The quadriceps muscle is a powerful, four-headed beast of a muscle group, and unless you develop hamstrings with enough strength of equal measure to balance out the quads, your knees will be forever prone to injury. Enter the Romanian deadlift, or RDL for short. This movement works the hamstrings from the hips, a necessary addition to a hams routine that might otherwise be dominated by variations of the leg curl (seated, lying and standing) that all work the muscle from the knee joint.
Main Areas Targeted: Hamstrings
Strengths: You may notice a pattern here — well, you should, at least — but like the other exercises on this list, the key to results with the Romanian deadlift is pinpoint form. Keep your back flat, core tight and the bar sliding along the front of your legs on the way up and down and you’ll build thick, impressive, protruding hamstrings. Allow your lower back to collapse and take on the load and you’ll help put a Ferrari in your chiropractor’s garage.
How-To: Stand upright holding a barbell in front of your upper thighs with an overhand grip. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees. With your chest up, arms straight and core tight to maintain the natural arch in your low back, lean forward from your hips, pushing them rearward until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor or until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. At the bottom, keep your back flat and head neutral. The bar should be very close to or in contact with your legs throughout. Flex your hamstrings and glutes to reverse the motion, bringing the bar back to the start position. The movement should come from the hips extending — pushing your hips forward — not from extending the lower back. In other words, don’t lead the lift with your chest, arms and back.
I tend to do these standing on a bumper plate or box, which gives me a better stretch. If you’re not as flexible, focus on lowering the weight and stop just before your back rounds. Always maintain a flat back and keep your shoulders square.