And some words on RDL - Romanian Dead Lift:
How To Perform The RDL (Romanian Deadlift)
Set the racks in a power rack to just about knee level (there is no need for safety rods - if you lose control during a lift, simply drop the weight), and set a standard 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). Once set you’re ready to start the exercise.
Start by tightening your core musculature (abs and lower back) 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.
It may take some people a few sessions of practice to make this distinction. 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. In fact, I find it’s easier to learn this exercise if you visualize it as a hamstring stretch with no lower back movement. Most people will find that they can safely bring the bar down to around knee level before their lower
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 be squeezing the glutes. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions, 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 fitness instructors. It is not meant simply as a hamstring stretch as some would claim, nor is it meant to directly work the lower back, although the lower back will get stronger from performing this exercise.
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.
What Makes The RDL So Great?
Two words - intensity and functionality. First, the RDL allows a much higher intensity level (basically more weight can be used) than a leg curl does. Considering that hamstrings are made up of primarily fast twitch muscle fibers which are best trained with higher intensity levels, the RDL is one of the most effective hamstring exercises you can do.
Second, the RDL is also far more functional than leg curls. Sorry folks, but leg curls are not a functional exercise. Although it may seem like knee flexion is a big part of your every day activities like running and walking, a look at the true biomechanics of these activities shows that it is, in fact, hip extension that plays the major role in these activities.
Your knee simply flexes in order to reset the leg and start the locomotion movement again, and even there the momentum generated from the hip extension helps swing the lower leg back. Hip extension plays a huge role in several everyday activities, such as the above mentioned running and walking, not to mention jumping and biking. In addition, when you learn to bend over with a heavy weight in the gym while protecting your lower back, you have learned better body mechanics for use outside the gym as well.
There is one last thing that makes the RDL special, at least in most of my client’s eyes. I’ve yet to find an exercise that delivers better results as far as firming up the hindquarters, if you catch my drift. I’ve had dozens of frustrated people come to me after years of leg lifts and donkey kicks and all sorts of other silly exercises that supposedly target the glutes. These frustrated athletes are ready to give up their dream of looking good in tight pants again.
After a little instruction, every single one of them saw better and more satisfying results in just a few months of executing the RDL than all their previous training combined. Some may scoff at it, but most people work out with an eye on improving their physique, so these benefits do rank high on a lot of people’s priority list.