The Romanian deadlift is a core training staple that can help to build strength and size in your legs, but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this hamstring and glute-building move, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it’s such a simple, essential movement that should serve as one of the centerpieces of your training plan. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the move’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before you grab a dumbbell and start hinging, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Tossing around the weight carelessly won’t just lessen the effect on your target muscles—you’ll only be creating problems for your lower back.
Eb says: The focus of the Romanian deadlift is supposed to be on the eccentric contraction. If you rush things, you’ll fail to develop the eccentric control that you want to build with the movement. So take your time lowering the weight. Think about spending at least 2 seconds, maybe 3 bringing the weight down.
Find Your ROM
Eb says: Your range of motion will be different than mine will be different than your best friend’s—and it will also be different in four months than it is now (especially if you consistently do RDLs). Your goal on the RDL is to lower until you can feel your hamstrings tighten, and before your lower back starts to round. That point will come earlier for some people, later for others.
In the ideal world, you end with your back just a hair above parallel to the ground—but don’t chase that standard. Instead, lower until you feel your hamstrings tighten, or until you feel your lower back round, whichever happens first. Then pause and use your hamstrings and glutes to stand back up. The great part about this is that the move is also gradually stretching you as you do it. You’ll find that, over the course of doing RDLs, if you stay disciplined, your ROM will gradually improve.
Keep the Bar Close
Eb says: Don’t let the bar (or whatever you’re using) stray far from your legs. Think about dragging your weight down your thighs and then your calves as you push your butt back. Doing this will keep your back from ever shouldering the load and prevent any lower back issues when doing RDLs.
Keep the Reps Light
Eb says: Never try to do RDLs for 12 to 15 reps. This isn’t a motion that’s meant to be done for overly high reps, because then your mind starts to lose focus and you begin to waste the eccentric portion of the contraction. Stay in the 8 to 10 rep range so you can take your time on every rep and really control the negative.
If you’re taking 2 to 3 seconds to lower the weight on each rep, then one second to drive back to standing, that still works out to, at minimum, 24 seconds of time under tension, a solid set.
Want to master even more exercises? Check out all of our Form Check guides here.
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