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The Romanian Deadlift, the best exercise for a strong posterior chain

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

The Deadlift and especially the Romanian Deadlift or RDL is the best compund exercise that targets hamstrings, glutes, back, arms, strengthens the grip and burns lots of calories! Doing it correctly will make incredible changes in your physique! There’s something about bending over, grabbing a hold of heavy weight, and standing up with it that makes you feel like a superhero.

When performed properly, the RDL is an excellent way to build the posterior chain, but unfortunately many people limit their leg training to squats, leg press and leg extension variations. While these exercises will certainly develop the quads, they neglect the hamstrings which are key in developing a strong and powerful physique.

For the standard RDL, you want to start standing straight, holding the bar with a double-overhand grip. When going heavy, you may use a mixed grip, but I suggest sticking with a double overhand grip during your lighter sets to build up your grip strength. One option for getting into the RDL starting position is to deadlift the weight up from the floor, but ideally you’d have a squat rack with the pins set to just below hip height. This way, you can simply take the bar off the rack and step right back into position. The stance is going to be narrower than a squat, about hip width apart, with the toes pointed straight. At the start, the bar should be resting against the thighs, and for the descent you want to sit the hips back allowing the torso to drop down. The knees will bend slightly but the shins remain vertical throughout – the bar should continue to drag along the thighs the entire time.

During the negative, you want to maintain a slight arch and tension in your low back. This tilts the pelvis anteriorly and puts a greater stretch on the hamstrings. However, the lumbar extension and anterior pelvic tilt should be slight and not excessive. Moreover, do not allow the lumbar spine to round or the shoulders to be protracted during the RDL. Keep the chest up and the shoulders back. Individuals with superior hamstring flexibility will be able to descend to mid shin level (some very flexible individuals can descend all the way to the floor this way). Even so, I recommend that you reverse the movement once the bar reaches just below the knees, as this is the range of motion with which we are primarily concerned. Here's a short video to help you understand the RDL!

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