In previous articles we have discussed the origins, purpose, and unique benefits that the Romanian deadlift has to offer for all strength, power, and fitness sports athletes. When going back through the comments and responses of our readers, it became apparent to me that I forgot to include on of the most practical pieces of information to help coaches and athletes immediately take advantage of all the benefits that Romanian deadlifts have to offer.
Therefore, in this article, I will discuss the specific programming guidelines to follow based on the goals, total sets per session, repetition ranges, and relative loading to induce results.
How Much Weight – Recommendation
Below are four primary purposes/instances in which Romanian deadlifts can be programmed and performed with a training regiment. Each section is discussed and provides general sets, repetitions, and intensities (how much weight) one should use.
Note: Training volume refers to the total loading placed upon a lifter, often calculated by sets x reps x loading (in the most simplistic of ways, however there are many other more complex ways to calculate).
Movement Integrity and Correctives
Generally speaking, movement and corrective segments can be done prior to training sessions and/or other days to teach new lifters fundamental movement patterns, enhance range of motion, and even rehab an injured muscle group.
By performing a few set of Romanian deadlifts with light loads in the moderate repetition range (8-12 reps) you can ensure the lifter can focus on the movement and muscular contraction, develop basic hypertrophy, and minimize excessive damage and fatigue in the muscles (of course, as lifters progress, damage and fatigue are catalysts for growth). Lifters and coaches can maximize performance and injury prevention in the long-term (as well as when combined with the below methods)
Increased muscle mass is at the foundation for strength development and power production. The greater amounts of muscle mass one has, the more likely he/she will be able to train those specific fibers to serve a specific purpose and apply that to their sport.
When looking at the Romanian deadlift, we see a large emphasis on hamstring, gluteal, and lower back demands. By doing such movements, lifters can increase the size of those muscle groups for athletic or aesthetic purposes, and best transition into more sport specific movements,
When determining load and rep schemes, general rules of hypertrophy training apply. Repetitions can be best kept between 8-12 with moderate to heavy loads for a total of 3-5 sets, depending on the overall training volume of the program. Lifters must remember that time under tension, loading, total training volume (sets and reps), and muscular stretch all influence the metabolic demands on a muscle. Simply performing sloppy reps with heavy weights will not only leave you broken, it will also end in lackluster foundational muscular development.
[Looking for some alternatives to the Romanian deadlift, try some of these!]
Application to Strength Movements
When looking to increase hamstring, lower back, and hip strength, many strength athletes must look past the simple conventional deadlift. The Romanian deadlift has been used by powerlifters, strongman, and strength sport athletes to specifically add increased training volume to stimulate muscle growth and positional strength specific to competitive pulling and even squatting movements.
I recently compared the Romanian deadlift with the conventional deadlift, outlining how athletes can use the former to specifically increase weak muscle groups and positions that may be limiting their progress in the deadlift.
Loading and rep schemes for this movement are often done between the rep ranges of 4-6 with moderate to heavy loads for 4-6 sets, depending on the amount of total training volume throughout the program, focusing on movement integrity and contraction first, rather than setting personal records.. Of course, rep ranges can be kept higher to increase hypertrophy (see above) or even lower to increase positional strength and performance specific to competitive pulling lifts. (see below).
Applications to Olympic Weightlifting
In an earlier article we discussed the origins of this movement, which can be credited to Romanian Olympic weightlifter and medalist, Nico Vlad. The intent of performing such movements in the sport of Olympic weightlifting is to increase lower back, hip, and hamstring strength and positioning specific to the snatch and clean.
Loading and rep schemes for such a movement can be done for general hypertrophy or movement integrity as described in the above sections, or can also be done to specifically increase a lifter’s strength and positioning in heavier cleans and snatches. Rep ranges are often kept in the 2-4 range to focus on strength and keep the loads relatively high, often 80-110% of a lifters rep max for the competition lift for a total of 3-5 sets.
The above guidelines are recommendations for most coaches and athletes to follow, however all lifting programs, athletic needs, and individual responses to exercise vary. In the event loading and/or training volume of accessory movements, like the Romanian deadlift, impede a lifter’s ability to adequately train the core competitive lifts (fatigue, muscle soreness, inadequate recovery from training) it is recommended to decrease the amount of sets and or repetitions performed per training session (training volume) to promote recovery yet maintain performance (assuming loading percentages are not too aggressive).
Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram