All gym goers should have a good understanding of the Romanian deadlift as it helps to build glutes, hamstrings, and improve flexibility.
Here’s everything you need to know for the perfect Romanian deadlift (RDL) technique.
Step 1: Hinge
Hinging is the foundational human movement that the RDL is based on. In simple terms, to hinge is to push your hips backwards with relatively straight legs, lowering your upper body down until it is roughly parallel to the floor.
This loads your glutes and hamstrings whilst serving as the foundation for other gym exercises such as hip thrusts and 45-degree hyperextensions.
Learning to hinge effectively helps to reduce strain on your lower back whilst using your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors (also known as hip extensors) more.
Imagine you’ve just emptied your load of washing into the laundry basket. You need to close the washing machine door but your arms are full. So what do you do? You push your bum back to close the door.
And that’s exactly what you want when hinging. The goal is to push your hips as far back as possible rather than bending forwards at the spine or waist. If you feel more pressure in your lower back when trying to do a RDL, chances are you’re doing it wrong.
When hinging, you can allow for a soft knee bend — it’s not wrong to bend more or less based on your comfort. The more you bend your knees, the more glute focused the exercise becomes, and the closer it’ll emulate a conventional deadlift. The straighter your legs are, the more it’ll focus on the hamstrings, and the more it can be used as a flexibility biased exercise.
Step 2: Range of motion
How low should you go?
Many people say just below the knees, but the most appropriate technique is highly individualized based on your flexibility, goals, and execution.
The main goalpost should be as far as your mobility allows — which may mean above the knees, below the knees, or all the way to your ankles.
It also depends on whether you are focusing more on glutes, hamstrings, or both.
With glutes, you typically focus on pushing your hips back as mentioned above, and stopping once you reach the horizontal range at the hips.
For hamstrings, you can allow for a greater degree of tipping of the pelvis and moving forwards into flexion at the hips — so you may end up going significantly deeper and even using a deficit to stretch your hamstrings more.
And of course, you can always go somewhere in between, based on your own personal comfort and preference.
Step 3: Head position
Should you look up or down?
Many people say that looking up is bad for your neck, but because there isn’t actually a significant amount of force going through it, it is perfectly fine to do so if that’s comfortable. At the same time, many people find it more helpful and comfortable to maintain a neutral head position or even a slight chin tuck.
There is potential for your head position to alter your spine position as well. Looking up creates more spinal extension and anterior pelvic tilt which can give you a deeper hamstring stretch OR cause discomfort in your lower back.
It’s personal preference!
Step 4: Push back and UP
We talked about hinging and moving your hips back, but let’s add on to that if you’re comfortable. Instead of just pushing back, think about pushing back and up.
By reaching to the top corner of the room behind you, anterior pelvic tilt is emphasised to open your hips and deepen your hamstring stretch.
Although there isn’t much visual change with this cue, you’ll definitely feel a deeper stretch and sensation through your glutes and hamstrings.
Step 5: Foot pressure
We’re getting pedantic here, but since we’re breaking down RDL technique, let’s be thorough.
When it comes to foot positioning and pressure in a Romanian deadlift, it’s more than just standing on your two feet.
Although manny people think an “active foot pressure” is pushing through the outer edges of your feet, this can stop the natural pronation of your foot, preventing you from pushing through the balls of your feet to internally rotate the femur and increase your range of motion.
Instead, let your feet naturally roll inwards slightly as you descend, and think about pushing through thr mid foot as you come up. It’s not unusual to see a huge increase in range of motion by doing this.
Then as you come up, think about pushing through the mid foot as you come up whilst thrusting the hips forwards.
Here are some bonus tips to help you with your RDL journey.
Tip 1: Use wrist straps
People think using equipment is a crutch, but some tools are there to assist you for good reason.
No matter how strong your grip is, your forearm muscles will always be weaker than your hamstrings, glutes, and adductors. You can strengthen your grip, but it’ll still be a limitation.
You’re leaving possible glute and hamtring gains behind if you don’t want to take a hit to your ego by using straps.
“You don’t have a strong grip if you can RDL without wrist straps. You have weak hamstrings.”
Tip 2: Load up in a rack
A conventional deadlift starts with the bar on the ground. For a Romanian deadlift, you can lift it from the rack and walking backwards. This serves two purposes:
- Saves energy from having to lift the bar off the ground
- Helps you find the perfect technique by lowering into the bottom of the first rep, as opposed to struggling to find it on the way up
Most people will find that they don’t have the flexibility to start with the bar on the ground if they’re doing a true hinge/RDL motion, so it makes more sense to lower from the rack to your own depth instead.
So, now you know. You can find more tips, tutorials, get form checks, and access full workouts on Ganbaru. Try it for free today!