Romanian Deadlift

The Field Guide Series: Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is not a deadlift because it does not start from a dead stop. The RDL forces you to set your back once and maintain that posture for the entire set.

The Barbell Logic Field Guide:

Romanian Deadlift

(Download the Field Guide PDF here)

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is not a deadlift because it does not start from a dead stop. Instead, the RDL forces you to set your back once and maintain that posture for the entire set. This increased time under tension can benefit lifters struggling with fatigue in their lower backs during difficult deadlift sets. When performed with strict form, the RDL targets the hamstrings, glutes, and back for an all-around useful supplemental lift.

Start with the Setup

  • Start from the rack: set the bar between the top of your knee and midthigh.
  • Make sure the space around the rack is clear.

Grip

  • Take a standard deadlift grip.
  • Instead of a hook grip or mixed grip, use straps for the Romanian deadlift.

Stance

  • Take a deadlift stance, set your back, and lift the bar out of the rack.
  • Take two steps backward to clear the rack and assume a deadlift stance: feet directly under your hips, toes pointed slightly outward.

Position

Throughout the movement, it will be your goal to maintain good posture and a slight knee bend.

  • Turn your body into a column: stand with your chest up, abs tight, and good posture.
  • Unlock your knees slightly.

How to Lift

  • Send your hips back and slide the bar down your legs.
  • Think “hinge” at the hips while maintaining the slight knee bend and without unlocking your back or rounding your shoulders.
  • When your hamstrings are fully stretched, squeeze your glutes and fire back up to the starting position.

Useful Cues

  • Freeze your knees as you slide the bar down your legs.
  • Stick your butt out and actively squeeze your lower back.
  • Keep your chest up like you are trying to aim it at the wall in front of you.

When to Use the Romanian Deadlift

  • Supplemental deadlift
  • Less stressful
  • High-volume / low-intensity
  • Sometimes deadlift or squat alternative

The RDL yields high time under tension, improving the ability to maintain a rigid spine while fatigued. The RDL is also an excellent hamstring stretch, which may feel good to a lifter with a tweaked back.

Use the RDL as a supplemental movement for your deadlift. Generally, the RDL adds less-stressful volume to your program compared to the full deadlift or rack pull. The RDL is not often used to supplement high-intensity deadlift work. The RDL may also add lower body volume if you cannot squat with sufficient volume or frequency due to injury.

In general, start your RDL light and with higher reps per set. Often, the RDL starts at three sets of eight reps at around fifty percent of a deadlift 1RM.  Then, add weight incrementally while decreasing the reps per set (as needed) until you get to three sets of five repetitions. When you cannot add weight anymore, back-off 5-10% and add a set, going to four sets of five repetitions.

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