The 4 Best Romanian Deadlift Variations – Bigger Stronger Leaner – COMMUNITY


RDLs for Big, Meaty Hamstrings

Beef up your glutes and hams with Romanian deadlifts. Tired of the standard version? No problem. Check out the other variations.


All deadlifts are great, but Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) take the cake for hypertrophy, particularly in the lower body. Sure, the conventional deadlift allows you to lift more weight because of leverage, but no muscle receives optimal growth stimulation because the tension is spread out across numerous muscles.

This isn’t to say deadlifts aren’t a great muscle-building exercise – they build a “density” in your posterior chain like nothing else. However, as a PURE muscle builder, Romanian deadlifts are superior. They create a much larger stretch through the glutes and hamstrings, allowing tons of mechanical tension and heavy loading to drive growth.

Compared to conventional deadlifts, you can do RDLs with more overall volume and time under tension while reducing the risk of injury – especially to your lower back. And those features lead to more visible results. So, let’s get into the variations.

Top Four Romanian Deadlift Variations

1. Standard Romanian Deadlift

We have to start with the standard RDL before diving into the fancier versions. But don’t count it out. This is my number one way to do it.

Directions

  • Start by standing with feet hip-width apart and toes pointing forward.
  • Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your spine neutral, engage your core, and keep your chest up.
  • Begin by pushing your hips back, bending at the hips, and keeping your knees slightly bent.
  • Lower the weight slowly towards the ground while keeping it as close to your body as possible. If your back bends, stability ends. So use your trunk position as the barometer for depth and don’t let it bend.
  • Continue lowering the weight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then reverse the motion by pushing your hips forward and standing back up, keeping the weight close to your body on the way up, too.
  • Exhale as you return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Straps are fine on top-end sets. You don’t want grip strength to limit your ability to maximally train your hamstrings and glutes. But you shouldn’t need them for the lighter work.

2. Snatch-Grip Romanian Deadlift

If you want to smash your lats, traps, and rhomboids to build a head-turning posterior chain, the snatch-grip RDL is the right exercise for you. The hand position, which can be as wide as you want, forces you to engage your lats all the way through the exercise.

When doing the snatch-grip RDL, think about putting your shoulder blades in your back pocket. Kudos, Tony Gentilcore, for this advice. When you engage the lats in the deadlift, it stabilizes your shoulders and upper back, allowing you to keep the bar close and pull with a neutral spine.

The snatch-grip RDL is a great exercise to teach lat and core tightness, helping many lifters improve technique and strength on all hip hinge exercises.

Directions

  • The snatch grip means your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart. (I place my hands just outside the rings on the barbell.)
  • Maintain a neutral spine, engage your core, and keep your chest up.
  • Begin the movement by pushing your hips back, bending at the hips, and keeping your knees slightly bent.
  • Lower the barbell slowly towards the ground while keeping it as close to your body as possible. Your back should remain straight, and your hips should move backward.
  • Continue lowering the bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until your torso is parallel.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then reverse the motion by pushing your hips forward and standing back up. Keep the bar close to your body throughout.
  • Exhale as you return to the top and squeeze your glutes.

3. Trap-Bar Romanian Deadlift

The trap-bar RDL targets the same muscles as the standard RDL but centers the load around your base of support. This position reduces shearing forces on the spine, making it more joint-friendly, especially for those with picky lower backs.

The trap bar allows for a neutral hand position, often allowing lifters to use a heavier weight than what they’d be able to use with straps on a barbell. Plus, the hand position puts more muscle-building tension on the lats, traps, and rhomboids.

Directions

  • Begin by standing inside the trap bar with your feet hip-width apart. Your shins should be close to the sides of the bar.
  • Bend at your hips and knees to lower your body down while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Keep your chest up and shoulders back.
  • Push your hips back and lower the bar towards the ground. Your knees should have a slight bend throughout the movement.
  • Lower the trap bar until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then push your hips forward to return to the starting position.
  • Exhale as you stand back up, squeezing your butt at the top.

4. B-Stance Romanian Deadlift

This semi-unilateral exercise helps you target the entire posterior chain while adding additional benefits:

  • It improves balance and stability. Your back foot is down, so you get the benefits of a single-leg RDL but without feeling like you’re going to fall over or rotate weirdly.
  • It may prevent injuries since the single-leg position helps identify and attack asymmetries through the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex.
  • It’s a novel training stimulus. You’ll find yourself hitting the glutes even harder and deeper than you might with a bilateral stance. And you’ll be able to use a heavy-enough weight to drive muscle growth.

Most people get a better range of motion with B-stance RDLs and hit their glutes and hamstrings HARDER than traditional RDLs because they’re less focused on load and more focused on improving their range of motion.

Directions

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Place most of your weight on one foot, which will be your “working” leg.
  • Lift your other foot slightly off the ground and keep it behind the working leg, forming a “B” shape with your stance. Think of planting your big toe on your back foot at the heel of your working leg.
  • Hold the barbell with a double overhead grip, push your hips back, bending at the hips and keeping your knee on the working leg slightly bent.
  • Lower the weight towards the ground while keeping it close to your working leg.
  • Continue lowering the weight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until your torso is parallel to the ground.
  • Pause briefly at the bottom, then push your hips forward to return to the top.
  • Exhale as you stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top.

Sets, Reps, and Choosing the Right Variation

Romanian deadlifts are the meat-and-potatoes for building your glutes, hamstrings, and posterior chain. Hit them hard with set and rep schemes like 4 sets of 6-8 with 2-3 minutes rest between sets.

If your back handles them well, focus on traditional barbell Romanian deadlifts. To boost growth in your lats, traps, and rhomboids, perform snatch-grip RDLs.

If you’ve battled back pain and want to boost growth in your upper back, focus on trap-bar Romanian deadlifts. And finally, if you want to train around asymmetries, focus on B-stance Romanian deadlifts.

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