Save Your Spine with the Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift
Here’s What You Need To Know…
1. Due to traditional Romanian Deadlift’s (RDL) front loaded nature and the long lever arms, improper form is common and can be debilitating for lower back pain and serious lumbar injury.
2. With the necessary muscle building loads remaining near maximal, and the negative lumbar shear forces reduced, the trap-bar once again provides the best of both worlds.
3. Start slow when first introducing this movement into your programing, it can cause some serious muscle soreness due to it’s amazing effectiveness in the hamstrings and glutes!
The Problem With The Traditional RDL
The traditional Barbell Romanian Deadlift has been a huge topic of discussion throughout the strength and rehabilitation world in recent times. Due to it’s front loaded nature (the bar in front of your body when the movement is performed) and the long lever arms your torso and upper extremities create with respect to the load being moved, improper form can be debilitating for lower back pain and serious lumbar injury.
Even with an increased risk of injury, the RDL remains one of the most effective tools to build a strong and powerful posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes). When looking for the edge in training, while still maintaining your health and function that will strongly translate to the playing field and your everyday life, focus on the trap-bar RDL. With the necessary muscle building loads remaining near maximal, and the negative lumbar shear forces reduced, the trap-bar once again provides the best of both worlds.
All About That Center of Mass
The beauty of the trap-bar is it allows a very advantageous center of mass. The load is literally centered directly under your base of support, making this position more stable, and more joint friendly. That being said, you must execute the trap-bar RDL properly in order to gain any benefit from the variation in the implement!
The basic setup of the trap-bar RDL is very similar to the trap-bar deadlift. In case both of these variations are brand new, here’s a few tips for basic setup of the trap-bar deadlift:
- Feet shoulder width apart (power position)
- Ankles in line with the middle of the trap-bar
- Tension upper body (squeeze those armpits!) and spine into neutral
- Assume a 90 degree hip position, and a 45-55 degree knee position
- Rhythmically explode the load up, maintaining neutral spine at all times
Trap Bar Deadlift vs. Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift
There are a few primary differences between the trap-bar deadlift and the trap-bar RDL:
- Starting position
- Tempo and rhythm
- Contraction type and concentration
The trap-bar RDL is started off the ground, with the body in a neutral position. From there, the spine and torso remains in a neutral and tensioned position. The load is slowly controlled down towards the ground, putting a strong concentration on an eccentric (muscle lengthening) contraction. During the lowering and lockout phase to return back into the neutral starting position, the knees will maintain a 10-15 degree bend, throwing the focus largely on the foundational hip hinge pattern.
Start slow when first introducing this movement into your programing. Due to the eccentric focus of this movement, newbies can create a huge amount of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) after just a few sets of light weight. Focus on form, and build your numbers slowly. Earn the right to move on up!
- SETS: 3-5
- REPS: 5-8
- REST: 45-60 sec
- TEMPO: 2011
About The Author
Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized sports performance specialist, physical therapist, who has worked with some of the world’s most elite athletes, including Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pro Quarterbacks, MLB All-Stars, Professional Bodybuilders, World-Record Holding Powerlifters and All-World IronMan Triathletes.
To revolutionize your training and achieve world-class results while staying healthy and resilient against injuries, check out Dr. John’s 12-Week Functional Hypertrophy Training Program.
Have never been a fan of the straight bar. I also think the full ROM sets up taller people for spine degradation. The goal is functional strength but also preserving or improving spine health.
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Extremely helpful analysis of the distinction between the TBD and the TDRDL. Thanks.
Great post Dr. John!
We love recommending the RDL for many reasons, but preventing injury in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings is the most important.
One thing that many people seem to miss is the importance of maintaining constant tension throughout the lift. Controlling the tension helps the lifter maximize all of the muscles evenly so nothing is under or over-worked.
Keep up the great work.
I still dont undertand the difference between a Rom deadlift and the trsditional one in the video they look just the same
Look at the position of the bar (RDL is further out) and on the RDL, the focus is more to push out the hips backwards so the angle of your spine to your hips is more (the back is flatter). I believe also, you would not usually let the bar touch the ground (that would be more for a SLDL)
Great tutorial. While there is undoubtedly a big difference between traditional DL/Trap bar DL in regards to stressing the spine, I think the difference in the RDL is very minor. As seen from the side view of the trap bar RDL, the center of the trapbar passes right in front of the knees, just as a straight barbell would have done. In a regular DL, the knees are in front of the trapbar, whereas behind the regular barbell.
Don’t you agree?
For those who don’t see any difference, notice that the Romanian DL has mostly taken the legs out of the lift. In the regular DL, the legs are quite bent at the knees. Seems like the Romanian DL is, basically, a forward bend (Good Morning) exercise. You just hinge at the hips with just a slight bend in the knees to take stress off the lower back.