The 30 Most Effective RDL Variations For Strength & Spine Health

The 30 Most Effective RDL Variations For Strength & Spine Health

https://drjohnrusin.com/the-30-most-effective-rdl-variations-for-strength-and-spine-health/

The Hip Hinge: The Most Forgotten Movement Pattern on Earth

When it comes to longevity in the weight room, training, developing, and ultimately mastering the fundamental movement patterns of the body is a must. We live in a world now where society has put most of us in less than optimal positions for hours upon hours per day. More and more we are:

  1. Rounded over a computer.
  2. Sitting at our desk or in long car rides.
  3. Texting and other handheld technologies.

This has caused most people a lot of unwanted aches and pains, especially in the neck, shoulders, and lower back. In order to try to combat these lifestyle problems, you should be moving regularly and training the following movement patterns:

  1. Push (Upper Body)
  2. Pull (Upper Body)
  3. Squat
  4. Hip Hinge
  5. Lunge (aka Asymmetrical Single Leg Stance)
  6. Carry (aka Locomotion)

When you begin to breakdown each of these movement patterns, the exercises incorporated in them, and the lifestyle pain areas, the one that seems to become the most neglected is the hip hinge.

Now why is that? Well, lets quickly break it down.

First we will look at the hip hinge from a pain standpoint.

When someone has regular lower back pain or stiffness we find that they will stay as far away from exercises such as the Dead lift or Kettlebell swing, with the notion that it will only cause more problems. But, for some reason that same mindset usually does not apply with painful shoulders when its time to bench press.

The Hinge is the movement pattern that helps you perform essential activities such as picking things up off the ground. It also keeps the hips mobile and strengthens the muscles that which will actually help prevent low back pain.

Now we will look at it from an exercise standpoint.

We find that the first exercise that people will program when it comes to the hip hinge pattern is the deadlift.

Which it is absolutely true, that the deadlift is the grand daddy of them all, along with its many variations.

But like Dr. Rusin has spoken about before, frequently you will find that the dead lift ends up looking more like a squat pattern than a true hip hinge.

squat, deadlift, RDL

So with all that being said, I believe a true loaded hip hinge ends up being a very underutilized movement pattern in most people’s programs. Which could then in turn lead to more injuries.

We must start to reintroduce and redevelop this pattern.

Rebuilding The Hip Hinge From The Top DOWN

Let’s start by taking the bar off the floor and working from the top down approach.

The RDL (Romanian deadlift) is the perfect exercise that truly mimics the hip hinge pattern.

Benefits of the RDL:

  • Increased hypertrophy of the hamstrings and glutes due to the more controlled eccentric component and mind muscle connection.
  • Decreased aches and pain from increased mobility and stability of the core and hips.
  • Increased force and power because of the hip drive of the movement.
  • Becoming stronger in bilateral and unilateral RDL patterns will also increase strength in other major lifts.
  • Improvements of form while performing other exercises: deadlift, kettlebell swing, bent over rows, tricep kickbacks, etc.
  • This hinge exercise can be worked both bilateral (two legs) and unilateral (single leg) for greater crossover on the field, court, and in life.

Not only is the RDL a posterior muscle builder that incorporates proper movement and mechanics of standing hip flexion and extension, but it also can help you smash some lower body PR’s in the process.

We have found that many people who have low back pain during traditional barbell and even trap bar deadlifts, seem to be pain free when switched over to the RDL.

Why this exercise is so often overlooked?

  • One reason is because you can not lift as much weight as a conventional or sumo deadlift.
  • It is a more technical movement and has more room for error without proper understanding of the exercise itself.
  • It may not get you as many “high fives” at the gym or “likes” on the internet, basically some people don’t perceive it quite as sexy as other lifts.

We have found once this true hip hinge pattern is developed and mastered, only good things come from it in the big picture of your training… and in life.

Before You RDL, Learn To Hip Hinge

Here are 3 Coaching Drills we use to understand how this movement should “look” and “feel” before we begin to add load.

#1 Broom Stick or Dowel Rod Hinge

We use this to help really understand how to move the body through the proper movement pattern.

If one of these 3 points leave the rod, you know you are out of position.

Once that is mastered and your hamstrings begin to feel activated, we are already in a better place when it comes to lower back pain.

#2 Mini Band Tension Hinge

We use this method to teach “how” to create constant tension during any hinge pattern.

Using the band as feed back will help that mind muscle connection with the hips, hamstrings, and glutes.

The more those muscles all remain activated through a loaded movement, the less other areas will try to take over.

#3 Behind the Back Kettlebell Hinge

This technique is used to re-pattern when we see that the shoulders still try to fall forward and upper back rounds during a loaded hinge.

Once these 3 drills have been mastered and feel a lot more comfortable with the hip hinge pattern itself.

Now is time to create our “personal recipe” for success.

Top 30 RDL Variations For Muscle, Strength and Pain-Free Performance

I have said this many times, “Fitness should NOT be a one size fits all approach”.

You should also not become a slave to a certain tool, if it does not feel right or is compensating from getting the most out of an exercise.

Find what variations work for you in this movement pattern and continue to progress them with increase of load.

Check out the Top 30 Bilateral and Unilateral ULTIMATE RDL Variation List.

top 30 RDL

Below, each video is complete with important coaching cues to follow, in order to get the most out of each of these exercises.

#1 The Barbell RDL

  • The barbell is the most popular tool you see used when it comes to performing the RDL.
  • Is it the best tool for you? That is to be determined, but when done correctly it is definitely super effective for strength and hypertrophy.

In order to get the most out of these, you need to perform them correctly. Follow the coaching cues in this video, on how to effectively perform this exercise using the Barbell.

#2 Snatch Grip RDL

  • Variation of the barbell RDL, is using the wide “snatch” grip on the bar.
  • Helps keep the lats an upper back activated throughout the movement.

#3 Trap Bar RDL

  • Great alternative to the barbell as you can really load it up, but this time your hands will be directly aligned with your body rather than loaded in the front.
  • Hand position can be more back friendly, as their is less room for error.
  • More on this specific exercise HERE

#4 Trap Bar RDL with Band

  • The added band will help with creating explosiveness, power, and strength on the lockout of the movement.

#5 Landmine RDL

  • Another great tool to add to your arsenal.
  • Narrow grip and front loaded.
  • Helps keep the weight in an even plane in order to establish ideal hip hinge pattern.

#6 Landmine RDL with Band

  • The added band will help with creating explosiveness, power, and strength on the lockout of the variation above.

#7 Dumbbell RDL

  • Less restrictive hand position for the hinge movement.
  • Used for strength and hypertrophy.
  • Great lower body accessory lift.

#8 Dumbbell Pause RDL

  • Isolation to create extra tension and stress on muscles.
  • Helps keep movement more controlled.
  • Forces an increase in power on the concentric.

#9 Dumbbell Bench Supported RDL

  • Great RDL teaching/troubleshooting technique.
  • Creates feedback to ensure proper positioning for pain free performance.

#10 Offset RDL

  • Added Stability of the core and hip.
  • Change the stimulus with this accessory exercise.

#11 Kettlebell RDL

  • Less restrictive hand position for the hinge movement.
  • Distribution of the weight differs from dumbbell.
  • Used for strength and hypertrophy.

#12 Kettlebell Dead Stop RDL

  • Isolation to create extra tension and stress on muscles.
  • Helps keep movement more controlled.
  • Forces an increase in power on the concentric.

#13 Loaded RDL with Mini Band

  • This mini band technique can be used with any type of loaded tool.
  • Added feedback to maintain optimal position and maintained posterior activation.

#14  Deficit RDL

  • Added hamstring activation for hypertrophy.
  • I would recommend that this variation should only be used once the RDL technique has been completely mastered first.

#15  Band Resisted RDL

  • Pulls hips into the hinge pattern.
  • Helps activate Glutes and Hamstrings.
  • Forces Power and Complete Lockout.

#16 Band/Cable Pull Through RDL

  • Pulls hips into the hinge pattern.
  • Helps activate Upper Back, Glutes, and Hamstrings.
  • Forces Power and Complete Lockout.
  • More on this exact exercise HERE

#17  Band Supported RDL

  • Adds resistance to the hinge pattern if no weights are available.
  • Can be used as a primer before a heavy RDL or deadlift.
  • Great RDL teaching/troubleshooting technique.
  • Creates feedback to ensure proper positioning for pain-free performance.

#18 Band Only RDL

  • No free weights? No problem.
  • Can also be effective exercise as a primer before a heavy RDL or deadlift.

#19 Staggered Stance RDL

  • Exercise progression to get someone ready for loaded unilateral hinging.
  • Great way to fire up the hamstrings and glutes unilaterally without being on solely one foot.
  • Strength and hypertrophy of the posterior chain.
  • This variation can also be used with other loaded training tools.

#20 Staggered Stance Landmine RDL

  • Great way to fire up the hamstrings and glutes unilaterally without being on solely one foot.
  • Strength and hypertrophy of the posterior chain.

#21 Rear Foot Elevated RDL

  • Forgotten cousin of the rear foot elevated split squat.
  • Exercise progression to get someone ready for loaded unilateral hinging.
  • Great way to fire up the hamstrings and glutes unilaterally without being on solely one foot.
  • Strength and hypertrophy of the posterior chain.
  • This variation can also be used with other loaded training tools.

#22 Single Leg RDL with Slider

  • Exercise Progression to get someone ready for loaded unilateral hinging.
  • Great way to fire up the hamstrings and glutes unilaterally without being on solely one foot.
  • Hypertrophy of the posterior chain.
  • This accessory variation can also be used with other loaded training tools.

#23 Barbell Single Leg RDL

  • Strength and hypertrophy increase of the posterior chain.
  • Can help improve strength in the RDL and deadlift.
  • Improves core strength and stability of the body.

#24 Single Leg RDL

  • Increases performance due to the unilateral element.
  • Strength and hypertrophy increase of the posterior chain.
  • Can help improve strength in the RDL and deadlift.
  • Improves balance, core strength, and stability of the body.

#25 Offset Single Leg RDL

  • Strength and hypertrophy increase of the posterior chain.
  • Can help improve strength in the RDL and deadlift.
  • Due to the single arm/single leg component, even more balance, core strength, and stability of the body is incorporated.

#26 Single Leg Crossover RDL

  • Increases performance aspect due to the unilateral and crossing element.
  • Strength and hypertrophy increase of the posterior chain.
  • Improves balance, core strength, and stability or the body.

#27 Single Leg Band/Cable RDL

  • Band counteracts body into the single leg hinge pattern.
  • Helps activate upper back, glute, and hamstring.
  • Forces power and complete lockout.
  • Great reactive or primer exercise to improve athleticism and performance.

#28 Landmine Single Leg RDL

  • Increases performance due to the unilateral and crossing element.
  • Strength and hypertrophy increase of the posterior chain.
  • Improves balance, core strength, and stability or the body.
  • When used as a deadstop, more power and force is generated from the ground on a single leg.

#29 Trap Bar Front/Rear Loaded RDL

  • Hand placement on the side of the body can reduce low back recruitment.
  • The front and rear loaded position requires more core stability during this trap bar variation.

#30 Walking Staggered RDL

  • Lower bbody RDL exercise using locomotion.
  • Not as popular as a walking lunge, but this could be looked at as its long lost cousin working the backside of the body.
  • Focus on learning a staggered RDL then use these coaching cues to put it all together.

Putting All the RDL’s Together Into Action

With so many RDL options in your arsenal, each having their own unique benefits along with improving movement quality, building strength, and gaining muscle. It makes sense to utilize both bilateral and unilateral exercises for a more well rounded program.

With that being said, now their is no reason to leave the hinge pattern out of your weekly program; regardless of your limitations or fitness level.

Finding what works for YOU, is the key to training longevity and pain free performance.

About The Author

Garrett Sawaia

The post The 30 Most Effective RDL Variations For Strength & Spine Health appeared first on Dr. John Rusin – Exercise Science & Injury Prevention.

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