Romanian deadlifts are a killer workout. I am sure many of you will agree with me. But the thing is, doing this amazing workout the right way can be a little tricky.
Don’t you worry! I am here to tell you everything you need to know about RDLs and help you perform this awesome workout the perfect way.
In this article, I will begin with deadlifts and its variations and then slowly move to RDLs, the right form, its benefits and so on and so forth.
What is deadlift?
Deadlift is one among the three powerlifting exercises, where a loaded barbell or bar is lifted from the ground to hip level and then lowered to the ground with a controlled effort.
You may be wondering:
Why is the deadlift called ‘deadlift’?
It is called so because you are lifting a dead weight, i.e., weight with no momentum such as free weights lying on the ground. All deadlifts include the concentric phase where you will be lifting the weight and an eccentric phase where you will be lowering the weight.
Let’s now take a look at the variations of deadlift:
Rack pull is just like the conventional deadlift, but instead of lifting the barbell off the floor you will be lifting it off a power rack. For many deadlifting can be a challenge as it tough to lift the weight off the ground. If you are someone who can relate to this situation, rack pull is the way to go.
How to do it?
All you have to do is adjust the pins in the power rack to the point where you can pull with a flat back, and you are all set for rack pull.
Now lift the barbell off the rack with your head looking forward and extend through the hips and knees pulling the weight up.
Return the weight to the pins.
Repeat the workout for at least 10 reps. Rack pull is a great exercise to build your upper back as you can lift more weight doing this move than executing regular deadlifts
The infamous sumo deadlift is more technical than conventional deadlifts. This variation of deadlift shortens the range of motion of the pull. It works your hips more and also is less stressful on the lower back.
How to do it?
Set your feet wide apart and approach the bar in such a way that it intersects the middle of the feet.
Now bend at the hips to grip the bar with arms directly below the shoulders and inside the legs. You can use a pronated or mixed or hook grip and lift the bar.
Take a deep breath, spread your feet and make sure that the weight is on the back half of your feet. Lean back and drive the hips into the bar pulling the shoulder blades together
Return the weight to the ground by bending your hips and controlling the weight.
Trap bar deadlift
As the name suggests, you will be using a trap bar to complete this workout. It takes off the stress from the lower back and puts it on the legs. This exercise is best for beginners who are new to deadlifting.
How to do it?
Load your trap bar and stand in the center of the hex and grip onto both the handles
With your head forward lower your hips and lift the weight by driving through the hip and extending your knees
Try not to curve your back till you lower the weight to the ground
Snatch Grip Deadlift
This variation of the deadlift is very similar to regular deadlifts but with a wider grip. It is named after the ‘snatch’ movement in Olympic weightlifting.
How to do it?
With your feet directly under the hips, squat down to the bar and hold on to the bar with an ultra-wide grip.
Keep your head facing forward and back under full extension as you lift the bar and raise your hips.
Return to the original position and repeat
The deficit deadlift is a conventional deadlift done on a raised platform. This movement increases the range of motion, and hence you will only be able to use less weight.
How to do it?
Set a platform which is 3 to 4 inches high. You can use a 45lbs plate if you don’t have a platform available
Perform the conventional deadlift on the raised platform
What is a Romanian Deadlift?
The Romanian deadlift also known as RDL is a variation of deadlift which puts a greater emphasis on hamstrings and glutes.
Here’s the deal:
If you are someone with weak knees and can’t afford to do deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts are just what you are looking for.
Remember, Romanian deadlifts are not stiff leg deadlifts. In this workout, you will have to have a slight bend in your knees, a hinge in your hips and maintain a flat back. RDL is one among the best deadlift variations which produce amazing results.
But here’s the kicker:
Maintaining the right position and doing RDLs with the proper form is not an easy thing to do. Lifters end up committing various mistakes when it comes to maintaining the right form. Let me help you avoid those mistakes.
How to do the Romanian deadlift with proper form
Romanian deadlift is an exceptional workout to develop strength and muscle mass in the posterior chain, but it is difficult to learn and teach. There are a lot of things that need to be kept in mind like maintaining a neutral spine, controlling the weight on the heels and loading the hips.
Let’s break it down:
In every posterior dominant lift, it is very important that your head and neck have a proper alignment. For the perfect RDL, your neck should be in neutral alignment with the rest of the torso, and your chin should be tucked in.
The thumb rule in RDLs is that the chest should be up throughout the lift. Make sure that you keep the chest up without straining your neck. This can significantly improve your performance and strength.
As mentioned already, RDLs emphasize on the glutes and hamstrings more. Lower back is the one which helps you blast the glutes and hamstrings. Throughout the lift, an optimal curvature of the lower back should be maintained. Neither should you increase your arch nor let your back round into flexion. In short, you have to maintain a neutral spine
For a perfect RDL, the knee flexion should be 15-20 degrees. To work your hamstrings effectively make sure that you have the optimal knee flexion. Too little of it can also make it look like a stiff-leg deadlift. Soften your knees from the start to maintain the appropriate position throughout the lift.
In RDLs the weight should be shifted towards the heels. This can be achieved by keeping your feet pointed straight and using a hip-width stance.
Step by step procedure of the Romanian Deadlift:
The lower back should be neutrally arched, your chin tucked in and knee flexion at 20 degrees, hold the bar at hip level with a pronated grip.
Now lower the bar by moving your butt back and keep the bar close to your body. Make sure you keep your head forward and your chest up as you lower the bar. You can reach the maximum range of your hamstring flexibility by doing the Romanian deadlift in proper form.
Get back to the starting position and stand up tall by driving your hips forward
Romanian deadlift – muscles worked
The 3 Powerlifting workouts such as deadlifts, bench press, and squats give the body an extraordinary workout to the muscles in the body. Here are the muscle groups that Romanian deadlifts work.
The Romanian deadlift has the knees flexed and works the hamstrings more than the conventional deadlift. As you try to pull the bar up across the hips by pulling the rest of the torso up, your hamstrings reach their maximum extension and get a good workout.
The long muscles which run either side of the lower back are the ones that help you maintain the optimum curvature while performing the Romanian deadlift. The exercise works these muscles which are also known as the spinal erectors. These muscles work when you resist the weight as you lower it. The spine flexes should not be overworked, and this is the reason you are supposed to maintain an optimum curve and not bend too much.
While performing the Romanian deadlift the main muscles of your abdomen contract in an isometric manner. An isometric contraction prevents your chest from meeting the pelvis, and this is what is managed by the abdominal muscles in RDLs. The abdominal muscles help you to keep your chest up throughout the workout.
The large muscle of your upper back is the trapezius. This is the muscle which helps you maintain the position of your shoulders during the lift and also helps in maintaining your spine with the optimum curve. As you pull the bar up, this muscle contracts exerting power and getting a good workout in the process.
RDLs concentrate mainly on the hamstrings and the glutes. The gluteus Maximus also commonly referred as the butt is another muscle which plays a vital role in helping you lower the weight in Romanian deadlifts. The proper form of RDLs can help you get the perfect butt.
Romanian Deadlift Benefits
- Muscular Hypertrophy
In simple terms, muscle hypertrophy is the growth and increase in the size of muscle cells. It is highly essential for weightlifters and Olympic athletes. Romanian deadlifts are hands down the best workout which can emphasize a number of muscle groups such as hamstrings, glutes and improve the muscle mass significantly.
- Increased Hip, Hamstring, and Lower Back Performance
Deadlift, clean and jerk, and snatch are three workouts which can increase the performance of your hip, hamstring, and back. RDL is known for working the posterior chain and enhancing its performance. The knee flexion, an optimum curvature of the back while performing the RDL should be properly maintained to reap this benefit.
- Ease of Movement
Romanian deadlift guarantees dynamic flexibility. It is the ability of a muscle to lengthen while performing a workout or other athletic movements. Compared with the conventional deadlift, RDLs can ensure better ease of movement.
- Injury Prevention
Romanian deadlift is a blessing for people with weak knees. It is also the perfect workout for lifters who lack lumbar control, hamstring, and glute strength. RDL reduces the chance of injury and also significantly improves muscle strength.
- Balanced Quads and Hamstrings
The Romanian deadlift blasts the hamstrings and quad muscles. The eccentric phase of the lift works these muscles majorly and ensures you have a good shape and strength of quads and hamstrings.
- Romanian deadlift vs. deadlifts
Let’s begin with the variation of movement. In RDLs you begin with holding the barbell in your hands whereas in the conventional deadlift you will have to lift the barbell from the ground.
With respect to the muscles, the Romanian deadlift works the glutes, hamstrings and lower back whereas the deadlift works the same muscles along with the front thighs.
RDLs are essential to improve strength whereas deadlifts are a part of powerlifting and are more of an exercise to help you train yourself to lift heavier weights.
- Romanian deadlift vs. stiff leg deadlifts
Both Romanian deadlifts and stiff leg deadlifts target the hips, hamstring and the lower back but by doing RDLs, you can flex your hips more and also work your posterior chain to a better level.
Stiff leg deadlifts work the muscles, but Romanian deadlifts can help you improve your pull in weightlifting and also help you improve your form.
- Romanian deadlift vs. Good Mornings
Romanian deadlifts and Good mornings aim at working the posterior chain of muscles. RDLs offer you an added advantage of working your forearms as you are gripping the bar for a sustained amount of time.
This is crazy:
Good mornings can help you do your Romanian deadlifts better! Yes! You read that right. The starting position of RDLs is same as the bottom position of good mornings. In general, good mornings can help you boost your deadlifting strength.
Romanian deadlift variations
Banded Barbell RDL
The Banded barbell RDL or banded RDL is an interesting variation of the Romanian deadlift.
How to do:
Either side of the barbell should be hooked with resistance bands and then be attached to the bottom of the squat rack.
You can now go ahead and do a regular RDL with the barbell
Single Leg RDL
The single leg Romanian deadlift is done to improve the strength and stability of legs and most importantly to correct the discrepancy of stability between both the legs.
How to do:
Stand on your right leg and hold the dumbbell in your left hand
Lower your torso by bending your hips backward and lifting your left leg
Get back to the original position by squeezing your glutes and extending your hips
One of the best ways to activate your glutes and hamstrings is to perform the split-stance Romanian deadlift. You can also improve your flexibility and balance
How to do:
Begin the exercise by standing in a split/staggered stance
Just like performing the regular RDL loosen your knee and push your hip backward
Now hold the weight and lower it down the front leg till you feel a good stretch in your hamstring
The snatch-grip Romanian deadlift is a killer workout for the upper back.
How to do:
Perform the Romanian deadlift by holding the barbell at a wider than shoulder stance
Foam Roll Assisted RDL
The foam roll assisted Romanian deadlift is an excellent workout for beginners.
How to do:
Stand on your right leg and place the foam roll on the left leg
Now push your hip backward and lift your left leg behind with the foam roll
Repeat the movement for a good 20 reps
The kneeling RDL involves no equipment as such. It is purely to improve the stability and flexibility of the body
How to do:
Begin with kneeling on a yoga or an exercise mat
Bend your torso by pushing your hips backward and stretching your left leg
Repeat the exercise by alternatively stretching your legs
Which is better for the thighs – deadlifts or squats?
Deadlifts and squats are hands down the best workout for your thighs, hamstrings, and glutes. Deciding which is the best for the thighs is a tricky job. Deadlifts involve a lot of quadriceps activity, but squats are considered as the single best workout for your quadriceps. Since the perfect squat requires you maintaining your thighs parallel to the ground it emphasizes more on the area.
Most common Romanian deadlift mistakes
Doing the perfect Romanian deadlift is not an easy job. Here a list of common deadlift mistakes which you should be avoiding
The Romanian deadlift requires at 15-20 degree knee flexion. People often confuse RDL with stiff-legged deadlift and forget about maintaining the knee flexion
Failing to keep the bar close to the body
RDLs require you to push your hip backward and not bend your body forward
Failing to keep the chest up throughout the workout
Not paying attention to the tension on the hamstrings
Romanian deadlift alternatives
For the folks who find it tough to master the art of Romanian deadlifting, here are a few alternative workouts you can try.
Both good mornings and RDLs target the same group of muscles. The difference essentially lies in the technique of the workout. In good mornings the barbell should be held in the same position when you are performing the back squats. As already mentioned this workout can help you improve your deadlift form.
Glute Hamstring Developers(GHDs)
As the name suggests, this workout is essential to develop the strength of your glutes and your hamstrings. This exercise can be done with stiff knees or even with a knee flexion. It isolates the glutes and hamstrings and gives it a good workout.
Lying Leg Curls
The lying leg curls is an exercise which can significantly improve your hamstring strength. This workout requires the leg curl machine and is essential for beginners.
Pull through and Kettlebell swings
Pull through, and kettlebell swings are both easier compared with the conventional Romanian deadlifts. It is easier on the back and also helps you improve the strength of your glutes and legs.
The rack pull as already seen is a variation of the regular deadlifts. This workout is best for beginners and helps them train themselves to perform Romanian deadlifts
Equipment and gear for Romanian deadlifts
The traditional Romanian deadlift requires a loaded barbell. You can also try the variation of RDLs with dumbbells, resistance bands, and even foam rollers.
Should you do the Romanian deadlift variations?
The Romanian deadlift variations are all very effective. Just like RDLs, they emphasize on your posterior chain. They can significantly improve the strength of your hamstrings, glutes and your lower back. Additionally, they can also help you increase your stability, flexibility, and balance.
Nothing can beat the classic Romanian deadlift done in the proper way. Maintaining the right knee flexion and optimum back curvature can help you reap great benefits.
The Romanian deadlift might seem tough to do, but once you have learned the right way to perform this exercise, there is no stopping you! RDLs are best for people who suffer from lower back pain. It is a workout which can help you get perfectly fit hamstrings and glutes.
Deadlifting to the rescue!