Trawling through fitness Instagram profiles is hard work. Especially when what you find is either erroneous or just mistaken. This is especially prevalent in the deadlift assistance movements known as the Romanian Deadlift and the Stiff Legged Deadlift, which, by the way, are definitely different movements.
I write this as these are quite often referred to as the same movements – which leads to difficult when coaching them or including them in online plans for clients.
The Romanian Deadlift – What it is and What it does.
The Romanian Deadlift (the RDL) is a fantastic assistance movement for the regular deadlift. It will look very similar to the downward portion of a good, old conventional deadlift.
It is great for the posterior chain – mainly the glutes, back and hamstrings – and it is also hell on your grip as you have to hold it for pretty much the whole movement.
Now, to do it –
The Stiff Legged Deadlift.
This is occasionally known as the Straight-legged Deadlift also, but I don’t like this as it encourages some people to completely lock their knees which loads the hamstrings up for too much in an unstable position.
This assistance exercise gets the same muscles as the RDL by and large. However, it is a bit more difficult for those without good mobility. If your mobility is lacking then you will find it hard to get into the starting position without your back suffering.
How to do it –
What are the Differences?
They affect very similar muscles and are a great way to increase deadlift volume without using all of the weight you would on regular deadlifts. They also stimulate more muscle growth and more utilisation of the hamstrings – this makes them particularly good for lifters lacking in that area.
However, as mentioned above, SLDLs are harder to achieve a proper starting position if the lifter has poor mobility and they definitely need to be seen as separate to regular conventional deadlifts or the strength will suffer.
There’s no real reason why a lifter who can deadlift would not be able to do a RDL as it is basically just the correct way to descend with a deadlift.
If you’re still unsure on the difference – here’s another video for you all.
Guest Post by Sophie Thomas.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that people who haven’t watched - or, perhaps more unfathomably, dislike - classical Simpsons episodes, are a class of people not knowing.
As for myself? I consider it a moral duty to uphold the shining, golden medallions of entertainment, set forth by seasons 1-13.
Hell, it’s even had an influence in how I train myself, and how I cue clients into movement. And I’m about to tell you how.
In The Simpsons episode King-Size Homer, our favourite, bumbling cartoon protagonist Homer embarks upon a ‘bulk cycle’ of sorts - but instead of having aesthetic goals, his main objective is becoming too physically resigned to partake in the Nuclear Power Plant’s exercise regime for its employees.
Soon after, Homer starts living the entrepreneurial dream, and works from home.
Of course, the life of a lackadaisical, button-pressing safety inspector can be tiring - so Homer instils a little help from his newfound buddy, a drinking bird, to press “Y” on his keyboard to keep things ticking over for a while.
Of course, this doesn’t go to plan - but what does run smoothly is the bird’s flawless attention to detail in the way it hip hinges.
IT’S HIP TO BE AWARE
When coaching a movement pattern like the hip hinge - which can appear alien to sedentary clients, at first glance - it’s important to give them a form of visual feedback so they have a vague idea as to what the hell is going on with their body.
That’s not to say the drinking bird is the perfect analogy for performing a hip hinge or Romanian deadlift - you still want the weight driving through your feet, rather than pushing the centre of gravity over your toes or out right in front of you. Nevertheless, the image hits a nice little trifecta of cues which many people find troublesome to perform correctly.
Hips drawing back? Tick.
Nice, flat back? Tick.
Avoiding too much movement going into the knees? Tick, tick, tick.
To hinge (the movement pattern - not the dating app ) is an undeniably important part of muscular development, sports specific training, and preventing imbalances or injury.
For starters, newbies or office workers are liable to suffer from tighter hip flexors, weaker glute muscles, and dominant quads from longer hours sitting. Invariably, this can throw the body off kilter - with anterior pelvic tilt, often leading to lower back pain. Strengthening the hip hinging muscles of the posterior chain (glute muscles, hamstrings, etc.) can restore balance to the lower body and help prevent pain and injury from occurring, making it a fundamental part of your programming.
But what for the well-trained? To a bodybuilder looking for bigger quads, the movement seems facile and blasé; a powerlifter may express scepticism at anything other than bench, squat, or deadlift. In reality, the hinge can help any kind of athlete - especially if their sport prioritises quad use over hamstring involvement.
IF YOU’RE A BIRD, THEN I’M A BIRD. AND I’LL PROBABLY HIP HINGE BETTER.
As mentioned - the drinking bird isn’t the panacea for your hip hingeing woes. But it might help you connect the dots and see what part of your body needs to move where; seeing if your knees are going too far forward, or if the movement is too back dominant. Plus, whoever thinks that a drinking bird isn’t plain, ol’ gosh-darned adorable, is somebody you do not need in your life from the get-go.
SUCCESS HINGES UPON CONSISTENCY - AND, POTENTIALLY, A LITTLE EXTRA HELP.
Homer loved that little drinking bird of his - but, no doubt if he tried employing the hinge movement pattern to his everyday training, he may not have much success.
At his weight, there are conditions at play here - mobility issues, movement restrictions - and yes, perhaps even confidence.
Sometimes, as coaches we are limited in the resources we can give our clients - or even when training ourselves. Sure, external cues are great at facilitating a learning environment for somebody; but sometimes there are variables out of our control, and we must come to accept this - Marcus Aurelius style.
If there’s something greater at play than simply needed a drinking bird for hinge inspiration, it’s a wise move for us to refer out - to physiotherapists, doctors, or even counsellors - rather than draw all of our knowledge from a beloved 90’s cartoon. Oh, and science and physics and shit like that.
Author - Sophie Thomas