How To Do RDLs

Kelsey Lensman ATC

RDLs. They’re in almost every lower body training program. If you’re trying to target glutes and hamstrings these will be a go to! They’re awesome. BUT (and this is a big but), they can be one of the worst things for you if not performed properly. The biggest issue with this exercise is they’re SO easy to mess up! Do you ever feel tension in your low back when doing them? Do you ever “not feel it in your glutes and hammies” when doing this? Do you ever wake up the next morning and be SO sore in your low back from these? Do you ever do these and then say “how the heck do I do these?”

Don’t worry.. I GOT YOU!  The biggest key in this is the hip hinge. Be on the lookout for my next article detailing out what the heck a hip hinge is, but for now I will go into step by step with these.

**CAUTION: If you have low back pain, herniated a disc, or have any issues with your back in general – PLEASE, PLEASE read this in detail and make sure this movement is done 100% correct. This can be detrimental for you and your back if not done properly.

How to set up:

  1. Stand up tall with feet shoulder width apart (Can be slightly narrower stance than that, however, shoulder width apart is a good place to start)
  2. Hold two DB in both hands and squeeze shoulder blades down and back the ENTIRE set to keep those shoulder blades in perfect positioning from the beginning
  3. Keep weight predominantly in heel, but also drive that big toe in the ground and focus on gripping the ground with your entire foot (Remember, stable foot = the foundation for stability)
  4. Keep SLIGHT bend in knee (Do NOT lock out knee). That slight bend will not change throughout the movement.

How to complete:

  1. FIRST thing you want do is sink your butt back. We are bending at the HIPS (not the low back). Therefore, you need to think about touching your butt to the back wall behind you. If you stand near a wall you can use that back wall as a test. Try to sit your hips back and touch that back wall with your butt. Sometimes it is easier to have a target to hit and really feel it rather than just not know if you’re doing it correctly. By having weight back on your heels more this will be EASIER to do! It puts weight more in your glute/hamstrings.
  2. SLOWLY descend by sinking your butt back. SLOW AND CONTROLLED. The slower the better!
  3. Sink your butt back (Am I repeating myself yet? YES because this is SO important!)
  4. While sinking your butt back, drag those DBs SLOWLY down the front of your thigh. NEVER let those DBs get away from your body. If they are touching and grazing the front of your thigh the entire way down – the better!
  5. Keep that back straight (NO BEND IN YOUR BACK AT ALL). No humpbacks on me! You can do this by bracing your core, keeping it tight, and squeezing your shoulder blades down and back.
  6. Remember – keep those knees at a soft bend. Do not bend them more as we go down (we are not squatting).
  7. As you feel tension in your glute/hamstrings (NOT low back) you will most likely be right at or below your knees. When you get to this position think: Is my butt back? Am I feeling tension in my back? Is my back straight? Is my head in line with my spine? Is my core tight so I’m not curving at my back?
  8. By keeping your core tight (NO bend in lower or upper back), drive through your heels to squeeze your glute and return to the standing position.
  9. THIS IS KEY: Drive through heels/big toe to squeeze GLUTE.
  10. Return to standing position


  • Sink your butt back
  • Keep your back/chest straight (keep entire spine in a straight line – NO humpbacks and no bending your neck to look at yourself in the mirror)
  • Keep weight in heel/big toe (weight more predominantly in heel)
  • Keep slight bend in knee
  • SQUEEZE your glute to return back to standing position
  • SLOWER the better on the way down, explode up when returning to standing position

MASTER THIS MOVEMENT. This IS your hip hinge. If we can get you to properly hip hinge right your back with thank you, your body will thank you, and your glute/hamstrings gains will thank you. This is huge. Until you master it with solely isolating your glute/hamstrings, don’t push weight. I’d rather perfect form with this than trying to hulk it in the weight room and hurting your back. If you have back issues, please reach out to me and I can help you with this movement! I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. As always train hard, but TRAIN SMART! (And let’s keep our lower backs safe)

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