Help with my Romanian Deadlift form please

Hoping someone who knows what they are doing can help me here. As part of my winter fitness plan I’m started to lift weights. Main goals are to strengthen my core and build muscle to help me burn fat. Clearly I’m overweight, yes I’m tracking on MFP now and have short and long term weight loss goals set.

About me: 47, 5’9.5", L5/S1 discectomy in 2010, a bit over 3,500 miles so far this year, use TR to increase my cycling strength mainly for recreational road and gravel riding. Was going to enter a couple of road races this year but 2020 happened.

So yesterday my partner and I decided to start doing some weight lifting and got a simple routine for Back strength off of (she has a membership). Because of my previous back issues I wanted to start off very cautiously, so that I can get the form right before adding a bunch of weight. I decided to record one of my sets because I don’t feel like my body positions match what I’m seeing from jacked muscle heads on YouTube. But given COVID I’m not about to go to a public gym and get coaching so I figured what better solution than to ask the internet…ok so I’m hoping Coach Chad might chime in with his thoughts. When I watch others on YouTube it seems consistent that the bar should be closer to the legs than when I let it drop (what feels like) straight down. Where am I going wrong here?

Of note: Today my hamstrings are sore but not much else. Back feels fine so I don’t think I’ve hurt myself just yet.

Also L5S1 two time discetomy patient here, so yes I hear you on the worry for this, and it does matter for those who may chime in after as it leaves you particularly vulnerable to poor form causing further problems.

Observations in no particular order for what its worth:
#1 - watch your bar path, you’ll notice it is drifting quiet far out in front of you on the way down in these videos, this increases leverage on lower back
#2 - You may want to get two medicine balls, or some sort of wooden block setup 8" off the floor so that you know where the “bottom” is. A standard bumper plate is 17.2" is diameter with a 2" insert for the barbell. That’s where I’m getting the math from. This will ensure you’re not going too low in your lift
#3 - when you setup, barbell should be at mid-laces on your shoes and go straight up. Depending on height (for others) this should JUST clear your knees on the way up. You can tell from your vid that your bar is too far forward given the space between knee and barbell.
#4 - Keep your speed consistent up and down. You dont need to rocket up, try and keep things moving at the same speed and hold form throughout.

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There’s the problem though. This is a Romanian Deadlift so you start at the top and lower the bar as opposed to starting on the floor. The start of my video is at the start of the rep. I do believe I want the bar closer to my legs but I’m not sure where I go wrong. I tried pushing it back intentionally in another set but I’m wondering if that’s just a band aid for improper form.

Unless you possess some anti-gravity device, the barbell always starts from the floor. :wink:

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I’m a decade older and starting weight lifting conservatively a year ago. A few pieces of advice…

Review the Hip Hinge progression in this blog:

and the article has a great pics, the first 4 hinging are:

I spent about a year doing bodyweight hinging/RDL and dumbbell/kettlebell.

I don’t have that issue, but proceeded cautiously and am very happy I did.

FasCat coaching turned me on to the 12-minute Foundation routine, I think its fantastic way to continue developing the hip hinge pattern and do it at least twice a week:


This is a great routine and i follow (portions) of it as well. Don’t do the full 12min anymore but just over half of it.

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I pull it off a rack, and put it back on the rack. No floor!


Anti gravity provided by the rack in front of me.

Since this guy kinda looks like Pete.

ha i was actually looking for allan’s video on this right now so glad you found it. He is great.

Going back to positioning. Regardless of whether you have a rack, given your struggling with position and pattern make your life easy and start from the floor so you can get your positioning right. This way you can ensure barbell is in the right spot, knees are properly positioned, and shins are at the proper angle. Hard to do all of that when you are holding weight.
Then basically follow exactly as he lays out in his video.

For someone with a back issue I think being conservative has a lot of value.

@Grasschopper my advice is to check your ego at the door and learn to hip hinge using bodyweight. Take your time, lifting and life are not races, you have decades ahead of you. Once you’ve really mastered that, progress to dumbbell/kettlebell. And when you go to the unweighted bar, @RONDAL suggestion of elevating it 8" with a block is how to start. And FWIW I used a block to elevate kettlebell.


Try and keep the bar closer to your legs. There really is no need to explode up on this movement imo.

My two cents…

  1. The path down and up should be along your shins.

  2. Keep your shoulders back and not rounded and your lats engaged squeezing in.

  3. On a Romanian dead lift, I would not go as deep as you are in the video. Maybe mid shin at first.

  4. As others have noted, I would practice with bar unweighted or lightly weighted as your form develops.

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So right off the bat, they look really good tfor a beginner. There are things that you can get away with with an empty bar that you can’t when you start to add weight and the bar drifting away from your body is one of those. There are 2 things you can do to help keep it closer to your thighs/shins.

First, you need to keep your shoulder blades pulled back and sweep the bar back with your lats.

Second, as you bend over you want to push you hips back. That will help keep your weight over your feet, especially as you add weight to the bar.

You should feel the bar drag up your thighs at the top.


+1-squared to all that!

My N=1 . I ruptured a disk at L3 with bad form doing squats in 2010. Actually had muscle loss in my left leg. Did strictly machine lifts. More recently I actually got 1 on 1 coaching from Alan Thrall who you see in the video above. My thoughts;

  1. Keep the bar glued to your legs.
  2. Based on your video, I don’t see why you just don’t do deadlifts from the floor.
  3. Go slow and controlled as you return to the standing position, keeping the bar glued to your legs.

With proper form, I maxed out a 220 lbs for 5 reps with a standard deadlift at 155lb body weight at age 65 . Very slow and steady progress, you can get much stronger without injury.
(And they just closed the gyms in my state again :unamused:)

Last week I did Romanian deadlift 4x8 at 135lbs, it was ‘easy’ and am certain I could deadlift a LOT more than that. But my form still isn’t ready for that, so I’ll keep chipping away at form, accessory lifts, and kettlebell deadlifts. For someone 40+ and just getting started, without a personal trainer, its possible to make significant progress without the barbell. And much safer. I’m still increasing load with kettlebells.

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You do a good job of keeping your back flat and hopefully your core engaged. It looks to me though that your form is not one continuous movement originating from the hips. It’s especially noticeable on the downswing, where at times the movement originates either from your torso or your legs (knee joint). On certain reps on the upswing, your hips reach their max ROM while your torso continues to move. Again, it should be one continuous movement originating from the hips. The 12-minute video above will definitely help get a “feel” for the movement. I think loading the bar now would expose what I tried to explain above and could well end up in an injury or an early plateau.

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Thanks for all the feedback guys. I am going to start doing that 12 min hip hinge routing thing for sure.

Now how often should I be deadlifting? So I lifted on Sunday and today (Tuesday I still have pretty decent soreness in my hamstrings). I did do Baxter -2 last night. I’ve really struggled to fit weight lifting in with my cycling but right now I’m taking a bit of a break from structured training to focus on weight loss a bit more. I’m going to be running as well as doing simple endurance workouts as well as lighting. When we were doing specific training plans the time to lift as well as do my workouts just never added up. I do work full time M-F and lose an hour of my day to my commute.

First of all, I want you to think of an RDL forever more as a leg extension. Imagine that you’re doing an inclined leg press except the hip sled isn’t there and you’re using your legs to push the world away from you. Since the sled isn’t there you have to provide all that rigidity with your trunk and back muscles.

If I pause this video at the 4 second mark I like the angle of your torso and your knee flexion. I don’t like that the bar is way out in front of your center of gravity. You’re knees are a little more ‘out over your feet’ that I ike but that’s because you have the bar too far forward.

My suggestion is keep it closer to your shins. Here is a checklist I always recced to new lifters…

1.) wiggle your toes. You want to keep the projection of your center of gravity at or behind your mid foot. Don’t move the COG out over the balls of your feet or your toes. Keeping your toes pointed up or wiggling during the lift helps prevent this.

2.) bang your shins. Move the bar back against your shins then adjust your starting position to keep the bar close to your legs through the motion.

3.) PA fart. Stick your chest out like Pam Anderson. Clinch your lower abs like you’re going to fart (but please don’t).

4.) arms are ropes. Think of your arms as ropes that are strung between your shoulders and the bar. Don’t initiate the lift with your biceps. You’re arms are ropes so they should just provide tension between your shoulders and the bar.

5.) keep your back angle. This lift is a leg extension that pushes the world away. The angle your back makes with the floor should not change until the bar is past your knee. Once the bar clears your knee as far as I’m concerned you can put it back down & be proud…the RDL is done. If you keep your back angle static throughout the lift you will feel it most in your glutes & hips when the bar approaches and clears your knees.

A guy in a skirt once suggested that I do these at an ‘inch a minute’. (That was Dan John…a guy who also takes weight loss inspiration from bathroom walls but does know a thing or two about strength) I’m gonna suggest the same to you…take the bar and just drill this lift moving super slow, Ibrahim Shams style. Wiggle your toes, bang your shins, PA fart, arms are ropes, back angle, push the world away.