Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 04:03 pm
Have you ever wondered whether there’s a perfect Romanian deadlift depth?
I totally understand you wanting to know, because as great an exercise as RDLs are, you’ll often find that you can’t feel the target muscles working.
In truth, you probably feel that this is the case because you haven’t lowered the load far enough down.
So, is there a “sweet spot” you should be aiming for with RDLs?
Or is there another form cue that you should concentrate on?
Allow me to reveal all.
Romanian Deadlift Depth
There is NO “ideal” Romanian deadlift depth for everyone, as this will vary depending on factors such as your individual flexibility, limb length, etc. The most important aspect of Romanian deadlifts is that you should always feel the stretch in your hamstrings as you lower the bar. If you no longer feel this stretch, this indicates that you have gone too far down. This typically occurs because you have either failed to maintain a neutral spine or increased the bend in your knees.
Should You Touch the Ground on RDLs
To be honest, as with most things exercise-related, there is no single perfect answer.
This simply comes down to the fact that our physiques and physical capabilities are all different to each other.
Personally, I don’t think that you should ever touch the ground on RDLs.
However, based on the “physical capabilities” I’ve mentioned, some of you may actually be able to perform Romanian deadlifts with perfect form and still touch the ground.
Realistically, this comes down to your individual flexibility, plus you can also include your personal limb lengths in this equation.
So, someone who is extremely flexible, has long arms and short legs, could quite easily maintain a perfectly neutral spine, and touch the ground during RDLs.
But, as I say, we aren’t all built in the same way.
That being said, actually “aiming” for the ground when performing Romanian deadlifts is completely incorrect.
Basically, you’re concentrating on the wrong thing, but I’ll cover this in more detail in just a moment.
I would also say that it depends on what equipment you’re using.
As an example, when performing Romanian deadlifts with a barbell it can be fairly easy to get the 45lbs plates to within touching distance of the floor.
Plus, if you are extremely flexible, or have long arms, it’s likely that those plates will touch the floor, and yet you still haven’t completed an adequate range of motion.
This is also why many people choose to perform RDLs either on a raised platform or with dumbbells.
That being said, aiming for the floor when performing RDLs is an incorrect use of form, and your concentration should be elsewhere.
So, let’s take a look at exactly what you should be doing with Romanian deadlifts.
RDLs are About “Stretch” Not Depth
As simple as Romanian deadlifts look, they are actually one of the most difficult movements to learn.
I think most people view RDLs as simply lowering a weight as far as possible and then hip-hinging yourself back into the starting position.
However, if you don’t conform to certain technical aspects and form cues, it’s likely that you’ll always feel RDLs in your lower back, and not the intended muscles.
For me, there are four main form cues you need to observe with Romanian deadlifts:
- Push your hips back as far as you can, while adhering to the next three factors.
- Maintain a neutral spine.
- Don’t increase the bend in your knees.
- Keep your weight on your heels.
A Closer Look at the 4 Main Form Cues
In the vast majority of cases if you’re aiming to get your RDLs as close to the ground as possible, it’s likely you’re going to “fail” at least one of the above.
For me, Romanian deadlifts will always be about the stretch in your hamstrings, and therefore has nothing to do with depth.
Your initial focus is all about pushing your hips back as far as possible.
You then lower the weight until you feel a really strong stretch in your hamstrings, almost as though you can’t go any further.
However, it is the other three factors that may “allow” you to go deeper.
That being said, once you no longer feel the stretch in your hamstrings, it’s likely that you have broken one of these 3 “rules”.
Firstly, you should maintain the natural curvature in your lower back throughout, but never allow your back to round.
In other words, maintain a neutral spine at all times.
Secondly, you’ll want to maintain an approximate 15-20 degree bend in the knees.
What often happens is that you actually bend your knees more, simply to achieve more depth.
However, as soon as you do this you’ll notice that you no longer feel the stretch in your hamstrings.
In effect, you are cheating by bending your knees more.
All you’re trying to do here is take the movement deeper, but you’re no longer concentrating on working the target muscles.
So, bend your knees slightly and maintain that same angle of bend at all times.
Finally, there is a tendency to rock forward onto the toes as you lower the weight.
Plus, this typically leads to you almost falling back onto your heels when you come back up.
Your aim is to always keep your weight on your heels with every single rep, for the entire set.
4 Mistakes to Avoid When Doing RDLs
So, I hope you understand that the ideal Romanian deadlift depth will very much depend on your own levels of flexibility and limb length.
Realistically, you should never aim for the ground when performing RDLs.
That being said, once more, depending on how flexible you are, you may actually reach the ground.
This is especially true when performing barbell RDLs.
However, your main aim with Romanian deadlifts should always be to:
- Push your hips back to feel the stretch in your hamstrings.
- Always maintain a neutral spine without rounding your back.
- Maintain 15-20 degrees of knee flexion and do not increase this as you lower the weight.
- Keep your weight on your heels and don’t rock back and forth between toes and heels.
If you can adhere to these factors you will make some great gains in muscle and strength with RDLs.
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.