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Romanian deadlift: an in-depth guide (part III)

In the final part of the in-depth tutorial on the Romanian deadlift, I will walk you through a simple progression to work your way up to safely and comfortably performing this exercise. If you have been doing the movement for some time but feel like your form could use work, this progression can also work well for you!

Missed part I or II of this series? Take a read below!

As previously mentioned, learning how to maintain a neutral spine while moving with the hips is the cornerstone to performing this exercise safely and efficiently. However, it’s one thing to understand this by reading and another thing to apply it. So instead of learning the movement with a barbell right away, let’s take a step back and ensure we know how to hip hinge correctly!

Correction 1: Reinforcing the neutral spine position

When people first learn how to keep a neutral spine, they often lack the proprioception, or “movement awareness,” of what it feels like to be in a neutral spine. This is where something like a dowel placed behind the back can help to teach the position, as seen below.

Why? The dowel or stick pressed against the back aligns the spine in the upright position. As you move the hips back, you will feel the spine start to flex forward and hit the rod if you are doing the movement incorrectly. Similarly, it offers feedback if you maintain a flat back, as you will not feel the dowel disconnect from the body.

A man in athletic clothing holds a wooden down behind him, straight up his back, and bends over.

​Key Point

When people first learn how to keep a neutral spine, they often lack proprioception, or “movement awareness,” of what it feels like to be in a neutral spine.

Correction 2: positional sumo deadlift

So now that you have an idea of how to perform a proper hip hinge with a neutral spine, we need to assess the “true” range of motion you have when using the hips correctly.

A man wearing athletic clothing stands with his feet wide apart.

The body is extremely good at compensating to perform a movement but sometimes will do it less efficiently based on previous habits. That’s why the positional sumo deadlift is a great exercise to limit yourself to only working in the range of motion you can control with the hips.

When you are about to start pushing the hips back, think of keeping the hips as tight as possible by squeezing them along with the core like I've done in the images below. If done correctly, you should feel your legs and torso tense as you move through the range of motion you can control.

​Key Point

Learning to use your true range of motion with your hips is much different from passively moving the body.

Next comes the setup for this exercise. Place some blocks up to a height just about where you start to lose the tension in the hips when doing the hip hinge. From here, grab a lightweight and stand between the blocks in hips wider than shoulder-width stance.

The goal is to progressively remove the blocks until you can maintain good tension in the hips through the entire range of motion without rounding the back.

A man wearing athletic clothing holds a kettlebell placed on top of foam blocks with his feet spaced apart.

This is an excellent self-limiting exercise because you are controlling your range of motion and a great way to test your progress by removing blocks as you get more proficient with the lift.

Once you feel comfortable with these exercises, it’s time to move to the barbell variation and continue to apply good lifting habits! It’s always a good idea to revisit different deadlift variations to keep progressing and getting the best results possible.

If you are looking for extra support with this exercise or other deadlift variations, send me a message, and I would be happy to help!

See you at the next one!


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