The Romanian Deadlift is a great assistance lifting exercise for weightlifters, powerlifters, and yes, CrossFit athletes. This deadlift variation is a more specific way to increase hamstring and glute engagement, build muscle mass, and increase injury prevention in these powerful and explosive muscles. Let’s explore why the Romanian Deadlift can be an effective training exercise across various strength and power sports.
The History Behind The Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian Deadlift was named after the Romanian weightlifter, Nicu Vlad, an Olympic medalist in 1984, 1988, and 1996 who was elected to the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame in 2006. According to Jim Schmitz, a former USA Weightlifting Team Coach, Vlad was seen doing these flat-backed deadlift like exercise following a clean & jerk session doing triples of 250kg. When asked by other lifters what the exercise was called, Nicu and his coach Dragomir Cioroslan, had no name, stating that they did it because it made Nicu’s back strong for the clean. Therefore, it was given the name, ” The Romanian Deadlift.”
This training exercise is often performed after main power and strength lifts to further isolate the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It is important to note the some lifters may include these into their warm up sets to prepare the hamstrings, hips, and movement patterning for pulls, squats, and explosive movements.
Determining the intended training outcome of this exercise will dictate the order in which you may perform it in a training session/cycle.
The main goal of this exercise in weightlifting training is to develop and increase hamstring and lower back strength and muscle that mimic the pulls in both snatches and clean. Increasing the isolation of the hips (hamstrings, lower back, glutes) allows lifters to apply additional stress to promote muscular hypertrophy under full ROM.
Similar to weightlifters, this assistance exercise allows for more specific training of the hips, both playing a crucial role in deadlifting and low bar squatting. Additionally, lifters can work to improve stabilization of the lumbar and spine in the bent position, which will assist in the development of a healthier, stronger, deadlift.
Isolated exercises, often not seen in CrossFit WODs, can be a beneficial aspect to one’s program. The increased emphasis on hamstring, glute, and lower back development may improve not only the barbell lifts, but also jump performance and injury prevention.
Generally speaking, all strength and power athletes looking to use Romanian Deadlifts to increase strength and muscle mass can perform these as follows. It is important to note that some athletes choose to keep loads lighter to use this as a strengthening throughout the full ROM, while others may choose to isolate
specific segments of the pull with increased volume (sets x reps) and/or loads.
1. Set up similar to your clean, snatch, or deadlift. Depending on the intended outcomes, athletes may decide to use various grip widths to mimic other lifts; such as snatch, clean, or deadlifts. The repetitions can range from low reps to high with loads dependent on that. Often, weightlifters may choose to keep loads relatively light to moderate at the ends of workouts to train and restore full ROM and enhance positional strength. It is vital to maintain proper alignment and technique to better isolate the intended muscle groups.
2. While in your set up, slightly unlock the knees to increase hamstring loading. Lift the weight through contracting the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Some lifters may also choose to deadlift the weight normally to their hips and descend, loading the hips and hamstrings on the downward movement of the barbell.
3. As you approach the top of the lift, be sure to keep your ribs pulled down to minimize excessive lumbar extension, which may suggest a lack of glute activation and involvement.
4. Descend the barbell by pushing your hips back, loading the hamstrings. Allow the chest and shoulders to align over or in front of the barbell.
5. To increase hamstring tension, lifters may choose to stop the descent of the barbell inches of the floor while others may choose to allow the barbell to touch, reset, and lift again. The key at these stage, regardless of your endpoint, is to maintain constant tension throughout the full ROM of the lift to maximize muscle engagement, positional strength, and injury resilience.
No matter your sport or goals, the Romanian Deadlift is a viable assistance exercise to increase hip strength and power, improve and maintain full ROM in the hips and pull movements, and ultimately diversifying your lower body training.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
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