Romanian Deadlift Depth

When I first began deadlift, I hurt my back.  I didn’t have a coach and was a little too overzealous, and something got tweaked.  After a day of in bed and hating the world, I figured out that emulating Quasimodo whilst picking up heavy shit isn’t a good idea, and since then I’ve learned how to pull with a proper set up.  As you can tell, deadlifts are now one of my favorite lifts.

In September I discussed how Romanian Deadlifts Are Like Blankets for those looking to deadlift heavier weights.  It doesn’t provide much carry over.  Outside of a 1RM deadlift, however, RDL’s can be a great exercise for the posterior chain.  Unfortunately, RDLs and Straight Leg Deadlifts are often completed with technique that exposes the body to unnecessarily high forces, and the most commonly considered are shearing force at the lumbar spine.  Completing the exercise with proper technique can help keep these forces in check, and it’s important to look at spinal position in the deadlift.

While perusing the interwebz for appropriate pictures, I discovered this “motivational” picture, which motivated some of my intervebral discs to herniate themselves:


This is not how you get strong.  This is how you get hurt.  If you’re hurt, you’re probably not getting very strong.  In fact, you’re probably getting weaker, and that’s not cool.  Rather than touching the ground (or a different arbitrary distance) and potentially injuring yourself, limit your depth on the Romanian Deadlift.

When hip range of motion runs out, do not compensate by allowing your lumbar spine to flex.  Your back should remain tight the whole time.  Newer lifters may find success if the think about reaching the hipsbackwards, as if there’s a wall several feet behind them, and reversing the lift slightly before they reach their end range of motion.  For example, here’s a picture of the ‘bottom’ of my Romanian deadlift:


Completing a Romanian Deadlift is different from completing a conventional pull off of the floor, or from setting up for Olympic Lifts.  The goal should be maximal hip displacement, so reach that booty back!  Remember to push your hips towards an imaginary target behind you, and keep the neck packed, as if you’re trying to make a double chin.  Here’s a demonstration:

That guy in the red shirt almost became my imaginary booty target!  The nerve of him.

Romanian Deadlifts can be an awesome exercise, when applied correctly and done properly.  Rather than risking temporary or potential injury, make sure to focus on your posture and technique as you learn the movement, then get strong.  Implementing the RDL into your program can work out well to develop strength, build muscle, and reinforce weak links in your lifting.  If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!


6 Replies to “Romanian Deadlift Depth”

  1. I literally started clenching my tea mug harder out of anxiety from looking at that ‘deadlift’ pic. “I discovered this “motivational” picture, which motivated some of my intervebral discs to herniate themselves:” ..and then I nearly spit my tea out. Great stuff, Harold!!

  2. Hi Harold,
    How close to your ‘tipping point’ (before your lumbar gives way) would you say you have to get it order to improve ROM? I really struggle to feel it when I lose form so I’m hoping it’s not too close…

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