing would not be the only task during the single leg deadlift. My hands would also become involved in the movement.

Cerebral palsy has an effect on my hands. The use of them can be challenging at times. Leaving Bernard thinking of ways to challenge the dexterity of my hands. The single leg deadlift gives him the ability to challenge my hand dexterity. When leaning over onto one leg, he can have me pick things off the floor. Challenging my hands and finger movements in many forms. In the begging of our work with the deadlift movement, he simply had me hold an object. We began by using the purple block I have become so familiar with. The block we used to measure a push-up and build our balance beam. Bernard requested I begin by holding the block with both hands. To complete our first attempt at the single legged deadlift, my objective was to lean at the waist on one leg, and touch the purple block to the floor. The movement required a lot of balance and stability. At times, I would get halfway to the floor with the purple block, before needing to stand back up before losing balance. Once back into my upright position, my focus would be regained, and the attempted repetition would begin again. One of the most frustrating aspects of this exercise has been getting stuck halfway. My concentration level has been taxed in learning to complete each repetition. The movement requires the maintaining of balance for an extended period of time. It would all become important as we progress the movement.

We would move forward on the Romanian deadlift. After working with the purple block using both hands, Bernard added more complexity. The next step would be to hold the purple block using one hand at a time. So, bending at the hips with one leg leaving the stability of the floor, I would touch the purple block to the floor. Once ten repetitions were completed with one leg down, it was time to move the block to the opposite hand, and balance using the other leg. Holding the purple block was helping my finger dexterity along the way. Learning how to use my fingers to pinch the purple block. There have been times when Bernard requests the block only be held using certain fingers. It adds another element to the movement. Along with the other lights inside my brain being activated. The following step to our RDL movement would be to add some weight. The weight for this movement would be added using a ten-pound kettlebell. Going back to the introduction of the purple block, the kettlebell was handled using both hands on. We bent at the waist, but this time instead of touching the floor with the kettlebell, we touched the purple block sitting flat on the floor. The purple block platform lifted the ten-pound kettlebell about six inches off the floor. Like before, the requirement was ten repetitions using one leg to balance, then ten using the other. The addition of weight added complexity to the movement. Making the engagement of my core and lower back more critical. But, this still wasn’t the most complex form of the RDL to this point.

The most complex form of the Romanian deadlift to this point has also been the most challenging. Bernard brought the use of my hands into the exercise. Cerebral palsy has caused hand movements to be challenging. Reaching for an object and grasping onto the object takes extra effort. The process often being done with instability. One of the things Bernard has often incorporated has been challenging my hand movements. He began making it part of the RDL by using small sized traffic cones. The cones where set up in two staggered rows, they had to be picked of the floor using the Romanian deadlift. So, I walked to each cone, using one leg for stability, then the other. Bending at the waist and leaning over to grasp the cone and rise again into the standing position. When picking up the small traffic cones was completed successfully, Bernard began using the small circler pads used for hopscotch. Set out in a similar pattern, he wanted me to pick them up using two hands, then pick them up using one handed. Our following step would be to add highlighter pens. The course would soon involve half hopscotch pads and half highlighter pens. Each object to be picked off the floor using a single legged RDL.

Today, Bernard continues to have me work on picking these objects off the floor. I get better at using my finger dexterity to slide under the hopscotch pads or grasp the highlighter pens. The balance gets better with every item lifted, as my understanding of engaging my core for balance improves. Cerebral palsy seems to ask for a variety of things. The multitude of ways used to improve the disability. Bernard has the gift of dreaming up these creative things to challenge. He has said from the beginning how much he wants to turn on all the lights in my brain. Giving me exercises which challenge cerebral palsy on a multitude of levels. His version of the RDL has been doing so from the beginning. Not only the balance required to perform the movement, but taking the movement of my hands, and having them involved in the exercise. Incorporating one of my largest challenges of grasping an object, having me perform it while off balance. All of these variations inside of each exercise are helping improve my disability. Bernard has changed the way I exercise, gearing our movements around challenging cerebral palsy on different level. The journey keeps me excited about what could be around the next corner.


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