Romanian Deadlift Variations for Stronger Hamstrings

TAGS: close grip, core blaster, RDLs, belt squat, rdl, matt mills, romanian deadlift, band, deadlift

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The Romanian Deadlift has been a staple of my training since I began powerlifting and strongman. Aside from the GHR, I find nothing builds the hamstrings better than Romanian Deadlifts. Before you try any of these variations, you need to first master the basic Romanian Deadlifts.

Most people have trouble hinging at their hips while keeping a slight bend in the knees. A great way to perfect this is to take a video of yourself. The low back needs to be arched hard, while the knees should have a slight bend. What most do wrong is as they go down, they start to bend the knees, taking away the stretch in the hamstrings. Just like a normal deadlift, everything needs to be tight, especially your lats.


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Another common mistake is letting the bar drift away as you descend. Pull the bar against your body, engaging your lats. Your accessory work should complement your main lifts. Having your lats tight on Romanian Deadlifts will translate to have them tight on the deadlift. The bar should be brought down to mid-shin level.

When the lift is done correctly, most people will feel a good stretch in the hamstrings. I’ve worked with some people that are very flexible and with perfect form, feel nothing in the hamstrings. This is totally fine as long as the technique is there.

This is also an exercise, as many of you know, that will make you very sore if you are not used to it. With that being said, if you are not regularly doing some variation of a Romanian Deadlift, start very light, or you will be walking funny for a day or two. Once you have mastered the basic Romanian Deadlift, you can move on to these variations.

Core Blaster Romanian Deadlifts

Core Blaster Romanian Deadlifts are a great way to get someone on one leg, which I feel should be part of everyone’s training at all times. These are perfect for starting someone on one leg, as you can use the Core Blaster for balance. I also love doing these with a bar, dumbbells, or even kettlebells, but the balance can be very difficult for someone at first. With this variation, you can use more weight and really focus on working one leg at a time.

Band-Resisted Romanian Deadlifts

I have seen people do a variation of this with bands against the bar. This is also a great variation to overload the top. However, with this, you are going to put the band around your hips. I love doing them this way, as it reinforces perfect technique.

When I am teaching the Romanian Deadlift, I often give people the cue to imagine something is pulling their hips back. With this variation, that’s exactly what’s happening. Let the band pull you back while arching hard, and extend the hips really focusing on the glutes.

For me, I find it easier to strap into the bar, deadlift it up, and then walk out to get the right band tension. It can be difficult to strap in with the band pulling against your hips. In this video, I’m using an Average Band as a reference.

Staggered Stance Romanian Deadlifts

The first time I tried these, I was sore for days after. You are able to really focus on one leg at a time, so the stretch is much more intense when done correctly. Make sure you take a wide enough stance. You should be on the toes of your back foot and all of your weight should be on your front foot.

Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlifts

I love any variation of a snatch grip deadlift. You will be working your upper back much more than normal. Take a grip that is outside the grip lines and make sure you really engage your lats by keeping the bar close. I find people tend to let the bar drift away more when doing snatch grip.

Belt Squat Romanian Deadlifts

If you have any lower back issues you are worried about, give this variation a try. Take a straight bar cable attachment and face the opposite way on the belt squat. Take a step forward from where it attaches, so you are being pulled back in the movement.

This is where I really like this movement, but you must get in the right position. With the right angle, you are being pulled back, making it easy to hinge at the hips with very little stress on the lower back.

Putting these together in a program is very simple. I like to have a heavier version of a Romanian Deadlift following deadlifts for reps anywhere from six to twelve for three sets. I also like to always have a single leg movement in on my leg/squat day, so toward the end of a squat day, I will have a single leg variation, like the Core Blaster Romanian Deadlifts.

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