Two Common Mistakes With The Barbell RDL

The Barbell Romanian Deadlift is a killer exercise.

Not only does it build your glutes and hamstrings, but it also turns you into a superhero.

Ok, so maybe that last part was a stretch. However, if performed properly, the Barbell RDL can produce tremendous results for you!

Check out this brief video tutorial on the Barbell Romanian Deadlift

In this article I will elaborate on two common mistakes that occur when performing the Barbell RDL.

I am also going to discuss how and when to implement this exercise to maximize its effectiveness in your own training.

What Is The Barbell Romanian Deadlift?

This exercise is basically a shortened conventional deadlift. The biggest difference in this movement compared to a regular deadlift is range of motion. The Barbell RDL has the lifter performing the lift from about mid shin all the way up to full lockout.

This means you won’t set the weight down completely at the bottom portion of the lift.

This exercise primarily targets the posterior chain, or muscles of the back of the body. These muscles include the glutes, hamstrings, lats and erectors.

There are variations of the lift which emphasize certain muscle groups and target varying ranges of motion. Examples include stiff leg deadlifts, sumo stance RDL’s, single leg RDLs etc.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Who Can Benefit From This Exercise?


Anyone can benefit from this exercise. Your goals, needs, and experience will dictate what type of variation you choose.

An athlete could use the Barbell RDL for strength, and may perform sets of 6-8 reps.

A bodybuilder may choose a stiff leg RDL for hypertrophy and do sets of 10-15 reps for more time under tension.

An elderly client might stick with bodyweight RDL’s to engrain good movement patterns which will assist them during daily functions.

Two Common Mistakes During The Barbell Romanian Deadlift

This exercise gets butchered all the time. Below are two of the biggest mistakes I see.

1) Using Too Much Weight

This has probably been one of my biggest challenges with this exercise as well.

Many people use too much weight, especially early on.

It’s best to start out fairly light on these to really engrain proper technique and movement patterning.

When you go too heavy, you risk letting your back fold over which places excess stress on the lumbar spine.

You should be able to maintain a nice natural arch through your low back during the entire movement.

If you lower the bar down to your shins and your entire back starts to round, then you’re using too much weight. Decrease the weight and correct your technique before adding pounds to the bar.

A good progression to work up to doing Barbell RDLs would be: Bodyweight/wall hinge>KB RDL>RDL from a rack>Barbell RDL

2) Losing Tightness Through The Upper Back And Lats

You’ve probably seen someone performing this exercise with the bar a foot away from their body. Don’t let this be you.

To ensure the bar stays close to the body throughout the entire lift, try flexing the back of your armpits, like you’re trying to squeeze an orange in your armpit.

By doing so, you will tighten your lats which will keep the bar in tight to your body throughout the entire movement. The bar should be grazing your thighs and shins on the way down as well as back up to lockout.

Here is an example of poor form where the bar is not kept close to the body:

bad rdl

Photo Credit Mike Gorski

If you aren’t already including Barbell Romanian’s into your current routine I highly suggest you do so. Sets of 6-8 reps to focus on strength, and 10-15 reps for hypertrophy are best.

If you don’t currently have a routine and need some help getting started you can sign up for one of my premier online coaching opportunities by emailing me at Be sure to put “Premier Coaching” in the subject line and you’ll get a response within 48 hours.

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