Monday, April 26, 2010

Romanian Deadlift or RDL

In the latest "Strength and Conditioning Journal" publshed by the National Strength and Conditioning Association there is an article describing deadlifting. While it does explain some things about the lift, it is mostly a description of the so called Romanian deadlift and some variations. Personally, I do not think that convential or sumo deadlifting has much value for athletes involved in sports other than Powerlifting. While deadlifting is certainly a basic closed kinetic chain total body exericse; I think the deadlift is too slow, the direct stress to the lower back requires to much recovery time, and the alternating grip causes torque in the back that is not necessary, I think there are better ways to accomplish the total body strengthening benefits. I prefer pulls with both a clean and snatch grip (overhand of course) or even clean style deadlifts with a shrug. All are done with a flat back. What follows is an explanation by Jim Schmitz of the origin of a special pulling/deadlift type exercise that has come to be widely known as the RDL. This explanation was posted on the Ironmind website. Below Jim's story are several video clips. One is a pretty good IMO demonstration of the RDL. The feet stay flat, weight is shifted to the heels as the hips drift back. Back is locked in and arched while the bar is lowered close to the body to below knee level. Below that clip is an example of a pretty strong guy doing an exericse that is not really an RDL. His back rounds and his hips do not really move back. Also, he is wearing a belt. Kind of ironic to wear a belt for extra support of the very muscles that you are trying to strengthen. DON'T WEAR A BELT TO DO RDLS!!!! Finally the last clip is the man himself, Nicu Vlad winning gold at the 1984 Olympics. he went on to become the heaviest lifter ever to snatch double bodyweight doing 200 kg in the old 99 kg weight class.

RDL: Where It Came From, How to Do It
By Jim Schmitz

U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach 1980, 1988 & 1992
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD
"I get quite a kick out of all the mileage the RDL (Romanian deadlift) has gotten in the world of strength and conditioning. It seems I almost always come across the RDL exercise in every article written about training for power and sport in all the journals on the subject. The reason for my amusement is that the “discovery” of the RDL was in my gym, The Sports Palace, in San Francisco in 1990.

Olympic and world champion and world record holder Nicu Vlad, of Romania, and his coach Dragomir Cioroslan were conducting a clinic there. They were in the U.S. for the 1990 Goodwill Games that were being held in Seattle and Spokane, Washington. USA Weightlifting, for which I was president at the time, invited Nicu and Dragomir to conduct some clinics while they were here, and my gym was one of the locations. Part of the clinic was Nicu doing a workout where he cleaned and jerked around 220 kg to 230 kg, and then he proceeded to do this lift, a combination stiff-leg deadlift and regular deadlift, but actually neither. He did several sets, working up to 250 for triples.

Someone watching asked what the exercise was he was doing. Nicu just shrugged his shoulders and said it was to make his back strong for the clean. Dragomir also said the same; it was just a lift that Nicu had developed for his back and clean. Well, then everyone was really interested and asked Nicu to demonstrate it with lighter weights and describe how to do it. Someone taking notes asked what this lift was called. There was a long pause and Nicu and Dragomir didn’t have a name, so I said, “Let’s call it the Romanian deadlift or RDL for short,” and every one agreed and there you have the birth of the RDL. MILO publisher and editor-in-chief Randall Strossen was there taking photos.

Let me tell you how to correctly perform the RDL for those who may not be sure. You grab the bar with your clean grip, pull the bar to the tops of your thighs, but don’t complete the lift: knees are not locked out, chest is out, and back is flat. You then lower the bar to about two inches from the platform, keeping your back perfectly flat or arched and your knees slightly flexed, then you return to the almost erect position—but is very critical here not to fully lock the knees—then repeat. Two very important details are 1) your back stays flat or arched at all times, and 2) your knees stay slightly flexed at all times. This lift is almost all low back, glutes, and hamstrings. I recommend 3 to 5 reps with a weight 80% to 100% of your best clean. An interesting side note here is that Yoshinobu Miyake, Japan’s 1964 and 1968 Olympic champion, was at the clinic and he said he did the same exercise back in his prime, the 1960s."


  1. "Finally the last clip is the man himself, Nicu Vlad winning gold at the 1984 Olympics. he went on to become the heaviest lifter ever to snatch double bodyweight doing 200 kg in the old 99 kg weight class."

    This is misleading, the YT video shows him performing a Clean and Jerk, not a snatch.

  2. Also about Jim Schmitz, he should have suggested the Vladlift. This is what we should call it. Regardless of whether or not everyone agreed, since it's not a deadlift it shouldn't be called that. Nicu Vlad was probably a humble guy, and saying "no, I want it named after me, not my country" wouldn't be very patriotic for an olympic competitor, but really, if he made it, he is more important than Romania.