Straight Leg Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
If you aren’t using the forums, here’s another example of the kind of dialog and advice people like Greg are getting for free:
This is an excerpt from the thread http://leanlifters.com/forum/the-big-7/s-leg-deadlift-as-a-variant/
Darrin, Cameron, or others, I have a question.
How do you feel about straight-leg deadlift as a periodic variation and/or compliment to regular deadlifts?
Are they more suited for rehabilitation and/or weakness correction, or do they have worth as a muscle-building/ strength-improving movement?
If you think it’s worthy, how heavy should I go?
I know the lower back muscles are some of the slowest in our bodies to heal, so I’ve done these on a couple of workouts six days apart. I get lower back soreness but it’s just mild, general soreness, just like one would get in his or her legs after a leg routine.
The thing that perplexes me most is that I seem to be nearly as strong for straight leg as I am for regular deadlifts. I can go up to about 230 lbs. on trap-bar deads after months of training. With straight leg, I do 185 very easily, making sure my back stays arched; I stick my but out; I stay extremely tight; with my knees slightly bent. It felt very much like regular deads, yet not quite as tiring.
Hoping this is a good glute strengthener, but I think my lower back is the strong player here.
July 18, 2010
A LOT of deads to begin with is lower back (erectors), personally I think more than is given credit for. But anyways, Single leg deads are no different than any other unstable movement (see my post about the exercise progressions, I think it’s under the topic about single arm DB bench press). There are pluses and minuses about every lift variation you do. The thing you have to weigh and decide on yourself is:
deadlifts: Target muscles are highly strengthened, however lot of impact and strain on other muscles. I’m not going to go into a lot of depth on this because you know about them already… besides, you asked about single leg.
Single leg: Unstable= less force is applied through leg. Your core is divided into 3 separate parts: hips, tors, and shoulders. I personally take it one step farther. I say that your legs are part of your hips, and arms are part of your shoulders. Anytime you use your arms you transfer force through your shoulders. Anytime the legs are used force is transferred either up or down through the hips. Therefore, your legs can only get so strong (functionally speaking) without your hips getting involved, same goes for the arms/shoulders. This is why compound movements are so critical. Anyways, “core training” (A.K.A. balance training) revolves around the progressions I mention in the other post, along with posture, muscle balance/imbalances, and joints; even if it isn’t always mentioned, the factors are there.
Now, to fully address your question. When you do a single leg deadlift you are sacrificing vertical force, for horizontal force. In other words, you give up the ability to produce downward force so that you can work supporting muscles along your leg/hips that are maintaining your posture. By removing your second leg you are essentially ripping your base out from under your feet effectively making it go from about 2 feet wide to about 5 or 6 inches wide. Technically it’s the same thing as doing a deadlift with your feet hip width apart instead of shoulder width apart, just more extreme. The force you sacrifice gets sent from your larger muscles to your smaller ones, in particular, muscles around the hips, knees, and ankles.
One of the first muscles you will notice is that your chins will burn. This is because most people have tight calf muscles. In fact, 90% of lower back pain is caused from tightness in your calves…but that’s another post. The tightness is caused from an external rotation in their feet. Most people walk with their toes pointed out. This is another reason why I NEVER advocate squatting with your feet pointed out. Then your knees have to go out as well in order to stay over your toes, which causes more imbalances. While you gain more strength, you also lose some safety in the end. However if your feet are too far pointed in it causes tight hip flexors instead of tight I.T. bands. So there is always a downside. Hence variations of multiple exercises. Usually whichever variation your do is based upon your everyday posture, but it takes training to assess it. Anyways, case-and-point. I recommend doing some of the single leg deads if you haven’t done much unstable movement. It will also help you neurologically also helping overall strength. If you have done some as of late, then I recommend just doing deads. Up to you in the end.
Hope that helps. I can probably elaborate more if you would like later, but i’m tired of typing for now ;)
July 18, 2010
I think Cameron is talking about single-leg deads but I think Greg was asking about “straight-legged” deads, right? Cameron’s stuff on single-leg is good though!
Before I respond, when you say “straight-legged” do you mean Romanian style (RDL)? There are some subtle differences but the main thing is that with RDLs your legs are not locked out straight – they have a small bend at the knee which stays constant throughout the movement.
July 18, 2010
HAHA go figure… well that was a waste of energy… thx tho darrin…:/
July 19, 2010
No Cameron, that was not a waste of energy. It’s good information about doing single-limb exercises, which I certainly need to put into my periodization schedule. I had never heard of training this way until reading one of your previous rants on the topic. It is good stuff.
I’m not familiar with the term RDL, but I think that’s the style I’m doing. The knees are slightly bent; the back is arched; I try to stick my butt out as much as possible; and I’m trying to focus on the glutes and hams. If I perform these w/o weight, I feel tightness in my lower back, glutes, and hams; not so much on the quads, which is my goal.
Relatively speaking though, I’m pretty strong at this lift, so I’m not sure it’s a worthwhile movement for me.
July 19, 2010
ok. So now that we know you are doing RDLs, I’ll address your original questions.
First off, 185 for RDL compared to 230 for trap bar deads is not really “nearly as strong” in both lifts. That’s a 20% difference. If you are doing 230 for trap bar deads, say, for a set of 5, then I’m betting you won’t be able to get more than 1 proper form RDL if you increased the weight to 230. Based on your other post about squats, once you get your squats sorted out, I’m betting your trap bar deads will go up too. Depending on which handles you use, a low-handle trap bar dead is similar to a squat in several ways, though stance is narrower.
That said, for most people once you’ve gotten your form down, RDLs can go pretty high. And then grip becomes more of an issue than glutes, hams, and lower back. (In fact, if you are doing your form right, you shouldn’t really get a sore back. As soon as your back starts to round, your set is done.) In other words, go as high as you can until either your grip fails or your back rounds. I’ve never tried a 1RM with RDLs and never will. It’s not something you want to max out with, and you really can’t use a spotter for it. So, as long as you are targeting 3+ reps, go heavy but monitor your back.
For comparison, when I’m going sets of 6, I do about 320 on trap bar deads and about 230 on RDLs. That’s a 30% difference. And I doubt I could get a single rep of RDLs at 320!
I love RDLs and include them pretty much all the time. I do them towards the end of a workout though, on same day as doing regular deads. If I’m feeling really masochistic, I will swap in glute-ham raises instead but I suck at those. That’s a humbling exercise.
July 19, 2010
oh, and I forgot to add that in my own “30% difference”, that probably would be closer to a 20% difference if I wasn’t doing the RDLs so late in the workout, a same workout where I would have done the trap bar deads just two exercises previous. By the way, here’s what the workout looks like when I do trap bar deads and RDLs in the same session:
Trap Bar Deads
Hanging Snatch-Grip High Pulls
Some kind of single-leg finisher
July 20, 2010
I don’t think my dead capability is 20% more than RDLs. Remember what I stated; I did 185 RDLs on my first workout with them in several months, and I did them very easily. I don’t know exactly how much more weight I can do. I thought I would ask on here if it is a safe exercise (done correctly) to go heavy, so I haven’t yet gone heavy. I’ll look up the proper form for this exercise before I continue, so I know I’m doing everything right.
When I do 230 on trap bar deads (using 25# plates and the trap bar upside down), I’m really squeezing out all I can do for a set of five, but, today, I did one set of five @ 240. That’s about all I can move off the floor for five reps and keep myself tight and the weight centered. My grip does not stop me from going higher. I cannot get the weight to start moving with the proper stance if I try to go higher. On the occasion that I do get the weight moving (say 260 lbs), the right side will come up ahead of the left side, and then I drop the weight, because then I feel my body is compromised trying redistribute the weight while it’s moving.
It’s really kind of necessary for me to take such a low stance. That’s why I love the trap bar. It really helps me with my short body. It seems to target my glutes and hams better than the straight bar, and certainly, better than squats. This is the first time I’ve used this bar in my program. Maybe this is something that will help me finally strengthen my lower body.
July 23, 2010
I learned that I was doing the RDL correctly, so I put some weight on today. I did a warm up and then a light set (back to 185 again). Then I just guessed at what would be a good weight. I went with 235. That was just about right; maybe just a hair heavy. I did two sets. One at 6 reps, and then one for 3. I did neither set to failure but my grip could have handled only about one more rep on the second set.
Darrin, you were right. The grip was the limiting factor, and it really held me back on the second set.
The way I got it figured, I’m about ten to fifteen pounds stronger on deep deadlifts than RDLs.
Now you should head over to the free discussion forum and ask some questions of your own!