Split Stance Romanian Deadlift Exercise Guide

split stance Romanian deadlift

The split stance Romanian deadlift is an effective variation of the classic RDL that is performed with a split stance (one of your legs is in front, the other behind). It’s a great exercise to really target your hamstrings and glutes, to improve your balance, and to engage your core muscles. It’s also an excellent exercise to use for beginners trying to work their way up to the single-leg variation of the lift.

Muscles worked

The split stance Romanian deadlift is a great compound posterior chain exercise that focuses primarily on the hamstring muscles. Because of the added balance element, it also engages your core and stabilizer muscles more than the regular RDL.

muscles worked by the split stance RDL

Primary muscles worked:

  1. Hamstrings
  2. Glutes
  3. Core stabilizer muscles

Secondary muscles worked:

  1. Lower back
  2. Obliques
  3. Ankle and calves stabilizers
  4. Abs

Benefits of the split stance Romanian Deadlift

It focuses heavily on your hamstrings. It’s a great exercise to train and somewhat isolate your hamstrings (“somewhat” because it’s still a compound lift). It can be performed while using pretty high volumes and heavy weight. So it’s an ideal exercise to force your hamstrings to really grow. 

It has increased core activation. Thanks to the split stance (or staggered stance) the lift will incorporate and engage a lot of your stabilizer muscles and other core muscles.  

It will help you improve your balance. The split stance adds a nice little balance aspect to the lift. It will help you increase your balance and develop all the muscles necessary for it. 

It’s a great assistant exercise for other lifts. It’s a great assistant exercise to use for deadlifts and other bigger compound exercises, for all the benefits listed above. 

It’s a great move to help you work up to the single-leg RDL. The split stance Romanian deadlift is a good exercise for beginners to help them build their balance and form in order to move to the more challenging single-leg variation of the RDL.

The exercise has many other benefits as well like:

  1. Improve your posture
  2. Increase your RDL and DL
  3. Increases your hip and lower body mobility.
  4. Increases anti-rotational core stability.
  5. It’s a compound exercise, training your whole body.

How to do the split stance Romanian Deadlift

Before you start the lift, there are a few different ways to do it. This split stance variation of the Romanian deadlift can be performed with a pair of dumbbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or a trap bar. For more beginner level athletes, I would recommend using dumbbells or a more specific type of barbell like a trap bar, for example. In the step-by-step guide below, we will be mainly focusing on the dumbbell split stance Romanian deadlift.

Step-By-Step Exercise Guide

Setup:

  1. Stand in front of the barbell (or a set of dumbbells) with your feet about hip-width apart. 
  2. Sit your hips down and grasp the weight. If it’s a barbell, then gasp it whit a shoulder-width grip. 
  3. Next, deadlift the weight up, just like you would normally. To do so, push your chest slightly up, engage your core, keep your back flat and your spine neutral, drive through the heels of your feet and extend your hips and body. 

Exercise:

split stance Romanian deadlift
  1. Now that you have the weight up, it’s time to assume the split stance. To do so, take a short step backward with one of your feet. The distance between the feet should be about one foot, but it will depend on what kind of equipment you are using. Whit a barbell, it needs to be slightly narrower, and whit dumbbells or a trap bar, you can go wider. You can play around with it to find the perfect stance for yourself. 
  2. Lean your weight on to the front foot.
  3. Engage your upper back by rolling your shoulders a little back and keep it tight. And elevate or push your chest a little up.
  4. Start the hip hinge movement. Push your hips backward and let your upper body hinge forward. 
  5. Keep your spine in a neutral position throughout the lift. Keep your back flat and your head neutral (don’t forcefully look up or down). 
  6. Slowly lower the weight until you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. The maximum distance you can lower the weight will depend heavily on your flexibility. But keep in mind that in the split stance RDL, you won’t be able to go as down as in the regular Romanian deadlift. So don’t try to go too low, or your back will start to round. 
  7. Once you are as low as you can go, pause the lift for a second.
  8. Now start to reverse the movement. Push through your feet. Push your hips forward and extend them and bring the weight back up. 
  9. Repeat this movement for your desired repetitions. 

Tips and recommendations

  1. Try different stance widths. Before you start to lift any serious weight or use the exercise with higher volumes, find the perfect stance for you. As I mentioned in the step-by-step guide, a good place to start would be about a 1-foot width stance. But you can also go wider, up to 2 feet is totally fine also you can keep your feet more together. 
  2. Don’t lower the weight too much. When lowering the weight down, you shouldn’t go too far down. If you lower it too much, your back will surely start to round, which will place a lot of bad pressure and stress on your spine and your back and might even result in injuring yourself. Just go down until you feel a decent stretch in your hamstrings, and always keep your back flat. 
  3. Use your hips to lift. Just like whit any other RDL or deadlift, the movement is all about the hip hinge. Your hips have to initiate the lift. When going down, you have to push your hips backward and let your upper body hinge forward naturally. In no case should you start the movement by reaching down whit your upper body. That would place you in a really bad position and destroy your form. Your weight would shift in front, and you would start to stress your spine like crazy. 
  4. Choose your weight wisely.  Start with lighter weight and work up from there. The important thing here is to get used to the movement and to learn the right technique before increasing the load. But once you have it dialed down, you can add some serious load to this exercise. 
  5. Keep your spine neutral. For the entire exercise, keep your spine neutral. Don’t let your back round out, and don’t arch it. Keep it flat and neutral. The same goes for your head and neck. Do not push your head backward by looking up nor downwards by looking down. Keep it neutral. If the spine isn’t neutral, you will start to overstress it, and you might injure yourself. 

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