Romanian Deadlift: Why You Shouldn’t Neglect This Power Move
Aug 15th, 2018 - 6 min read
Commonly underused, the Romanian deadlift is an incredibly effective power move that shouldn't be neglected.
This deadlift variation has all kinds of cross over benefits, that will not only improve your overall strength and performance on other moves, but also contributes to building your physique and prevents risk of injury.
It is worth noting that the word ‘deadlift’ is used as an umbrella term for a lot of different exercises. But essentially, the deadlift is a hinge-based movement. For your information, variations of this move include (to name a few);
- Sumo Deadlifts
- Stiff-Legged Deadlifts
- Romanian Deadlift
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Snatch Grip Deadlifts
- Clean Grip Deadlifts
In this article you will learn about one particular type of deadlift; the Romanian deadlift.
What is the Romanian deadlift and why is it different from a conventional Deadlift?
Nicu Vlad, a Romanian weightlifter who won Olympic Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. As well as various World, European and Commonwealth championships, invented the Romanian deadlift.
He performed a flat-backed deadlift style movement after his workouts that intrigued his fellow lifters. Typically he would do heavy triples (three reps) of this movement. When asked what it was and why he did it, he and his coach just answered that it improved his back strength for the clean. They hadn’t named the exercise, so it just became known as the ‘Romanian deadlift’.
The Romanian deadlift is different from other forms of deadlift in that the exercise is started from a higher position – the starting point of the movement is from the top. The purpose is to load the lower back, hamstrings and glutes then let them guide the movement.
This differs from other forms of deadlift where the exercise starts and ends with the weight ‘dead’ on the floor.
Why include the Romanian deadlift in your workout?
The Romanian deadlift is an excellent way for you to encourage and improve technique for a wide variety of lifts. It will help you to learn proper hip hinging, which has crossover benefits to other forms of deadlifts, cleans, the snatch, kettlebell swings and squats.
Not only that; but it is an amazing way for you to improve lower back, hamstring and glute strength. By improving the strength of these muscles (also called the posterior chain), you make yourself more injury resistant and improve your sporting ability.
The strength and power gained by using the Romanian Deadlift will make you an overall better lifter and athlete.
Romanian deadlift muscles used
The Romanian deadlift will mostly recruit your posterior chain muscles. These include the mid and lower back muscles, the glutes, hamstrings and the calves.
At the mid-point of the lift (when the bar is near the floor), the upper back muscles engage to prevent the back from rounding. Your forearms are also working hard to maintain a strong grip on the bar.
The Romanian deadlift, pretty much works your entire back, as well as your forearms and core.
How to perform the Romanian deadlift correctly and safely
To make the technique description easier, we’ve broken it down into easy to follow steps.
Load the bar and keep it over your shoelaces (close to your shins).
Your feet should be facing forwards, not outwards. Keep your back straight, your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down (towards your lower back). This engages the lats and keeps your back strong and stable.
Keeping your arms straight and your torso engaged, grab the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
Bend down and pick up the weight, stopping when the bar is at hip height.
This is the ‘start’ of the Romanian deadlift.
Maintaining a straight back, push your hips back a little, until you feel your glutes, hamstrings and lower back engage. Slightly bend your knees and maintain this position.
With the ever-straight back, slight bend in the knees and the hips pushed back, slowly lower the bar towards the floor. Feel your hamstrings and glutes under tension the whole time.
Once you’ve reached the bottom of the movement (which will be as far as you can go towards the floor without losing good form). Return to the start position by using your hamstrings and glutes to drive your hips forward in a controlled manner.
Repeat steps 3,4 and 5 for required number of reps.
How to progress the Romanian deadlift
The Romanian deadlift can be progressed in a similar way to other variations. To sum these up clearly, we’ve written them as bullet points below.
You can opt for a mixed, clean or snatch grip.
The mixed grip will typically allow you to pull more weight as it’s the strongest grip.
The clean grip is a double-overhand grip that will strengthen the forearms. It also has an effective crossover into weightlifting as it helps with the clean.
On the other hand, the snatch grip is wide, meaning you’ll likely be able to lift less weight, but it will help develop strength in the snatch.
This is the most obvious one. Simply add more weight to the lift, but take care to make sure that any weight you add doesn’t compromise form.
Make sure you lift safely before you start lifting heavy.
Reps and Sets
As with all other exercises, you can manipulate volume and load with your reps and sets. When lifting heavier, add more sets but reduce reps. If you are doing more reps, reduce the amount of sets.
Finally, pauses are effective when it comes to building muscle, strength and technique.
To do this, simply stop the movement part way through the lift – it increases the time under tension and therefore muscle strength and size.
Romanian deadlift conclusion
In conclusion, the Romanian deadlift is one of the most effective ways to build your posterior chain, improve your general deadlifting technique and prevent injury.
Of all the deadlift variations, it could be argued that the Romanian deadlift has the most effective crossover potential into other sports. This is thanks to the extra emphasis on the posterior chain, which is typically worked more by sports people.
Either way, you’ll certainly do no harm by adding this versatile and important exercise to your workouts.