What is the Romanian deadlift? What is it for?
The name of the exercise most likely derives from the Romanian weightlifter Nic Vlad who used a dead stop variant without a dead stop (stop at the bottom or support on the ground) to reinforce the rear chain.
The Romanian deadlift differs from the deadlift due to the presence of an eccentric phase (the descent) and the absence of a dead stop (support of the barbell on the ground). These apparently trivial differences are instead the strengths of this exercise that allows, compared to the ‘big brother’:
- a more targeted muscle work,
- a better perception of hip movement,
- a greater lengthening of the femoral,
- a better mechanical stress.
Romanian deadlifts: correct execution and tutorial
The exercise takes place standing and the start can take place:
- from above , detaching the rocker from the rack supports
- from the bottom starting from rises or by detaching the barbell from the ground on the first repetition, continuing with the following ones as we will illustrate shortly.
How is the Romanian deadlift performed? Standing start: with legs extended and barbell against the thighs; the feet are positioned not beyond the width of the shoulders (to establish it you can make a jump with equal feet upwards or forwards, the width of the feet with which you land will be the one to maintain); the important thing is that you feel stable. The hands, on the other hand, are placed laterally with respect to the thighs, the load is in the center of the soles of the feet and distributed evenly over them.
Descent keeping as much as possible the physiological curves of the spine, lean forward imagining to go backwards with the butt and slightly bending the knees. The weight on the feet will shift slightly towards the heels. How much to get off? You can take as a reference for the descent to go up to about mid-tibia, and not to the point where we are parallel to the ground with the torso (technically the latter is another variant of deadlift).
Another important factor is mobility: if it is not enough, the goal is to try to go down to the point where you can maintain the lumbar curve feeling the maximum stretch of the back of the thigh.
Ascent (concentric phase) repeating the same movement of the descent maintaining the lumbar curve. Stop when you have returned to the starting upright position maintaining the physiological curves, without inverting the lumbar curve to “squeeze the buttocks”, of which you will have to feel the contraction anyway.
Important note: when you get below the knee the bar remains “glued” to the shins both uphill and downhill and the arms are extended and do not bend during the movement.
Common mistakes in Romanian deadlifts
The difficulty of the Romanian deadlift is to learn how to correctly coordinate the knee and hip and keep the pelvis antiverse throughout the movement. In addition, you must also check the bar by keeping it close to you and in contact with the shins below the knee.
We can highlight several possible errors :
- Bending down in the descent with legs outstretched without control.
- Losing your back totally (hunching it) in some places or during the whole movement.
- Let go of the bar away from our body (below the knee), increasing the tension on the lower back.
- Try to keep the shoulder blades close together (like in the bench press by opening the chest).
This happens for several reasons:
- Not knowledge of the movement.
- Weakness of the back in holding (under load).
- Weakness of the hamstrings and buttocks.
These points can coexist, they are not necessarily present individually. For those who have major problems in one or more points here is a simple routine:
- stand against a wall (possibly with a barbell and an overload that you perceive as such) and spaced a few centimeters apart.
- Following all the indications given for the correct execution of the Romanian deadlift go to touch the wall with your butt and stop. Perform the movement very slowly (descent 3-4 seconds, ascent 2-3 seconds) trying to listen to the body, from how the support moves on the foot, to the position of the spine as you bend forward. Do 8/15 repetitions.
- Now take a half step (even less) forward to distance yourself a little more from the wall. Repeat the exact same execution just explained. Do 8/15 repetitions.
Try to move further and further away from the wall or rear reference until you reach the distance that allows you to perform the Romanian deadlift. In this way you will probably have a correct management of the pelvis/hip going backwards, without ‘diving’ forward with the shoulders.
This short routine if done with overload could be a possible initial progression, a warm-up routine. In the first case, try to use a load more around 8 repetitions, and when you manage the movement well, start doing it with less slow speeds (ascent 1 ″, descent 2-3 ″) and with a progressively more important load. In the second case, you could be in the higher part of the recommended range.
A note on the grip: the advice is to use a prone and not mixed grip, with the help if necessary of clamps for the grip and chalk or liquid chalk.