Last updated on October 29th, 2022 at 03:53 pm
You’ll never know how many times I’ve seen this question asked, “Can I Do Romanian Deadlifts With a Mixed Grip?”
Of course, it makes a lot of sense, as your grip typically fatigues well before your glutes or hammies.
However, should you actually be using a mixed grip with RDLs?
Or is this something to be avoided at all costs?
Allow me to reveal all.
Romanian Deadlift Mixed Grip
No, mixed grip is not recommended when doing Romanian deadlifts. You’ll mainly hear that there is the potential for a bicep tear or muscle imbalances when using mixed grip on RDLs. While there is a case for both of these, you would typically need to be lifting a LOT of weight to get into the realms of tearing a bicep. That being said, your shoulders, upper back, and even your core and hips are likely to be aligned differently on each side of your body. And it is this that can lead to muscle imbalances and injury.
1. Does Grip Matter on RDLs?
I would hazard a guess that the main limiting factor for just about everyone when performing RDLs is their grip.
Let’s face facts, our glutes, hamstrings, and back are always going to be much stronger than our grip.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is.
So clearly, most of us try to find ways to keep that barbell (or dumbbells for that matter) literally glued to our hands while we perform RDLs.
In truth, grip does matter a LOT when it comes to Romanian deadlifts.
Realistically, you always want to perform RDLs with a double overhand grip.
Now, you’ve probably heard that there is the potential to tear a bicep when using a mixed grip.
Okay, I’ll admit that there is something to this.
However, the vast majority of people will not be pulling anywhere near enough weight to be a danger of a bicep tear.
Yes, it’s definitely a possibility, but highly unlikely with the weights that most people use for RDLs.
Admittedly, if you have a bend in your elbow, or you’re tensing the bicep (on the arm using the underhand grip, then you will increase the likelihood of injuring that bicep.
That being said, I would hope that you’re doing neither of these things.
The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Be Using a Mixed Grip For RDLs
Now, you’ll often hear that using a mixed grip can cause muscle imbalances.
And of course, muscle imbalances can eventually lead to injury.
This is actually true on both counts, but I don’t think many of us realise exactly how “unbalanced” we are.
In fact, I’m willing to bet that most people simply think the difference in hand position will cause an imbalance in your arm muscles.
So, your overhand grip is working more on your forearms, whereas the underhand grip does bring the bicep into play.
However, in truth, having a mixed grip significantly changes your entire body alignment.
If you think about it, using a mixed grip automatically means that your shoulders are in completely different positions to each other.
Furthermore, your upper back and lats are also activated in a different way due to your hand positioning.
And to make matters worse, you’re core and hips will not be aligned symmetrically throughout each and every rep.
Realistically, when you use a mixed grip, it’s likely that you may feel one side of your body “working” more.
This is most obvious in the hamstrings, and you’re often left feeling as though you worked the hamstrings on one leg much more than the other.
Additionally, a mixed grip often means that you’re more likely to pull with your hands, as opposed to using hip-hinge to return the weight to the starting position.
All-in-all, all these differences on each side of your body will mean that you’re never really going to train RDLs in the most efficient manner.
Plus, as I’ve said, these imbalances are frequently a precursor for injury.
So, once more, I repeat, you shouldn’t be using a mixed grip for Romanian deadlifts.
2. How Do I Keep My Grip on RDLs?
As I’ve mentioned, it’s likely your grip is always going to be the limiting factor with RDLs.
So clearly, in order to perform the movement effectively you need to do something about your grip.
However, a mixed grip should not be looked upon as an ideal solution.
The most obvious “cures” for that weak grip is to either use straps or a hook grip
I know there are those who would argue that using straps do very little for “solving the problem”.
What I mean by this is that you’re not actually working towards improving your grip, but rather hiding from the issue.
Then again, the hook grip takes a fair bit of getting used to, and can actually be quite painful the first few times you use it.
That being said, I also know there are people who can never get to grips (no pun intended) with using a hook grip.
It’s just far too uncomfortable and just not worth their while.
So, while using straps or a hook grip can provide a temporary solution, it’s not ideal.
For me, this is where the use of chalk is a must.
In fact, from a personal perspective, I would much rather use chalk than changing my grip.
That being said, it’s always best to also work on improving your grip strength.
There are obviously a vast array of ways in which to achieve this, but I still have my own preferred method.
Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a huge fan of farmer’s walks.
Not only are farmer’s walks a fantastic exercise for increasing and improving grip strength, they also target many of the same muscles used during RDLs.
As an example, performing heavy farmer’s walks will also hit your glutes, hamstrings, quads, erector spinae muscles, upper back, traps, lats. forearms, abs, and upper arms.
In reality, this is what you would call a superb full-body exercise.
And what better way to improve your grip strength.
Farmer’s Walks – Do’s & Don’ts
So, I hope you understand that it is not recommended that you use a mixed grip for Romanian deadlifts.
You’ll typically hear that there is the potential for a bicep tear when using a mixed grip.
But, in truth, you’ll need to be lifting a lot of weight for this to happen.
That being said, if you maintain a bend in the elbow on the arm of your underhand grip, then there is a higher likelihood of this occurring.
However, the real reason you shouldn’t use a mixed grip is because many of your muscles will not be in the same alignment.
If you think about it, as soon as you turn one hand the opposite way to the other, your shoulders and upper back are aligned slightly differently.
When you do this with a heavy load in your hands, such as when performing RDLs, you are also changing the alignment of your core and hips.
This can cause muscle imbalances, which may eventually lead to injury.
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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.