How to do Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) Correctly and Safely

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INTRODUCTION: RDL VS DEADLIFT

The deadlift is one of the most powerful exercises you could do it activates more muscles than almost every other exercise and teaches you one of the most foundational movements in human anatomy; picking up an object off the floor. As such, the deadlift has a lot of great variations that you can include in your tool belt.

Enter the Romanian deadlift. This variation of the exercises isolates your posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings and low back) more than the traditional deadlift. This can only be achieved by keeping your knees relatively straight throughout the entire exercise. This removes the quadriceps from the exercise forcing the hamstrings to do most of the work.

As a result, you will not be able to lift as much weight as you could on the deadlift.

RDL FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE RDL

  • Strengthens the posterior chain immensely, a muscle group that is often weak in many people

  • Teaches the proper spinal position necessary to lift an object when your legs are straight 

  • Improves conventional deadlifting technique, which translates to real-world activities

 

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE RDL

  • Hamstrings 

  • Glutes

  • Low Back

  • Spinal Erectors

  • Upper Back

  • Core

  • Forearm/ Grip Muscles

 

PERFORMING THE RDL WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE

  • Load up an Olympic barbell with the desired weight 

  • You can begin the exercise with the weight on the floor, or set up in a power rack at the level of your outstretched arms

  • In this tutorial, the barbell is starting from the floor 

  • Assume a stance that is roughly shoulder width with your toes pointed forward and your shins almost touching the bar

 
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  • Bend down and grab the bar with your arms completely straight and just outside of your knees

  • Lift the barbell the same way you would as a deadlift to get into the starting position 

  • With the bar in your outstretched arms, take a big breath and brace your core

  • Begin the exercise by bending at your hips NOT your spine

 
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  • Once your hips have bent, push your butt back as far as you can - focus on trying to touch the wall behind you with your butt

  • Maintain a very slight bend in the knee

  • Keep pushing your hips back until you feel a long stretch along the hamstrings muscles

  • Keep the bar as close to your body as you can

  • Keep you back flat/neutral- at NO POINT should your spinal alignment change

 
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  • Initially, your range of motion may be limited due to tight hamstrings- Only go as far as you can tolerate the stretch in your hamstrings

  • To reverse the movement, push your hips forward and squeeze your glutes to return to an upright posture

  • Repeat until you complete the desired repetitions

 

SUMMARY OF THE RDL TECHNIQUE 

 

Click on each blue circle to view the key technical aspects of this exercise

 

 

COMMON MISTAKES

NOT PUSHING THE HIPS BACK

This is a common fault that can be fixed by practicing the movement with no weight. You should focus on feeling a strong hamstring stretch on each repetition 

 

BENDING AT THE SPINE

This exercise (like any) could be potentially dangerous. Always exercise caution and use good technique. Your spinal alignment should never change. Keep your core braced and flex at your hips. Keep the weight light until you have mastered the technique.

 

BENDING THE KNEES TOO MUCH

If you overly bend at the knee, your quadriceps will get involved. This exercise is meant to train the posterior chain, not the quads.

 

ROMANIAN DEADLIFT ALTERNATIVES

 

Want to see other great exercises like this one? Learn The Best Leg Exercises to Develop a Strong Lower Body.

 

Alex & Brittany Robles are the founders of The White Coat Trainer, a site dedicated to improving the health and wellness of busy individuals. Learn more about them here and connect with them on instagram and Twitter. Feel free to send them a message here