The Romanian Deadlift [RDL] is a terrific exercise for any athlete looking to balance out quad work with strength-building in the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Superior athletes like Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith integrate different versions of the RDL into their routines. [Those names alone are a great endorsement for the exercise.]
A cautionary note: athletes who haven’t been shown the proper form commonly put too much emphasis on the lower back, risking a herniated disc or a nerve flareup in the spine. To avoid injury, keep your lower back flat and voluntarily activate your glute muscles at the bottom of the exercise, by squeezing [a.k.a. contracting] them on the way back up, while pushing your hips forward.
Glute activation is an essential component of sprinting and other sports performance. Once those large muscles are activated, they are better equipped to provide the power needed to propel your body forward or upward. Mimicking that activation in your workout will better prepare you for the moments when you need those muscles in a game. Proper technique is equally important, since low back injuries can keep an athlete on the sidelines for weeks.
Watch how Verlander and Keith take on the RDL. Master the form first so you can realize strength gains without risking time off to nurse low back pain.
Justin Verlander Flamingo/Single-Leg RDL Combo
- Perform a set of Flamingos, then a set of Single-Leg Deadlifts as a partner throws ball low in front of you
- Stabilize through core to slow the ball down
- Use glutes and lower back to throw the ball back
Duncan Keith Single-Leg RDL
- Balance on one leg and keep the opposite leg bent at 90-degree angle
- Hold the weight in the hand opposite your balancing leg
- Keep back flat and neck in a neutral position
- Bend at hips and keep knee behind toes
- Stay controlled while going up and down
Sets/Reps: 3-4×5-12 each leg