Over at Starting Strength, Mark Rippetoe put up an excellent video explaining the details of the Romanian deadlift.
I really learned a lot from this. Here are my notes from the video.
Why is the Romanian deadlift an important exercise?
The RDL is a great exercise for your lower back. It is especially useful to get stronger in the first couple of inches of your deadlift.
RDLs incorporates the stretch reflex into the deadlift. Normal deadlifts (DL) start off from a dead stop from the floor (aka the hardest mechanical position). Except if you are part of a “faddish training community” that use bouncing ( haha, I wonder who he’s talking about…).
When lifting on rubber surfaces with rubber plates you get a rebound, which means that you don’t do a significant portion of the work for the first couple of inches.
The stretch reflex occurs between eccentric and concentric phase. Muscles get longer until maximum is reached. The following contraction is produced by two things:
Signals that the stretch reflex sends from the motor units and also the physical rebound properties inherent in the stretch in the visceral elastic componentns of muscles and fascia acting as bundles that stretch out like rubber bands.
The RDL is valuable if used correctly.
It offers a completely different way of strengthening the posterior chain than you would find with any other pullling exercise. It’s its own exercise, not DL variation.
Start the set with the barbell beeing racked.
Main focus is to keep that lumbar spine arched. That is what makes it such a great exercise for the lower back.
- Chest up, (barely) unlock knees to get tension off the hamstrings. Stiff knees would restrict the ROM.
- Lower bar down your thighs.
- To keep bar in contact with thighs, when going down, consciously use the lats to push the bar back.
- Hips,bar and knees go back. Only thing going forward are your shoulders.
- The bar never leaves contact with the legs.
- Remember, the lumbar spine must stay in perfect extensions.
- When you feel the back starting to unlock, that is your max depth.
- Go back up, rebounding off the bottom with use of the stretch reflex and remember to keep you lumbar spine completely locked.
Depth is NOT the key here. As you do a couple of reps, your depth will increase bit by bit.
He recommends doing sets of 5,8 or 10 since this is an assistance exercise.
What grip to use?
Rip recommends using a clean width, double overhand grip, hook grip if you go heavy or straps if you must. No alternative grip here!
Sounds like “faddish”, not fetish. Good video.
Thanks, that makes more sense.
Great video. I may have missed it, but he didn’t appear to actually explain why the alternative grip is to be avoided. What is the reason for this?
From ‘Starting Strength’: Double overhand increases grip strength and doesn’t produce asymmetrical stress on the shoulders. Biceps on supinated hand in over/under grip is also under very high stress
C J says
Double overhand grip keeps the bar in contact with legs better. It’s harder with one or more palms facing away.
would sets of 3 with 5-8 reps be sufficient?
Best advice I’ve seen on RDLs. Gonna have another go at these now. Was afraid of hurting my back but your advice seems to help prevent that.
Can this exercise help to decompress your spine while strengthening your back at the same time?
Scott Draper says
Why no alternative grip?