I’ve found that the Romanian Deadlift, or RDL, is probably one of the most difficult exercises for a wrestler to learn.
The primary reason why is that most of the wrestlers I’ve worked with do not have a “hip movement pattern.” Instead, they utilize a “back movement pattern” to accomplish various tasks.
Without getting into the neurological/neuromuscular details of these two movement patterns, here are some pics to give you a better idea.
Here is someone who utilizes a back movement pattern to accomplish the task of lifting a medicine ball:
And here is a picture of someone who utilizes a hip movement pattern to lift the ball:
Most commonly you’ll see this during a deadlift.
To remedy the situation, here are the two best ways to train your body to move from the hips:
If you find that you’re not able to perform the RDL properly, redirect your focus to mastering those two movements. After a few weeks, return to the RDL. You’ll find that it’s much easier.
Anyway, on to the exercise…
Here’s a video of me performing a Romanian Deadlift:
Just like in the Back Extension progression above, the primary focus of this exercise is to train your body to move from the hips around a braced, stable, and NEUTRAL core.
Start by taking a slight bend in the knees. From there, the knees no longer move. I’ve found a lot of people have the tendency to squat as they drive their hips back. Do not do this!
While maintaining a stable and neutral core, drive your hips back as you lower the dumbbells down your legs.
Keep the dumbbells as close to your legs as possible. This maximizes your efficiency.
Continue to drive your hips back while lowering the dumbbells until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
You may be able to move down further once you feel a stretch, but only do this if you can without rounding your back.
Again, keep in mind the primary objective of this exercise (or any for that matter)- train your body to move from the hips while maintaining a braced and neutral posture.
Therefore, if you flex (round) at the back, you’re not benefiting from the implementation of the RDL.
Anyway, once you’ve reached the bottom of the exercise return to the top by driving your hips forward.
Remember- how low you goes depends on your hamstring flexibility. It will be different for everyone, so don’t force yourself to go lower if it means a breakdown in technique.
Although it’s a difficult exercise to master, once you are proficient with the technique, the RDL is a great way to strengthen your hamstrings for wrestling.
For more on the specific wrestling situations the RDL will help you in, read this post.