How Lucy Hale's Two-Part Lower-Body Move Can Strengthen Your Butt, Legs, and Core

When it comes to the ‘gram, Lucy Hale is typically all about the glam. From red carpet pics to magazine portraits to selfies, the 28-year-old Pretty Little Liars actor regularly shares content that is both flawless and fierce. But earlier this week, the star of the new CW show Life Sentence offered her followers a rare glimpse into a more relatable part of her world: her workouts.

In a series of Instagram Stories on Wednesday, Hale chronicled her gym session with trainer Adam Nicklas, showing an array of moves—including commandos, Bulgarian split squats, and push-up variations—that prove this strong actor is also a strong athlete. (Nicklas also shared the workout via a video on his Instagram account, @adam_nicklas.)

One move in particular—weighted reverse lunges to single-leg Romanian deadlifts—is especially legit.

“The percentage of the population that could actually do this move correctly is very low,” Mike Clancy, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF. That’s because it requires strength in many different muscle groups as well as total-body coordination and balance.

See the move for yourself in the following video via @adam_nicklas. It’s the second move in the sequence:

This two-part move works both the front and back sides of your lower body.

The lunging portion of this move, which is essentially a one-legged squat, works your glutes and hamstrings as well as many anterior muscles (the muscles on the front side of your body), Mark DiSalvo, NYC-based certified strength and conditioning specialist, tells SELF. These anterior muscles, including the quads and hips, are the primary movers while the muscles on the backside of your body isometrically contract to form a stable base.

The deadlifting portion of this move works in the opposite way, DiSalvo explains. It involves a hip hinge movement that primarily targets the muscles in your posterior chain, aka the backside of your body, including your glutes, hamstrings, calves, lumbar spine (lower back), and thoracic spine (midback). These rear muscles now become the primary movers, and the muscles on the frontside of your body isometrically contract to form a stable base, says DiSalvo.

By pairing the lunging movement and the hip-hinging movement, you are performing an antagonistic co-contraction, explains DiSalvo, which basically means you are working opposing muscles on two different sides of your body (front and back) and in two different ways (isotonically and isometrically). “It’s like a 360-degree workout for your body,” says DiSalvo. An isotonic contraction is one that includes a concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) portion, like when you bend your knees and lower into the lunge, and then extend your legs again.

Your core and upper body also engage throughout the two-part movement.

While you lunge, you are engaging multiple muscles in your core, including your obliques (the muscles on the sides of your stomach), and transverse abdominis (the deepest ab muscle that wraps around your sides and spine), Clancy says. This core activation continues through the deadlifting portion, says DiSalvo, as you need to brace your entire midsection in order to maintain your balance.


Plus, if you do these moves with weights like Hale does, you’ll also isometrically work your upper body, including your rear deltoids (muscles on the back of your shoulders), lats (broadest muscles on each side of your back) and rhomboids (upper back muscles that help your shoulder blades retract), says DiSalvo, as well as the sides of your shoulders and your forearm flexors, adds Clancy. That's simply because you're keeping these muscles contracted to keep the weights steady throughout.

Combine that with the lower-body benefits described above and it makes sense that reverse lunges to single-leg Romanian deadlifts are a kick-ass tool for total-body strengthening.

The alternating sequence matters too—by switching between lunges and deadlifts, you’ll challenge your balance and coordination.

“This is a high-threshold move,” says DiSalvo, meaning that it requires a high level of coordination to execute. By continually switching between lunging and hinging movements, you are challenging your motor skills to a greater degree than if you just did a set of lunges followed by a set of deadlifts, DiSalvo explains. “It’s a good test of your athleticism,” he adds.

This comes with the giant caveat that you need to know how to safely and effectively do the reverse lunge and the single-leg deadlift by themselves before combining them in this way.

“If you’re not stimulating the correct muscles, you’ll spend more time trying to maintain your balance rather than really locking in your form,” says Clancy.

Because this two-part move is quite advanced, here’s a five-part progression that can help you work up to it.First, master the form of a reverse lunge.

  • Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on your hips (as pictured) or behind your head.
  • Step back (about 2 feet) with your left foot, landing on the ball of your left foot and keeping your heel off the ground.
  • Bend both knees to create two 90-degree angles with your legs.
  • In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright (no leaning forward or back). Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
  • Push through the heel of your right foot to return to standing.


As you lunge, make sure that your front knee doesn’t collapse in, says DiSalvo. Focus on putting all your bodyweight on your front foot and press through the center of it, says Clancy. This will help your hips shift backward (like in a squat), which is the correct positioning.

It’s also important to keep your spine as neutral (aka flat) as possible, DiSalvo adds. If this is difficult for you, you may be tight in the hips. You can overcome this by leaning forward slightly so that your shoulders are aligned over your ankles. This will improve your balance and make it easier to keep a straight spine.

Next, try a two-legged Romanian deadlift.

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells and hold one in each hand with your arms resting at your sides. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your knees stationary and your back straight, push your hips backs and bend forward to lower the weights down toward the floor. Keep moving forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Pause for a moment here and then lift yourself back up into the starting position.
  • This is one rep.

Aim for 10 to 15 reps with slow, controlled movements. As you go through the reps, try to maintain a flat back (you can do this by bracing your core) and think about pulling your shoulders back so they don’t round forward, says DiSalvo.

When you can comfortably do 10 to 15 reps in a row with perfect form, you can progress to the next step.

Then, do split-stance Romanian deadlifts.

  • Get in the same deadlift starting position described above, but instead of placing both feet together, step one foot back about two feet from the other. Your entire back foot should be firmly planted on the ground.
  • Perform the deadlift as described above, keeping the same cues in mind.

Once you can comfortably do 10 to 15 reps in a row with perfect form, you can progress to the next step.

Move on to single-leg Romanian deadlifts.


  • Get in the same deadlift starting position described above. From there, lift one leg so it's hovering off the ground.
  • Perform the deadlift as described above, letting the hovering leg extend out straight behind you as you lower your body.

“Make sure you are [pushing] your hips back when you move,” says Clancy. “Keep your front firmly foot planted.”

If you find yourself tilting to one side as you do these deadlifts, your hips and core likely aren’t braced as tightly as they should be, says DiSalvo. “At that point, you would want to regress by putting one back toe on the ground to stabilize yourself,” he says. This will help stabilize your hips and strengthen your lower back to the extent that is needed to nail this move.

Finally, try putting the two moves together.

When you can comfortably do 10 to 15 single-leg deadlifts in a row, you can attempt adding the reverse lunge beforehand. The leg that goes back in your reverse lunge will the same leg that lifts off the ground in your deadlift. Pause for a moment at the top of each lunge with your back leg hovering slightly above the floor before lowering into the deadlift.

It may be tempting to rush through these movements at the pace that Hale demos, but your better bet will be to focus on good form and quality, controlled movements, said DiSalvo. Remember the form cues for both the reverse lunges and single-leg deadlifts, and try for 10 to 15 reps on each leg.

Whether you get to this point, or you’re building up your strength with one of the progressions, you’ll challenge your balance and coordination and reap total-body benefits.

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