RDL, Top Down Deadlift, Dimel Deadlift
Beginner-Intermediate (requires mastery of the hip hinge movement)
Sumo RDL, Paused RDL, Single Leg RDL
Straight Leg Deadlifts, Dumbbell Hip Hinging
Instructions with Pictures
1. Starting Position
There are two ways to get into the starting position: From the floor OR from the j-hooks of a power rack. I'll explain each below:
2. Eccentric Movement
4. Concentric Movement
Common Romanian Deadlift Errors to Avoid
Losing postural Rigidity (Rounding Lower Back)
This is usually a two fold problem. The combination of too much weight on the bar and a weak core cause the spine to be compromised. If you notice rounding, drop the weight until you can maintain good posture and actively work on core strength.
Erratic bar reversal position
Bring the bar down right before the point you feel rounding in the lower back/upper back. This will ensure consistent bar position in the bottom of the hip hinge.
Bar drift during hinge
The extreme angle of the hips hinging back can cause the bar to drift forward. Focus on actively pulling the bar back into your body at your shoulder (like a straight arm pulldown in a cable machine).
Hips dropping too low
Focus on driving the hips back and keeping your weight distribution over your heels. You can have a soft bend in your knees but your hips shouldn’t “squat” down.
Not locking out
Once the bar is reversed, focus on explosively extending the hips forward and driving through the back/middle of your feet. If you have consistent issues here, you need to drop the weight to something you can complete.
Romanian Deadlift Tips
- Always make sure you completely warm-up. RDLs are a very eccentric muscle action focused exercise.
- Don’t forget to BRACE. Take a big deep breath before each rep, pull it as deep into your stomach as you can, and hold it as tight as you can. This is commonly referred to as the Valsalva Maneuver and helps ensure neutral/rigid lower back. This is key for lower back safety during a rack pull.
- Learn to hip hinge. The goal of the movement is a powerful hip extension. In order to achieve that, the hips must be kept high and back during the eccentric portion of the left.
- If you’re having trouble keeping your spine in a neutral position, practice hip hinging with a PVC pipe or broomstick. Basically, you want to hold a broomstick behind your back while you do an “air deadlift.” The goal is to keep your upper hips, upper back, and head in contact with the PVC throughout the movement.
- To ensure maximal and optimal hip drive, imagine you’re “driving your heels through the floor."
- During both the concentric and the eccentric phases of the lift, the hips and shoulder should be moving at the same time. Disjointed movement of either means there is weakness in your ability to hinge or in your postural control.
- Actively squeeze your glutes when locking out the weight to make sure your hips are completely extended.
- Allowing the bar to drift forward markedly increases the difficulty of the lift and increases the risk of you losing your postural position. Make a conscious effort to keep the bar in contact with the legs during all phases of the lift.
- The goal of the movement is to exaggerate your hinge to maximally involve the hamstrings and glutes. You’ll know you’ve hinged well when you feel a huge hamstring stretch once the bar passes your knees.
- In order to get maximal hamstring activation, make sure you’re wearing a shoe with a flat hard sole that allows unrestricted movement of your ankles.
- Straps should definitely be used if your grip begins failing. This exercise is being used to strengthen your hamstring, glutes, and lower back. It should not turn into max effort grip work.
- Some lifters like to use an alternate grip (one hand supinated, one hand pronated) in order to hold more weight in their hands during RDLs. This hand position can cause structural imbalances in the arms, shoulders, upper back and lower back if the hands are not “flip flopped” often enough. Make sure you are working both sides equally.
- Getting stronger with RDLs will help you lift more weight in literally every single lower body exercise. But, keep in mind to start very conservative on the weight being used and take a long time to make slow and steady progress. If you are doing the lift correctly, there is a lot of eccentric (mechanical muscle lengthening due to the force of gravity on the body and the weight) stress than can really tear you up if you try to do too much too soon. Slow progress now will pay dividends later on.
Is the Romanian Deadlift Right for You?
RDLs should be a foundational lift in absolutely every strength training program. They are phenomenal for strengthening the hips, hamstrings and lower back. They are also an ideal exercise for anyone dealing with postural issues with other compound barbell lifts.