How Do You Perform an RDL? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift, known as RDL, is an effective exercise for strengthening the posterior chain.

The primary muscle targeted is the glutes, followed by the hamstrings and lower back.

It is a fundamental movement in weightlifting and fitness routines, favored by athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts alike.

Performing the RDL with proper form is crucial to maximize its benefits.

Fun fact, I’ve recorded over 200 RDL feedback videos for people around the world!

So I thought it would make sense to create this blog post and walk you through step-by-step instructions on how to perform an RDL safely and effectively.

Here’s how I coach the RDL:

Step 1: Preparing for the RDL

Before you begin, ensure you have the appropriate equipment, you can use:

– Barbell.

– Dumbbells.

– Trap bar.

– Smith machine (vertical or angled).

– Cable with a straight bar.

Choose a weight that challenges you but allows you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward and the barbell resting against your thighs if you are using one.

Taking a wider stance than this will not be more glutes, just more adductors.

Step 2: The Grip

Use a grip slightly wider than your hip-width so you hands don’t get in the way of your knees.

Step 3: Initiating the Movement

Brace your abs like you’re about to get punched in the stomach and hold this tight throughout the entire movement.

Take a breath at the top and hold it whilst you’re moving, breath out when you’re back at the top of the RDL.

Initiate the RDL by pushing your hips back, not down. This is not a squat.

Imagine your hands are filled with grocery bags and you’re trying to close a car door with your backside.

As you go down hold a soft knee bend. The shins will remain vertical – this helps disadvantage the hamstrings so the glutes can be the prime mover.

If you bend your knees too much they will get in the way of the bar and it will feel very awkward – steel on bone never feels too good to me.

Think of this movement as hips back / hips forward – horizontal movement. Not an up and down – squat movement.

Here’s an example of what it looks like when you bend the knees too much and push the shins forward:

On the other end, if you lock your knees too much, turning it into more of a stiff legged deadlift, and the hamstrings will become the prime mover.

Step 4: Head Position

For most people, maintaining a neutral head or slight extension in the neck will be ideal. It’s not necessary to be looking up at the roof.

A good cue for this is to ‘tuck the chin’, or to stare at a spot a couple meters in-front of you.

Step 5: Lowering the Weight

Own the movement and take a good 2-4 seconds to lower.

As you hinge at the hips, lower the barbell or dumbbells straight down so the weight remains over the middle of your foot.

Avoid the barbell drifting away from your body, as this can put unnecessary tension on the lower back – here’s an example of what that looks like:

Should you drag the bar down your thighs?

You can, I personally don’t like to as steel running over my knee caps never feels too good to me.

I like to just let the weight travel straight down, and to pull my thighs away from the bar, then the bar will match up with my shins once it has cleared my knee caps.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Step 6: Hip Hinge and Maintaining Neutral Spine

Focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement. Avoid rounding your back or arching it excessively. The ribs should stay stacked over your ribs. If your abs are braced correctly you shouldn’t have to think about this too much.

It is not necessary to pull your shoulders back.

Your upper back muscles wont be as strong as your hips, you will lose your scapular retraction (shoulders back) throughout the RDL set.

I go into more depth about this here:

Step 7: The Descent

Continue the hip hinge until you can no longer push your hips back. That is the end of the range of motion.

Everyone’s range will be different, for most people it will be between the bottom of knee cap to half way on the shin.

Here’s a video talking about RDL range of motion:

Step 8: The Ascend

To return to the starting position, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward. Keep the weight close to your body as you come back up.

Step 9: Repeat the Movement

Complete the desired number of repetitions for your set, ensuring each repetition is performed with controlled movement and proper form.

Quick RDL Checklist:

1. Start with lighter weights to focus on perfecting your form before gradually increasing the load.

2. Maintain a vertical shin by keeping a slight bend in your knees to keep tension in the glutes and the knees out of the way.

3. Allow the upper body to naturally fall forward as you push the hips back.

4. Naturally weight shift into your heels on the way down. The weight will shift back into the middle of your foot on the way up.

5. Keep the weight close to you.

6. Avoid using your lower back to lift the weight. Instead, squeeze the glutes and drive the hips forward.

7. Don’t rush the movement, own it, especially the eccentric (lowering phase)! Perform the RDL in a controlled manner to maximize its effectiveness.

Here’s a great looking RDL:

Incorporate the RDL into your lower body strength workouts or full-body workout routine, and allow sufficient rest between sets and sessions to allow your muscles to recover.

Conclusion

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is an essential compound exercise that targets the posterior chain, promoting strength, stability, and flexibility.

By following the step-by-step guide and adhering to the safety tips provided, you can confidently incorporate the RDL into your fitness routine.

Remember, proper form is paramount, so listen to your body, start with lighter weights, and gradually progress to heavier loads as you become more comfortable with the movement.

Mastering the RDL will not only enhance your performance in other exercises but also contribute to your overall fitness and well-being. Happy lifting!

P.S. Whenever you’re ready… here are 3 more ways I can help you:

1. Grab a free copy of my new workout program, Athletic Curves

If you’ve been exercising more and eating less and still stuck in a plateau then you need the simple 4 week workout that builds a strong, fit and athletic hourglass figure. Download your copy here.

2. Join GWL with Grant connect with girls who lift from around the world

It’s our new free Facebook group where girls who lift from all around the world can chat, learn and inspire each other. Click here to join.

3. Get technique feedback from me
If you would like me to take a look at your lift and offer some tips, just send your video to one of my social media accounts linked down below:

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About The Author

Grant Lofthouse

Grant Lofthouse is personal trainer with over 10 years experience who helps his clients break fat loss, muscle building and strength plateaus by using simple strength and nutrition systems.