The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of our favorite exercises for building a strong posterior. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced athlete, there’s a Romanian deadlift variation out there that can probably find a place in your program with great benefit.
At Pheasyque Lab, we use Romanian Deadlifts fairly frequently in our programming and we rotate how we use them based on the adaptations we’re pursuing. For strength blocks, we’ll utilize slightly heavier barbell Romanian deadlifts and for blocks where we’re pursuing muscle hypertrophy, we’ll use higher rep dumbbell Romanian deadlifts and add pauses to increase effort and total time under tension.
In this article, we wanted to talk about a few key RDL topics including how to Romanian deadlift, the benefits of Romanian deadlifts, and our favorite Romanian deadlift variations. For the visual learners, check out the RDL video below from Coach Jake!
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How To Romanian Deadlift
To conquer the Romanian deadlift, you must first nail the hip hinge.
The hip hinge is a fundamental movement pattern that entails shifting the hips backward and designating them as the axis of rotation between the femur and torso. In layman’s terms, the hips are moving through flexion and extension while the torso is remaining relatively neutral.
- Step 1: Grip the floor with the feet and create a strong tripod foot position. Ground the base of the pinky toe, big toe, and heel.
- Step 2: When beginning the descent, break at the hips and shift them backward while maintaining a soft bend in the knee and a neutral spine. Pretend as though a string is pulling the hips directly backward.
- Step 3: Descend until you reach a point in which your hamstrings are capped by their mobility and before your lumbar (lower back) begins to round. Everyone will have a different range of motion here.
- Step 4: Start to return to your initial starting position by maintaining your soft knee bend and bringing the hips into extension. As the hips get closer to extension, the knees should follow suit, so at lockout, both the hips and knees are fully extended.
It’s important to note that different implements can shift your mechanics very slightly, but the hip hinge performance aspect of the Romanian deadlift should stay consistent throughout.
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Benefits of the Romanian Deadlift
We love the Romanian deadlift for a variety of reasons and wanted to include three of our favorites in this article.
1. Fantastic Glute and Hamstrings Builder
When your goal is strengthening the posterior, few exercises compare to really well-executed Romanian deadlift. This movement is great for strengthening and building your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae, all muscles required for big deadlifts and strong sports performance.
2. Excellent Hip Hinge Teacher
From a coaching point of view, a Romanian deadlift is also a fantastic tool for teaching the hip hinge because it can easily be manipulated on a client’s needs. For example, if we have a very true beginner who doesn’t understand what a hip hinge is, then we’ll start them pulling off a block from an eccentric-to-concentric flow to help them understand the movement pattern’s mechanics.
Also, by adding pauses at the bottom and slower tempos, newer lifters can really feel out the hip hinge without having to load heavily to do so. Essentially, it’s an excellent tool for teaching lifters how to perfect this skill before deadlifting.
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3. Great for Assisting Pulling Strength
In the deadlift, very rarely do we train the eccentric movement pattern (downward phase). The Romanian deadlift is essentially the counter opposite when it comes to this aspect, as the eccentric movement pattern is the key focus for strong RDLs. So, if your goal is building a big pull, then training the posterior to manage loads eccentrically is a good bet.
Romanian Deadlift Variations
There are three primary Romanian deadlift variations that we like to use at Pheasyque Lab. As mentioned above, we’ll rotate them based on our programming mesocycle’s goals.
These three Romanian deadlift variations include:
- Barbell Romanian Deadlift
- Dumbbell/Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
- Landmine Romanian Deadlift
All of these are fantastic Romanian deadlift variations and they each provide subtle benefits when accounted for and programmed strategically.
When our goals are increasing posterior top-end strength, we’ll generally reach for barbell Romanian deadlifts because they mimic barbell deadlifts and can be loaded heavier. For general strength, dumbbells are usually best as they’re often easier to use and setup and slightly less fatiguing when higher training volume is the goal.