Muscles Targeted: The Smith machine Romanian deadlift is a compound lower back and hamstring exercise. Although this exercise is primarily for the development of the hamstring muscle, it is also an excellent movement for the lower back muscles, including your erector spinae, rhomboids, traps, latissimus dorsi and levator scapulae.
Exercise Instructions: Using a Smith machine, grab the barbell with both hands using an overhand grip about shoulder width apart and let the barbell naturally hang down in front of your body. Begin this movement by bending at the waist and lowering the barbell to the floor. Be sure to keep a slight bend in your knees but do not completely lock them out (or it would become the stiff-legged deadlift). Also, don’t bend your knees too much or it will turn into a regular deadlift. Try to really focus all of the tension on your hamstrings and lower back as you perform this movement. On the way up, really focus on your lower back, butt and hamstrings to pull the weight back up. It is very important to keep your back straight and rigid throughout this exercise and do not hunch or round your back.
Why This Exercise is Important: Deadlifts are the go-to exercise for gaining muscle mass and rapid increases in overall strength. The whole array of deadlift combinations target most of the bigger muscle groups on your body, including your back, core, hamstrings and quadriceps. 8-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger describes the deadlift as the complete exercise for the back. The Smith machine Romanian deadlift is a great exercise to round out your lower back workout. When performed with correct technique and the proper rep/weight/set combination, it’s a routine tailor-made to pack some serious muscle mass in your upper and lower body while building strength and endurance. Smith machine Romanian deadlifts specifically target your lower back muscles. They are a vital variation in your quest for a stronger lower back and also help to enhance the visual appearance of a muscular core. A defined lower back is also vital to achieving the much coveted “V-taper” look. Also remember that lower back strength is the key to powerlifting and more intense weight training exercises.
Things To Avoid: Smith machine Romanian deadlifts are not recommended for individuals with known lower back problems. Correct form and technique is extremely vital. Beginners would do well to begin this routine under trainer supervision. Avoid rounding your back at all times while performing this exercise since it can cause severe injury to the back. Avoid pulling up or dropping the weights with a jerking, fast motion since this puts added strain on the back. During the downward movement, make sure the weight is on your heels and not your toes. If you feel the weight on your toes in the downward motion, you’re likely performing it incorrectly. Always keep the bar as close to your body as possible during the exercise.
Reps and Sets: Your rep and set combination often depends upon your fitness goals. Smith machine Romanian deadlifts however, are primarily part of a strength routine. For higher strength and size, it is recommended you lift heavy. Beginners can ideally start with weights equivalent to 50-55% of your 1 rep-max (1RM). Just starting with the bar until you get the form right isn’t a bad idea either. Perfect the correct form and technique and then watch as you’re able to pack more and more weight onto the Smith machine. Recommended set and rep combinations are 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps each. If your goal is to mainly increase strength and endurance, start using more weight each week with lower reps in the 6-8 range.
Other Exercises To Use: Combine Smith machine Romanian deadlifts with the following exercises to create a solid lower back workout routine:
Hyperextensions: Hyperextensions are arguably the best isolation exercise for the lower back. They allow for great control and focus on the erector spinae, which forms your primary lower back muscles. The biggest benefit with hyperextensions is a direct improvement in deadlift and squat performance. Countless powerlifters have reported being able to pull increased weight on deadlifts and squats with a cleaner motion after incorporating hyperextensions in their routine.
Stiff-Leg Good Mornings: Good Mornings are a complex exercise for the lower back and should usually be done under trainer supervision if you’re a beginner. That being said, Good Mornings are highly effective in packing super strength to your spinal muscles. The added benefit with Good Mornings is that they also activate a whole range of synergists and stabilizer muscles in your back (these are generally smaller muscle groups that aid the movements of the larger muscle groups) which aren’t worked as effectively with a deadlift routine. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the back.