Romanian Deadlift: Why You Shouldn’t Neglect This Power Move
The Romanian deadlift is commonly under-used, but is an incredibly effective power move that you shouldn’t neglect. It has all kinds of cross over benefits to sports, injury prevention, strength and physique improvements.
The word ‘deadlift’ is really an umbrella term for a lot of different exercises. Essentially, the deadlift is a hinge-based movement, but there are so many variations of the deadlift that it can be quite confusing – there are; Deadlifts, Sumo Deadlifts, Stiff-Legged Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlift, Snatch Grip Deadlifts, Clean Grip Deadlifts to name but a few.
In this article you will learn about one particular type of deadlift; the Romanian Deadlift.
What is the Romanian Deadlift and why is it different from a conventional Deadlift?
Nicu Vlad, a Romanian weightlifter who won Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medals, as well as various World, European and Commonwealth championships, invented the Romanian deadlift.
He performed a flat-backed deadlift style movement after his workouts that intrigued his fellow lifters. Typically he would do heavy triples (three reps) of this movement. When asked what it was and why he did it, he and his coach just answered that it improved his back strength for the clean. They hadn’t named the exercise, so it just became known as the ‘Romanian Deadlift’.
The Romanian Deadlift is different from other forms of deadlift in that the exercise is started from a higher position – the starting point of the movement is from the top. The purpose is to load the lower back, hamstrings and glutes then let them guide the movement.
This differs from other forms of deadlift where the exercise starts and ends with the weight ‘dead’ on the floor.
Why include the Romanian Deadlift in your workout?
The Romanian Deadlift is an excellent way for you to encourage and improve technique for a wide variety of lifts. It will help you to learn proper hip hinging, which has crossover benefits to other forms of deadlifts, cleans, the snatch, kettlebell swings and squats.
Not only that; but it is an amazing way for you to improve lower back, hamstring and glute strength. By improving the strength of these muscles (also called the posterior chain), you make yourself more injury resistant and improve your sporting ability.
The strength and power gained by using the Romanian Deadlift will make you an overall better lifter and athlete.
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Which muscles are used in the Romanian Deadlift?
The Romanian Deadlift will mostly recruit your posterior chain muscles. These include the mid and lower back muscles, the glutes, hamstrings and the calves.
At the mid-point of the lift (when the bar is near the floor), the upper back muscles engage to prevent the back from rounding. Your forearms are also working hard to maintain a strong grip on the bar. With the Romanian Deadlift, pretty much all of the back of your body is worked, not to mention your forearms and core.
How to perform the Romanian Deadlift correctly and safely
To make the technique description easier, we’ve broken it down into easy to follow steps, complete with a video at the end to see what the movement looks like when it’s correctly performed.
Step 1: Load the bar and keep it over your shoelaces (close to your shins).
Your feet should be facing forwards, not outwards. Keep your back straight, your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down (towards your lower back). This engages the lats and keeps your back strong and stable.
Step 2: Keeping your arms straight and your torso engaged, grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
Bend down and pick up the weight, stopping when the bar is at hip height.
Step 3: This is the ‘start’ of the Romanian Deadlift.
Maintaining a straight back, push your hips back a little, until you feel your glutes, hamstrings and lower back engage. Slightly bend your knees and maintain this position.
Step 4: With the ever-straight back, slight bend in the knees and the hips pushed back, slowly lower the bar towards the floor. Feel your hamstrings and glutes under tension the whole time.
Step 5: Once you’ve reached the bottom of the movement (which will be as far as you can go towards the floor without losing good form), return to the start position by using your hamstrings and glutes to drive your hips forward in a controlled manner.
Step 6: Repeat steps 3,4 and 5 for required number of reps!
How to progress the Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift can be progressed in the same ways as the other variations. To sum these up clearly, we’ve written them as bullet points, with tips on how to vary the exercise and the effects.
- Grip – you can opt for a mixed, snatch or clean grip. The mixed grip will typically allow you to pull more weight as it’s the strongest grip. The clean grip is a double-overhand grip that will strengthen the forearms. It also has an effective crossover into weightlifting as it helps with the clean. The snatch grip is wide, meaning you’ll likely be able to lift less weight, but it will help develop strength in the snatch.
- Weight – this is the obvious one. Simply add more weight to the lift, but take care to make sure that any weight you add doesn’t compromise form. Lift safely before you lift heavy.
- Sets and Reps – as with all other exercises, you can manipulate volume and load with the sets and reps. When lifting heavier, add more sets but reduce reps. If you are doing more reps, reduce the amount of sets.
- Pauses – these are effective when it comes to building muscle, strength and technique. Part way through the lift, stop the movement – it increases the time under tension and therefore muscle strength and size.
The Romanian Deadlift: Conclusion
You may not have previously heard of the Romanian Deadlift, but now you have you should seriously think about adding it to your strength training programmes. It is one of the most effective ways to build your posterior chain strength, improve deadlift technique and prevent injury.
Of all the deadlift variations, there’s an argument that the Romanian Deadlift is the one that has the most effective crossover into sport, thanks to the extra emphasis on the posterior chain, which is typically worked more by sports people.
Either way, you’ll certainly do no harm by adding this versatile and important exercise to your workouts.
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