RDLs Are For Everyone
Whether you are a strength athlete, powerlifter, Olympic lifter or just into general fitness, the RDL is one of the best exercises around. Many of you are doing them already, but, if not, it is one of the best assistance exercises that should be in your tool chest of exercises.
The RDL (Romanian Deadlift) has lots of benefits. No other exercise hits the hamstrings so well in a coordinated fashion with the glutes and low back. The posterior chain is often neglected but is essential for top performance as well as injury prevention. The RDL is a closed chain exercise that closely simulates what happens in most sport as it assists in that strong, “ready” position. It is an awesome assistance strength exercise that makes your squats and deadlifts even better yet. Finally, for those of you desiring to get those cleans and snatches up, this is a great exercise for teaching the body to keep the “shoulders in front of the bar” so you are set up for that dynamic, explosive top pull.
- “power position” or “jump position”
- Lightly touching thighs
- Knees slightly bent
- Arms straight
- Back flat or “arched”
- Regular grip (or hook grip or straps)
- Focal point straight ahead
- Clean grip (although Snatch grip is OK too)
- Bend at hips only
- Knee angle stays the same throughout
- Bar descends slowly and under control
- Flat footed throughout with no pressure on toes at all
- Back stays flat or arched throughout
- Lower the bar as far as good technique and flexibility allows
(below the knees to mid-shin)
- Should feel it in the hamstrings throughout
(coaching hint: if the athlete can’t feel it in the hams, they ain’t doing it right!)
- Arms stay straight throughout
- Focal point straight ahead throughout
- Same as descent but in reverse
- Finish at same position as Start
(keeps low back holding a static position)
A variation of this is to have the athlete finish the RDL with a shrug at the top of the pull. That is fine too. My preference, though, is to view the exercise as a strength exercise more than a power exercise, trying to keep the body under constant tension throughout.
How heavy should you go? Only as heavy as good technique dictates. I am a big fan of utilizing percentages in a large majority of my athletes’ training. However, when first learning this exercise, I don’t have my athletes using percentages at all. We keep it light to make sure the technique is correct (not to mention that their hammies will be talking to them the next day as it is anyway!) After a short learning period, we set their training up based off of their clean 1RM. When that becomes manageable for them, we increase it to train off of their front squat 1RM. Finally, when they get really good, we go off of their back squat 1RM. Not too many get to that point, but if they do, chances are they are so strong they need them as much anyway!
There are a lot of great exercises out there. The RDL is one of the best!