The deadlift is my favorite movement and by extension, many of the clients in my gym have adopted this mindset. We pull conventional, high handle trap bar, low handle trap bar, sumo, axle, and everything in between.
But the deadlift is one of the most taxing lifts to recover from. I noticed as I got stronger than pulling heavy every 7 days was impossible. Two things made me feel like I was progressing the most on my deadlift: lifting more frequently, but with lower intensity (70-80%) and when I added additional sessions with auxiliary movements.
Enter the Romanian Deadlift.
This gem does get the fanfare I think it deserves (right along with front squats). But it presents an opportunity to train the deadlift pattern without the additional stress of pulling from the floor. Many people struggle to do a basic RDL pattern, yet wonder why deadlifts always “hurt their back” or their progress plateaus.
The RDL allows you to slow things down, perfect your technique, and build additional volume that won’t leave you feeling as busted up.
While there is no perfect technique, there are a few principles critical for RDL excellence:
- A great RDL starts with a great setup.
- The whole foot must remain loaded.
- The hips move forward and backward motion.
- You feel the steel. The bar stays tight to your body, but not literally touching at all points of the lift.
Principle #2 remains the most common deviation I coach. Mismanagement of your weight distribution also sets off a cascade of wild compensatory strategies. I’ve outlined a simple way to polish this in the video below. Check it out:
To Coaches, For Extra Credit:
When you combine principle #2 and #3 you’ll discover that the RDL is less about hip excursion and more about an acetabulum rotating on a fixed femur. If you’re able to start from a position with a bit more sagittal plane competency (i.e., not extended-bro), you’ll find the hamstrings pick up tension much earlier in the lift. This has been beneficial for some of my hypermobile athletes who have trouble finding proprioceptive feedback (ISOs work well too at end range LOL). This also helps people who struggle with using their back during the lift.
If I were to sequence this I would prioritize the set-up, learning to hinge, centering their mass over their foot, and then if necessary, driving acetabulum on femur movement. I cue the A on F movement as “maintain side abs, then drive the hips back while dropping the logo over the toes.”
Deadlifts make me happy, RDLs make me healthy. Do your RDL’s and chase that big deadlift. You deserve it, ya filthy animal.