If your goal is to perk up your butt, the most important relationship in your life should be with Romanian deadlifts. “RDLs are one of, if not the most effective hamstring and glute exercises around,” says Darin Hulslander, certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer with This Is Performance.
This variation on the traditional deadlift targets your glutes with laser precision while building mass and strength in the lower back. Basically, if you could only ever canoodle with one lower-body booty-builder again, RDLs would be bae.
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold the barbell (or medicine ball, dumbbells, etc.) out in front of you. Keeping your back and legs straight, bend at the waist (not at the knees), sending your hips back as you lower the weight toward the ground. Maintain that position and lower yourself as far as your flexibility allows, ideally with the barbell landing halfway between the knees and toes. Engage your glutes, contract your hips, and drive back to the starting position, locking your hips out at the top. You should feel a squeeze in your hips and quads as you lock them out.
“RDLs are one of the most effective hamstring and glute exercises around.”
Form notes: Two things to watch for while lowering down: Don’t bend your knees, which people often do to allow them to hit a lower bottom, but which takes the engagement off your glutes (kinda the point here); and if you start to arch your back, lessen your load or shorten your range of motion, only going down as far as you can keep that straight back for, Hulslander says.
As for weight, don’t rush into pulling a heavy load—deadlifts can cause lower back injuries if you’re not careful. You need to build your hamstring and glute strength effectively to handle the weight, Hulslander says. First, perfect your form with a PVC pipe, and then with an unloaded barbell.
Reps/sets you should do to see results: When you’re ready to load up, start with a light weight and do three sets of eight the first week, three sets of 10 the second, and three sets of 12 the third. Week four, you’re ready to up your weight; start back at three sets of 8 and progress similarly.
The Benefits Of Romanian Deadlifts
“The RDL is both a strength and mobility movement in that it builds strength in the glutes and hamstrings,” Hulslander says.
The hip-hinge motion is “probably the most important pattern for overall movement health” says Hulslander, and it makes the RDL stand out from a conventional deadlift. As a result, this move is great for boosting mobility in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back, too. And, unlike a traditional deadlift, RDLs can be done with much less weight, minimizing joint stress, he adds.
How To Make Romanian Deadlifts Part Of Your Workout
Bodyweight RDLs (with nothing or a PVC pipe) can be a great warmup to get blood flowing and practice the movement pattern, Hulslander says.
The move is a no-go for HIIT since form is crucial. But it’s great to include in a lower-body training day, since it builds serious strength. Or, you can add it to total-body circuits—just combine it with an upper-body push move, like overhead press, pushups, or dumbbell press. “The muscles of the back get taxed as well during RDLs, so pairing it with something that’s almost entirely opposite allows for recovery and to maintain a more elevated heart rate too.”
Hulslander advises hitting RDLs twice a week. Sequence it at the beginning of the strength part of your workout—”It’s very taxing on the body, so you want the most energy to execute it right.”
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