Romanian deadlift: an in-depth guide (part II)
In part one of the Romanian deadlift, we went into detail about the muscles involved in the exercise and, more specifically, how this specific deadlift variation differs from its other variations. In addition, the proper setup was discussed. If you haven’t read that blog post yet, I highly recommend you check it out before continuing with part two.
As mentioned in the previous post, the Romanian deadlift is an excellent exercise for all skill levels. For the beginner, it is a fundamental way to teach and load the hinge position as you begin with the weight at the top, where it is easiest to activate the hip and also easier to control while lowering.
For the experienced lifter, the Romanian deadlift offers a great way to add variation to your training. It can be a superior exercise versus the conventional deadlift to training the hamstrings if muscle growth is top of mind and an essential activity to learn and master.
In addition, when performed correctly, the Romanian deadlift is a safe and extremely effective way to strengthen, not injure, the low back. Clients who have back problems can particularly benefit from this exercise as it works to improve the hips and back.
“In addition, when performed correctly, the Romanian deadlift is a safe and extremely effective way to strengthen, not injure, the low back. Clients who have back problems can particularly benefit from this exercise as it works to improve the hips and back.”
Even with all the benefits, this move can look downright scary for a beginner new to the gym. You are probably worried about your back getting injured due to bent over position, you probably don’t know what I mean by “hinge” yet, and the exercise itself has the word “dead” in it, so I can understand why you may be hesitant.
Stay with me as we will take a bottoms-up approach to make you feel confident with this exercise right from the start.
Establishing your hand position
There are a few different grip positions you can use for the Romanian deadlift that I recommend.
The first is a double overhand grip, where both hands grip the weight with knuckles. I like this grip when initially teaching the move to make it easier for the client to use and activate their lats. However, as you progress with the exercise, your grip may become the limiting factor. When that happens, you can switch to a mixed grip.
A mixed grip is when you place one hand palm down and the other palm up. This gives the client a stronger grip as you put the bar in a bind so it can’t rotate from beneath your hands.
For advanced lifters, the hook grip is also a great alternative, where placing the thumb between the bar and your hands create a greater friction point on the bar at the cost of some initial discomfort to the thumb. Finally, when placing the hands on the bar, adopt a shoulder-width grip just outside the legs.
They set a proper position from which our legs move. In the Romanian deadlift, we focus on keeping the feet relatively straightforward and shoulder-width apart. We want to set up our feet in this way because
this maximally works the hamstrings, and
having the feet wider than shoulder width also starts to activate the groin muscles to a greater extent versus having a neutral foot position.