The move I love to hate

April Ross' ultimate hamstring strengthener


By Sarah Sekula, published on

April Ross took some well-deserved downtime after winning Olympic bronze in beach volleyball with partner Kerri Walsh Jennings last summer in Rio. Now she’s back to hard training — and looking to the future.

“I’m working with a new strength and conditioning coach on a lot of stuff geared towards quickness and just trying to get my eating back on track after a long and fun post-Olympic offseason,” she said at the Swatch Beach Volleyball Major Series in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “I love that the work is never done. I’m also really excited for some events I’ve either never played in or haven’t gone to for a long time, like the Major Series in Croatia and the Grand Slam in Rome.”

What’s her go-to exercise when she gets in the gym? It looks simple but is anything but.

“This move has been a staple in my workouts for years now. It’s called a staggered, single-leg dumbbell RDL,” she said. “No other move strengthens my hamstrings as well as this one, but that also means it comes with its fair share of hamstring soreness, which is the worst! There’s plenty of burn while doing it, plus the soreness a day or two later. That’s why I hate it, but the results are why I love it.”

Photo courtesy of April Ross

The move: A staggered, single-leg dumbbell RDL

How to do it: With a dumbbell in each hand, stagger your feet so one is about a foot in front of the other. Place most of your weight (90 percent) on your front foot, and use your back foot just for balance. Make sure you keep your lower and upper back stable as you start to hinge forward. Bend down until you feel resistance in your hamstring or your back reaches a 90-degree angle with the floor. Return to starting position, and repeat.

When I do it: I do this move about twice a week. It’s great for when we are traveling and I have to work out in a hotel gym. I usually do eight to 12 reps and four sets of them.

Why I do it: It strengthens my hamstrings more effectively than any other exercise (and I’ve tried a lot of exercises!).

Why it’s so killer: It’s actually OK while you’re doing it. It will start to burn, but the truly terrible part comes a day or two later, when the soreness sets in. It doesn’t matter how often I do this move — it always makes me sore!