Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 02:33 pm
Anyone else wondering whether it’s better to have your heels or toes elevated for Romanian deadlifts?
I’m sure you’ve probably seen people in the gym doing both before.
So clearly, there must be some benefit to raising one part of your feet during RDLs.
That being said, one of these variations is fantastic, whereas the other one really isn’t required when performing Romanian deadlifts.
Therefore, in this article I’d like to talk about both options and provide you with an opinion on whether it’s better to elevate toes or heels during RDLs.
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Heels or Toes Elevated For RDLs?
It is better to have your toes elevated for Romanian deadlifts. This will help to increase the stretch in your hamstrings. Heel elevated Romanian deadlifts actually reduces the range of motion, which is not something that you want to do. The only reason that someone may have their heels elevated is that it prevents the toes coming off the floor. This is something that often happens, as you tend to rock back onto your heels at the top of the Romanian deadlift.
1. The Benefits of Heels Elevated Romanian Deadlifts
Firstly, I have to say that I’m quite surprised at the number of people who even attempt heel elevated Romanian deadlifts.
In truth, there is only one real benefit to this, which I’ll get to in a moment.
That being said, heel elevation will work far better for an exercise like barbell back squats.
In fact, whether you should have your toes or heels elevated is really a better question for squats.
Basically, squatting with your toes elevated would emphasise your hamstrings more.
However, elevating your heels during squats allows you to keep a more upright torso position.
This in turn will shift the emphasis onto your quads more.
So, this is all well-and-good for squats, but what about Romanian deadlifts?
Well, there are various benefits to raising your toes during RDLs, and I’ll cover these in the next section.
However, I can’t say I’m a fan of heel-elevated RDLs.
Firstly, this will reduce the range of motion at the heel.
This is definitely something you don’t want when you’re performing Romanian deadlifts.
In fact, many people are unsure whether to use RDLs with a barbell or dumbbells due to range of motion constraints.
Therefore, raising your heels during RDLs is a definite no-no for me.
The Only Thing That Heel Elevation Does
Now, I mentioned that there was only one real benefit to heel-elevated Romanian deadlifts.
And this is the simple fact that it can prevent your toes from coming off the ground at the top of the movement.
This is actually a fairly common problem with a lot of deadlift variations.
Basically, as you explode into the hip-hinge, you may find that you rock back onto your heels, thus causing your toes to come up off the floor.
There are certain safety concerns with doing this, namely the potential to fall backwards.
Admittedly, this is highly unlikely to happen, as you’re holding a heavy load in front of you, but still, it can occur.
Therefore, by having your heels elevated on weight plates, you’ll definitely find that your toes won’t come off the ground at the top of the hip-hinge movement.
But, as I say, this is the only real benefit to heels-elevated Romanian deadlifts.
2. The Benefits of Toes Elevated Romanian Deadlifts
For me, if you’re going to elevate anything during Romanian deadlifts then it has to be your toes.
Well, actually you can also perform deficit RDLs, although this involves having both feet flat on a raised surface.
However, as you can probably tell by now, when it comes to heels vs. toes elevated for RDLs, there’s only one real benefit for the heel variation.
Heel-elevated RDL simply stops your toes from coming up as you rock back.
That being said, I feel this is more of a form, coordination, and balance issue.
So, this is probably something that you want to work on, as opposed to raising your heels during Romanian deadlifts.
However, when it comes to elevated toes during RDLs, this is definitely a legitimate way to train, and something that everyone can do.
Basically, if your heels are elevated during Romanian deadlifts, you’ll shift further emphasis onto the hamstrings.
This is absolutely fantastic, as I know many people struggle with feeling their hamstrings during the movement.
Admittedly, if you’re not feeling your hamstrings during RDLs, this typically comes down to you trying to go too deep.
Most people think they will be able to stretch the hamstrings more if they go deeper, but this is rarely the case.
And the main reason for this is that their form falls apart, e.g. rounded back, bending the knees more the lower you go, etc.
Toes Elevated if You Struggle With “Feeling the Stretch”
So, this is where having your toes elevated during Romanian deadlifts can come in extremely handy.
In effect, if you’re struggling to feel RDLs in your hamstrings, even if your form is on-point, then try RDLs with your toes resting on weight plates.
That being said, I would personally only use toe-elevated Romanian deadlifts every once in a while, or on the odd occasion.
The reason I say this is that I would hope that my hamstring strength and flexibility increases with regular work.
Therefore, I should eventually find that I can maintain perfect form when performing RDLs normally, while feeling the stretch in my hamstrings.
Of course, there are various other exercises that you could use to both stretch and strengthen the hamstrings.
And performing these regularly can also help to improve your Romanian deadlifts.
The Most Effective Way to Train Hamstrings
So, I hope you understand that toes elevated will always be the better option with Romanian deadlifts.
In truth, raising your heels is better suited to squatting, as it allows you to keep your torso upright, thus shifting further emphasis onto the quads.
However, when it comes to Romanian deadlifts, the only thing that having your heels elevated does is to prevent your toes from coming off the ground.
Plus, having your heels elevated during RDLs will also reduce the range of motion at the heel.
That being said, having your toes elevated is a legitimate way to train Romanian Deadlifts.
It allows for a greater stretch in the hamstrings, which is ideal as the hamstrings are one of the major muscles worked during RDLs.
Nevertheless, if you’re not feeling Romanian Deadlifts in your hamstrings, this could point to a potential issue with form.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.