Sunday, November 21, 2010


Posted by Picasa RDL's or Romanian Deadlifts are one of the most effective ways to train hamstrings.

They also look pretty impressive from behind.....

The exercise isn't really from Romania, the story is that the Romanian Olympic Lifter Nicu Vlad (who is credited with doing ~300kg, yes that’s 660 lbs., in the exercise) was seen doing them in the Olympic training hall at some point prior to either winning a medal, setting a world record, or possibly both.

Since he was Romanian, the movement got dubbed the Romanian deadlift.

Many people think they are the same as straight legged deadlifts, but they are not, not at all.

Both the RDL and SLDL target the same primary muscles which are the glutes, hamstrings and low back (additional work is done by the upper back and gripping muscles). One of the primary differences between the RDL and SLDL is that the RDL only works the spinal erector muscles statically, as there is no movement in the spine itself.

Set the racks in a power (squat) rack to just about knee level (there is no need for safety's- if you lose control during a lift, just drop the weight), and set an  Olympic bar on the rack. Walk up, squat down slightly while maintaining a small curve in the lower back, grasp the bar, and stand back up. You want your hands to be shoulder width apart, perhaps slightly wider if you find it to be more comfortable. Take a few steps back, and set yourself for the exercise. Being set includes making sure your feet are shoulder width apart, your chest is up, your lower back has a slight curve in it, and your knees are slightly bent (not locked).
I like to use my own lifting straps, it's easier to grasp the bar and I am not fond of the big ones they have at the gym..

Start by tightening your core to ensure a secure spine. Keeping the bar close in to your body (it should maintain slight contact with the body at all times) start to bend at the hips, taking care that the lower back does not move. I run the bar down my thighs actually, you can see the redness that it creates.

Your lower back should not loose its natural curvature at any time during the movement. Loosing this curve and bending or even straitening the lower back will put your lower back in a potentially injurious position. Practice with a light weight until you can bend over at the hips without bending the lower back as well.

As you descend, your butt should move back ever so slightly and you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

At the point right before you reach the limit of your hamstring range of motion you should stop and then reverse the movement, taking care to keep the bar in close and maintaining a safe (slightly curved) lower back position. Towards the top of the movement really force the hips through by squeezing the glutes. Repeat for the number of repetitions you want, walk the bar in over the racks, squat down slightly and return the bar to the rack.

The biggest mistake most people will make in the execution of this exercise is not maintaining the position of their lower back. Some will even go so far as to bend all the way over till the weight touches the ground. This is a huge no-no and is a reflection of the misunderstanding of this exercise and its purposes by most instructors.

In order to properly stress the hip extensor muscle groups, you must use intensity levels that are much too high for the lower back to handle in a prime mover or synergistic role. In order to derive maximum benefits from the RDL, you must keep the lower back from moving and let it play a much safer role as a stabilizer.

In fact, if done properly, you can safely handle extremely large weights on this movement with little to no danger to your lower back.

Me? I am doing 185 right now, 5 sets of 10. My hams look pretty good too...
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