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Gym Shorts: The Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

New to the Romanian deadlift (RDL) or looking for a quick technique tutorial? Learn correct form in one short video.

How To Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Gym Shorts videos provide short video demonstrations of correct form for various exercises.

Follow these steps

  • Start with the bar in the rack just above your knees
  • Grip: Grab the bar outside your knees (straps are often used)
  • Take two short steps back
  • Big breath; chest up!
  • Send hips back; slide bar down your legs
  • Slow descent…then fire up
  • Always maintain a perfectly flat back

Common Errors for the Romanian Deadlift

The two most common errors in the RDL are (1) bending your knees during the descent and (2) unlocking or rounding your back. Both of these errors come from the lifter’s attempt to force a bigger range of motion than the hamstrings are keen to allow.

The bottom of the RDL is extremely tight for the hamstrings. Some people believe that they should reach a certain point on their shin or close to the ground. The RDL is different from, say, the squat, which has a clearly defined range of motion to be considered valid. The range of motion for the RDL is defined by hamstring extensibility.

Your knees should be unlocked at the top but not by much. Think of a “soft bend” in your knees. Once slightly unlocked, your knees should not move until you are ready to re-rack the bar. If, as you descend, you bend your knees, you will be able to reach farther down, but you will be taking the focus off your hip extensors, which is the point of the lift.

Similarly, as you reach the bottom of the lift, assuming your knees aren’t bending, your hamstrings and back should be very tight. If you continue to descend, and you suddenly feel relief in those areas, then you have unlocked your back. Both of these errors can be difficult to identify while you are lifting. So, use your camera and film your lifts to watch for bending knees and a rounding back. And remember that tightness trumps range of motion for this lift.

Not a form error, but often a mistake, is the failure to use straps on this lift. Having to unrack the bar, walk it out of the rack, perform an entire set, and walk it back into the rack can only be done at relatively light loads without straps. Sets of RDLs will punish your thumbs if you hook grip and should not be performed with a mixed grip. Use straps to get the most out of the lift.

Programming

Once the conventional deadlift is contributing to a fair amount of training stress in your program, usually past the intermediate or entering advanced stages of programming, the RDL is a great supplemental deadlift exercise. The most common cases for programming the Romanian Deadlift are—

  • As a supplemental deadlift.
  • A less stressful pulling alternative in your program.
  • When you need high-volume / low-intensity in your usual deadlift slot.
  • As a deadlift or squat alternative—often when working around an injury or limitation.

Click HERE for a more in-depth video on the RDL and HERE to learn more about programming supplemental lifts.

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