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How RDL Can Improve Your Sports Performance

By Luke Walker
Dare Head Coach

At DARE, we train a range of athletes across a range of disciplines. If you’re an athlete looking to take your game to the next level, you’ll want to pay attention to the Romanian Deadlift (RDL). 

This highly effective exercise has become a staple in many athletes’ training programs due to its ability to improve sports performance. Here’s how the RDL can strengthen key muscles that are essential for explosive movement.

RDL Romanian Deadlift

What is the RDL or Romanian Deadlift?

To perform the RDL effectively, start with a hip-width stance, feet slightly turned out. Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs, with your palms facing your body. 

Engage your core, keep your back straight, and hinge at your hips, pushing your glutes backward while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. 

Lower the weight as far as your mobility allows, then return to the starting position by squeezing your glutes and driving your hips forward.

Why is the RDL effective?

The Romanian Deadlift targets multiple muscle groups, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, making it a valuable tool for enhancing explosiveness, power, and overall strength. By incorporating RDL into your training routine, you’ll not only increase your speed and agility but also reduce your risk of injury on the field or court.

Whether you’re a soccer player looking to accelerate faster, a basketball player aiming for higher vertical jumps, or a martial artist focused on delivering more powerful blows, the RDL can help you achieve your athletic goals.

Benefits of RDL for sports performance

Romanian Deadlift

How RDL improves lower body strength and power

When it comes to athletic performance, lower body strength and power are essential. The RDL is an excellent exercise for targeting these areas and can help athletes develop explosive power and strength, allowing them to generate more force in their movements.

Whether you want to sprint faster, jump higher or feel stronger in body-on-body challenges, the RDL strengthens the posterior chain for increased power.

The RDL also demands core stability and balance throughout the movement. As you hinge at the hips and lower the weight, your body must work to maintain proper alignment and balance. This improves whole body strength and coordination.

Incorporating the RDL into your training routine can help enhance your proprioception, which is your body’s ability to sense its position in space. This improved proprioception will translate into better balance and stability during sports-specific movements, such as changing direction quickly or maintaining control while landing from a jump.

Enhancing explosiveness and speed with RDL

The RDL develops the fast-twitch muscle fibres that are responsible for generating power and speed. By targeting the posterior chain, the RDL helps athletes generate power and explosiveness in movements such as sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.

To maximise the explosiveness benefits of the RDL, it’s essential to focus on the concentric phase of the movement. As you drive your hips forward and return to the starting position, emphasise the contraction of your glutes and hamstrings, without overextending your back. 

By making the drive upwards move explosive, you will place increased tension on the hamstrings and glutes, which are the same muscles that help you build explosive power when sprinting and jumping. 

RDL for injury prevention and rehabilitation

Injury prevention and rehabilitation are also critical aspects of any athlete’s training program. The RDL can play a significant role in both areas by strengthening the whole body, improving mobility, and promoting proper movement mechanics.

The RDL helps to stabilise the hips and reduce the risk of common lower-body injuries, such as hamstring strains and lower back pain. Additionally, the RDL improves hip mobility and stretches out the hamstrings, which are two common causes of lower back pain, sciatica and sacroiliac joint pain.

Getting the hips and hamstrings in good working order helps enhance proper movement mechanics and injury prevention on the field or court.

Incorporating RDL into your training routine

To fully unlock the benefits of the RDL, it’s important to incorporate it into your training routine strategically. The frequency and intensity of RDL workouts will depend on your current fitness level, training goals, and overall program structure.

Consider adding the RDL as a compound movement in your lower body or full-body workouts. Aim to perform the exercise at least twice a week, allowing for adequate recovery between sessions. Start with lighter weights and focus on perfecting your form before gradually increasing the load.

To challenge your muscles further, you can also experiment with variations of the RDL, such as single-leg RDL or deficit RDL. These variations target specific muscle groups and provide additional benefits for overall sports performance.

Working with a personal trainer who can tailor your program to your needs is essential when mastering any movement. The RDL can be high risk when performed incorrectly, due to the load being placed on the back (when performed with incorrect technique or excessive weight).

Common mistakes when performing the Romanian Deadlift/ RDL

1. Rounding the back: Maintain a straight back throughout the movement to protect your spine and engage the correct muscles.

2. Using excessive weight: Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load to ensure proper form and technique.

3. Overarching the lower back: Avoid hyperextending your lower back at the top of the movement. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine alignment.

4. Neglecting the eccentric phase: Control the descent of the weight slowly to maximise muscle engagement and prevent injury.

5. Allowing the knees to collapse inward: Keep your knees in line with your toes to maintain proper alignment and prevent stress on the knee joint.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and focusing on proper form, you can maximise the benefits of the RDL while minimising the risk of injury.

Perform the perfect RDL

Whether you’re a professional athlete or a recreational sports enthusiast, adding the RDL to your training program can help you unleash your full athletic potential. So, grab a barbell or some dumbbells, perfect your form, and get ready to dominate on the field or court with the Romanian Deadlift.

Contact Dare today to book a tour of our personal training studio.