Love it or hate it, legs day is a crucial part of any weight lifting routine. When creating a strength training program, there are several approaches to hitting all the muscles in the lower body. Some people follow a program where they spend one leg day focusing on quads, and the other more so on the glutes and hamstrings. Working both the anterior and posterior chain is crucial when lifting weights, as the body will experience imbalances if trained unequally.
While the most popular leg day exercises seem to be squats, or some variation of squats, this exercise is largely quad dominant. The hamstrings are the antagonist muscle of the quads, meaning when the hamstrings are contracted, the quads relax, and vice versa. It is super important to train both. There are hamstring specific exercises that do the job and will really work the muscles on your lower back side. The Romanian deadlift, also commonly referred to as a stiff-legged deadlift, is hands-down one of the best hamstring exercises out there. It can be done with either a barbell (loaded or unloaded) or dumbbells, but the effect is the same.
So how do you do Romanian deadlifts?
- Holding a barbell (or dumbbells) shoulder-width apart, stand with a slight bend to the knees, hips back and keeping your back in a neutral position.
- With pronated hands, reach down and grab the bar at a just further than shoulder-width distance.
- Use your hips as you lift the bar until you are standing up straight. Be sure to not bend the arms and keep the back straight.
- Next, bend forward at the waist, as if you were trying to touch your toes. This is when you will feel a deep hamstring stretch.
- Repeat the process.
Chalk up and strap in
While Romanian deadlifts are certainly still effective when done with lighter or moderate weight, you may want to work your way up to heavier weights for this particular lift. When doing so, it’s important to not only practice perfect form to avoid injury, but you may also want to use wrist wraps or chalk to help with your grip.
By paying equal attention to your legs when lifting weights, you can ensure proper balance of both the front and back part of your lower half. As legs are a huge part of our everyday movements, it’s key to take care of them and train them well. Incorporate Romanian deadlifts into your strength training program on hamstring/glute days.