4 Exercises Better Than the Deadlift
Think traditional barbell deadlifts are tops for adding strength and muscle? Here are four variations that can make big improvements to your physique and help you pack on pounds
4. The Romanian Deadlift
This last entry was the subject of much debate, mainly because the romanian-style deadlift has one very apparent difference compared to all the other variations including the conventional deadlift. Can you name it?
Before we get to the kicker, let’s examine just how great this exercise is and how important it is to your overall growth and progress. First the romanian deadlift, with your knees slightly bent and back arched, zeroes in on the upper hamstrings, where the hams meet the glutes. No other exercise targets the area better — none! And similar to the traditional deadlift, you want to keep the bar extremely close to your body for mechanical advantage and safety.
Also, few people realize that the romanian deadlift is not a compound move, to be exact. Yes, the hip joint and knee joints are involved, which might qualify it as a multijoint exercise. Dare we say, few people would even catch it if we called it a compound move. However, you have neither full hip nor knee extension occurring at any point, because the motion of the move occurs at the hips. For that reason, physiologically, it’s absolutely an isolation move. But that’s still not the biggest difference between it and the traditional deadlift. Ready for it? Here it is.
The romanian deadlift, as opposed to all other variations discussed, doesn’t begin with a positive (concentric) contraction nor does it begin from a dead stop. See, you start each rep from a standing position, and your first motion is a negative contraction in which you build up elastic energy prior to the positive upward movement. During the other variations, you don’t have the luxury of having that stretch-shorten cycle, which actually is extremely helpful because it pre-loads a positive contraction.
START: Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with a pronated (overhand) grip. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
EXECUTION: Keeping your chest up, abs tight and the natural arch in your lower back, lean forward from the hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. As you lean forward, keep your arms straight and slide the bar down your thighs toward the floor until it reaches your shins. At the bottom, keep your back flat, head neutral with the bar very close to your legs. Flex your hamstrings and glutes and lift your torso while pushing your hips forward until you bring the bar back to the start position.