In my opinion, it's pretty much like common sense that it can be quite effective to not only train bilateral (Squats, Bench Press, Bent over Rows, Deadlifts) but also unilateral (Split Squats, DB Bench Press, DB Rows) from time to time, for various reasons. One of them being to prevent imbalances.

However, now I'm wondering: For pretty much every bilateral exercise there is I can easily think of a unilateral alternative, except for the Deadlift. The Deadlift (or Romanian Deadlifts, if you want to hit the hamstrings harder), to me seems to be a one of a kind exercise where I can't really think of a substitution.

Are Dumbbell Deadlifts a thing? If yes, are they worth trying? Or am I better off training Leg Curls unilateral to hit the Hamstrings, even though they might not activate them to such a big extend as the Deadlift?

  • Not an answer but just thought I should mention, the hamstrings have two functions, hip extension, and curling the lower leg up towards the glutes (basically, what you work in a Romanian deadlift, and leg curl respectively). Because of this, training single leg leg curls, actually trains a different function of the hamstring to Romanian deadlifts, so they're not good substitutes for each other.
    – Dark Hippo
    Mar 22, 2019 at 10:10

1 Answer 1


Actually, deadlifts do have a unilateral equivalent: the one legged deadlift, usually done with a Kettlebell. If you google it, you'll get a bunch of pictures. At my gym, it is a common exercise, ladies mostly are doing it. I myself just started practicing it a week ago. However, this is a very, very difficult exercise to do properly. There is a huge amount of balance involved. As a general principle, if your nervous system is focused on balance, then you are not activating your maximum power. So my guess is that the exercise is not effective for hypertropy. If you do the exercise, I would recommend focussing on keeping your hips level. In a few weeks time, after I have more experience with the exercise, I'll up date this.

  • Alright, that actually sounds good but pretty hard. Seeing forward for the update, thank you!
    – Suimon
    Feb 20, 2019 at 6:53
  • Done them in the past, I don't think they can be compared. The one legged version is all about balance, you will have a hard time putting your glutes and hamstrings under comparable stress that you can progressively overload - or are those people doing 200 pound one legged dls? Maybe I'm just clumsy ...
    – Raditz_35
    Mar 22, 2019 at 5:27

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