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.

ROMANIAN DEADLIFT FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

  • 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 ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

  • 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 ROMANIAN DEADLIFT TECHNIQUE 

 

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

 

 

COMMON ROMANIAN DEADLIFT 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.

 

FAQs

Is The Romanian Deadlift Bad For Your Back?

The RDL can certainly be bad for your back if you do not perform it correctly. Whenever you are doing any lower body exercise under load, it is important to maintain a flat neutral spine throughout the lift.

If you let your spine flex during the lift, you will not be using your posterior chain to lift the weight, and you will be putting your spine in a compromised position.

As with any exercise, if it feels funny or causes pain then stop!


What is The Difference Between Romanian Deadlifts and Stiff Leg Deadlifts?

The stiff leg deadlift starts from the floor. The Romanian deadlift starts from the top. As such, the RDL focuses on the eccentric part of the exercises while the stiff leg focuses on the concentric.

Both will train the same muscle groups and will have similar benefits. Because the weight starts on the floor on the stiff leg, you will be able to use heavier weights than what you can RDL.


I Cant Feel Romanian Deadlifts, What Gives?

If you do not feel this exercise in your hamstrings right from the first rep, then you are doing it incorrectly. Focus on pushing your butt way back which will naturally flex the hips and lower the bar down. With every single rep, you should feel your hamstrings going on tension. If not, then lower the weight and practice flexing at the hips.

You should even be able to feel it without any weight at all.


Should I Be Able To Touch The Floor While Doing Romanian Deadlifts?

If you can bring the barbell to touch the floor WHILE maintaining good form (a flat neutral back) then kudos to you. 90% of you won’t be able to do this due to tight hamstrings. It is not necessary to touch the floor to still get all the benefits this exercise has to offer.


How Heavy Should I Go On RDLs?

The RDL is considered by many an accessory exercise. As such, you should never go really heavy. Pick a weight where you can comfortably get 6-12 repetitions on with good form. It is unnecessary to go heavier than this.


Can I Do The RDL with Dumbbells?

Yes. That’s another reason why this exercise is great. It can be done with just about any kind of resistance. Bands, dumbbells, kettlebells and even a trap (hex) bar. Please, just don’t do it on the Smith Machine.


Romanian Deadlifts Vs Goodmornings: Which Should I Do?

Both exercises are very very similar. The RDL will train your grip just like a deadlift would, whereas a goodmorning trains your upper back just like a squat would.

Do them both. Just make sure you do them in different training cycles.


Can I Do The Romanian Deadlift and The Deadlift on The Same Day?

Yes. Just as long as you treat one exercise as the main movement of the day and the other as the secondary or accessory exercise.


Why Is It Called The Romanian Deadlift?

I don’t know, and I don’t care.


ROMANIAN DEADLIFT ALTERNATIVES

Here is a list of other lower body hip hinge exercises.

 

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