Lower back pain has been an issue for most of us. How you can maximize hamstring and glute contraction without hurting your lower back?
The answer is: The Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift (RDL for short) is one of the best exercises for building muscles in the hamstring and glutes, while minimising lower back pain. You will find many training programs include this easy to perform exercise, especially in lower-body workouts.
There are also many benefits to this deadlift technique.
Simple and Easy to Learn
This variation of the conventional deadlift is simple enough to learn, especially once you have the former mastered. However, there are common mistakes that can occur (which we will discuss below) while performing this exercise, so make sure you’ve got the moves down, before challenging yourself with increased weight.
Greater Glute and Hamstring Hypertrophy
The RDL targets the hamstrings and glutes, which is beneficial for increased muscle mass, or what we call hypertrophy. Increased hypertrophy leads to increased performance, strength, power applications, and muscle size, and isn’t that what we’re all after in the end.
Increased Pulling Strength
Many strength and power athletes use a heavier RDL in place of a conventional deadlift to improve glute and hamstring strength. Lower backloading is limited because of increased hamstring and glute isolation in this exercise.
Improved Athletic Performance
Overall leg strength can be achieved by incorporating the RDL into your workout by targeting the posterior chain. Running performance also increases, as well as power application.
Thanks to the straighter leg position during movement, the RDL also increases hip mobility, by using the hip flexors as secondary muscles. Compared to a standard deadlift, this version focuses on the hip hinge, which is an essential movement all athletes need to know. So practising it will help improve this important technique.
The hamstrings are one of the most common muscles to be injured in the body, especially during explosive movements like running and sprinting. RDL can be used to increase hamstring strength and control, which can improve your injury resilience.
So how do you perform this technique?
As we mentioned before, the RDL is relatively easy to learn. Here is a step by step guide.
⦁ Begin with your feet hip-width apart, and hold your barbell at thigh level. For the first attempt, try just using the bar to get the hang of things, before moving on to weights. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart.
⦁ Bend your waist and sit your hips back to lower the bar down. Make sure to keep your back straight. This is very important.
⦁ Keep your bar close to your shins, and lower as far as your flexibility allows you to.
⦁ Contract your glutes to stand back up, extending your hips and return to your starting position.
Like we said, it’s simple!
However, keep in mind there are common mistakes that can be made, that will hinder the full benefits of the lift being achieved.
Only Performing the RDL Halfway
One of the most common mistakes made with this exercise is underperforming it, and failing to actually strengthen your muscles. The bar should always be lowered to at least halfway down the shin, but unfortunately, often we will see people only bringing it down to the knees. It is easier to just go down to the knees, and you may be able to carry more weight if you do, but the muscles won’t get as much of a workout.
A simple way to avoid this, and keep your technique firm, is by beginning your exercise with a loaded stretch on the hamstrings. Once you’re comfortable with weights on your barbell, of course. Start with the barbell on the floor, as you would with a conventional deadlift, and pull it up to proceed into the RDL’s from the top. This allows you to stretch out the muscles for a greater range of motion, which increases the effectiveness of the exercise.
Of course, if you struggle from poor mobility and flexibility, lowering the bar to the shins might be an impossibility to start with. Work your way down if this is the case, and find exercises to stretch out the hamstrings for improved flexibility.
Not Using Enough Weight in Your RDL
Obviously, we don’t want to encourage pushing yourself too far beyond your limits, but because your hamstrings are full of fast-twitch muscle fibres, they respond better to heavy loads. RDL is not typically used as a feature lift, so people don’t perform is as heavy as with a conventional deadlift. You will never be able to lift quite as much, but more than you might think.
It’s okay to push yourself a little bit, but not too much. Find that happy medium and work with it.
Forgetting Your Deadlift Technique
The RDL calls for almost no knee bend, something that can sometimes be forgotten, when the conventional deadlift requires the knee to bend. It’s important to maintain a straight back while performing the RDL.
If you continue to incorrectly move through a back-dominant deadlift, you’ll have an exaggerated back arch, and you’ll end up activating the lower back muscles that leads to lower back pain or even causing injury.
RDL with Dumbbells
As an added benefit to the normal barbell, RDL can be performed with dumbbells, in situations where a barbell may not be accessible. This versatility makes it perfect for at-home workouts, where only dumbbells are on hand, or, if needed, you can even use other weighted items where no proper weights can be found.
The dumbbell RDL doesn’t allow for as heavy loads as with a barbell, making it better for beginners or those trying to work on muscle hypertrophy and endurance, as you can work on higher reps for a longer workout.
Here’s how to perform the RDL with dumbbells.
⦁ Hold in each hand a dumbbell (of the same weight) and place them to the sides of your body. Keep the torso upright, arms straight, and the shoulder blades pulled back and down towards the ground. (This will prevent the rounding of the back as you go down, which will keep you from using your lower back muscles to move back up).
⦁ Start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push the hips back, making sure to keep the back flat and the knees parallel to the ankles.
⦁ Pull down the dumbbells to your shins, feeling the hamstrings and glutes stretch as you move.
⦁ Using your glutes and hamstrings again, push to stand up, making sure to keep the dumbbells moving up on a vertical path. You don’t want to have them swinging away from the body.
⦁ At the starting position, contract your glutes and core, for added muscle training.
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