The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is one of the most commonly used exercises in weightlifting and powerlifting training. It's known to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, and the posterior chain, i.e., the whole lower back.
The movement itself is simple, and it doesn't require a lot of fancy equipment either, so it makes sense why many people prefer using this exercise to train their lower back.
However, there are certain circumstances in which RDLs could hurt your lower back instead of helping it get stronger and/or prevent injury. In this blog post, I'll mention both situations, so get ready to learn how you should use this great exercise to benefit from its full potential!
6 Reasons Why RDLs Hurt Your Lower Back
As we stated earlier, Romanian deadlifts are a great exercise for building strength and size in your hamstrings and glutes. But if you're not careful, they can also be a great way to hurt your lower back.
Here are five reasons why Romanian deadlifts may hurt your lower back:
1. You Don't Have the Mobility to Do Them Properly
If you don't have the proper mobility, you won't be able to do a Romanian Deadlift (RDL) with good form. This can lead to lower back pain because you won't be able to move through the full range of motion and put your body in the correct position.
Make sure you warm up properly and stretch your hamstrings and lower back before attempting an RDL.
2. You're Rounding Your Back During the Lift
Rounding your back during an RDL puts unnecessary stress on your spine and can lead to lower back pain. Make sure you keep a neutral spine throughout the lift and focus on using your legs and hips to move the weight.
3. You're Lifting Too Much Weight
If you're lifting too much weight, your form is going to suffer. This can lead to rounding your back, which puts unnecessary stress on your spine and can cause lower back pain.
Start with a lighter weight and focus on using good form. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase your weight.
4. You're Doing Them on an Unstable Surface
Doing RDLs on an unstable surface, such as a Bosu ball, can cause you to lose your balance and put unnecessary stress on your lower back. Stick to a stable surface, such as a flat bench or the floor, when doing RDLs.
5. You Aren't Warming Up Correctly
A proper warm-up is essential before any type of lifting. Not only does it help improve your performance, but it also helps prevent injuries.
Make sure you warm up your muscles and joints before attempting an RDL. A simple warm-up could include light cardio and some dynamic stretches.
6. You Have Bad Form and Not Doing This Exercise Properly
Here are three of the most common form mistakes that may get you in hot water and give you unnecessary pain:
- Bending at the Waist
If you're suffering in your lower back after a set of RDLs, it's quite likely that you're merely bending at the waist rather than leading the exercise with an extension of the hips.
A good tip here is to keep your hips high. This prevents you from bending your knees and effectively sitting down throughout the process.
- Allowing The Barbell to Sway Away from Your Thighs and Shins
Another reason why lifters experience tension in the lumbar and spinae erector muscles is allowing the barbell to wander away from the body as you lower the weight.
By keeping the barbell in touch with your thighs, knees, and shins, you're reducing the length of your moment arm and maximizing your lift's leverage.
- Losing Your Strength Due to a Weakened Core and a Lack of Tension
If you've spent more than five minutes in the gym or with personal trainers, you've probably heard them urging you to keep your core tight.
This is because almost every human movement pattern begins in or ripples through the trunk, and if our core isn't strong, we don't have a firm foundation to work from.
Hard tensing of the core muscles, when combined with appropriate breathing technique, considerably boosts the stability and stiffness of the spine, as well as our lifting performance.
This is true for almost every move you do in the gym, but it's particularly true for the squat and deadlift, where spinal stability is crucial for both performance and injury prevention.
Well, these are the reasons for which only you're responsible. But what if you're doing everything correctly and still feeling the pain or soreness? If you have ever had an RDL, you know they can be tough on the lower back. Here's why:
- The RDL is a compound movement, meaning it involves movement at multiple joints. This means that there is a lot of stress on the lower back, which can lead to pain.
- The RDL also involves a lot of hip flexion, which can put a lot of strain on the lower back.
- The RDL is a weight-bearing exercise, which means that the lower back has to support the weight of the barbell. This can lead to pain, especially if you are not used to lifting heavy weights.
How to Prevent the Pain from Romanian Deadlift (RDLs)?
To be honest, most of the time, if you're doing RDLs correctly, the pain you're experiencing is only the general soreness you feel in the other parts of your body. A couple of resting days or a PEMF therapy session may suffice. It's just that the soreness in the lower back hurts more!
So, if you are having lower back pain after doing RDLs, it is not surprising. However, there are some things you can do to help relieve the pain.
- First, make sure you are using the proper form. This means keeping a flat back and not rounding your shoulders (You'll learn more about it in the next section).
- Second, try using a lighter weight. This will help reduce the amount of stress on your lower back.
- Third, try doing RDLs with one leg at a time. This will help reduce the amount of hip flexion and will also help to even out the stress on your lower back.
- Finally, if you are still having pain, you may want to try another exercise that is easier on the lower back, such as a deadlift or a squat.
How to Do Romanian Deadlifts Properly?
Follow these 5 easy steps to do Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) properly so that you don't injure your lower back in the process:
- Step 1: Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Step 2: Hinge forward at your hips and lower your torso until it's almost parallel to the ground. Make sure to keep your back flat, and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
- Step 3: Once you have reached the bottom position, slowly reverse the motion by contracting your glutes and hamstrings and bringing your torso back to the starting position.
- Step 4: Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when performing Romanian deadlifts:
- Keep your back flat, and your core engaged throughout the entire movement.
- Do not round your back at any point during the exercise.
- Focus on using your glutes and hamstrings to drive the movement.
- Go slow and controlled throughout the entire range of motion.
If you are new to Romanian deadlifts, start with a lightweight and focus on perfecting your form before adding more weight. Tend to this video if you want to see an illustration of the perfect technique to do RDL.
If you experience lower back pain after doing RDLs, it's important to seek professional help to determine the cause. It could be due to several factors, including poor form, improper lifting techniques, or weak core and gluteal muscles.
Go through the reasons we've stated in this post, and you'll find what's causing yours. Once the cause is determined, you can take steps to correct it and avoid further injury.
Remember, no one knows your body better than yourself. Just listen to your body, and your body itself will take care of you!