Barbell Deadlifts: Why We Use RDLs and Trap Bar Instead

Put simply, traditional style barbell deadlifts (with a low starting hip position, as shown below) are not used in the Performance U approach to sports performance training, bodybuilding and general fitness.

When using a barbell, our “go to” move is (instead) Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) because we feel they’re much safer due to the fact that the lever arm is much shorter. This reality is easy to see in the image below by comparing the distance between the two lines in each Deadlift style.

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 9.57.07 AM

As you can see, the lines between the hip and barbell are much closer together in the RDL — The closer the lines are together, the shorter the lever arm is.

Check out this video from Carl DeRosa, Ph.D., the author of Mechanical Low Back Pain & Mechanical Neck Pain, to learn more about lever-arm length as it relates to spinal torque when picking up loads from the floor.

When we’re going for a lower-hip starting position, Trap Bar deadlifts are our “go to” move instead of the traditional Barbell style because they also create a shorter lever arm.


If an individual doesn’t have access to a Trap Bar, we’ll program a Sumo Barbell deadlift, as this barbell variation also creates a much shorter lever arm than the traditional low hip barbell deadlift.


It’s Cool to Disagree, but don’t Misrepresent!

If you’re all fired up and ready argue that I shouldn’t be telling people “not to do traditional style deadlifts” because they’re ”bad,”  I absolutely agree. That’s precisely why I made no such statement. All I’ve done above is share some of the deadlift variations that are, and aren’t, used in the Performance U training approach, along with our rational behind them. However, I do know how easily selective reading can get the best of us, and wanted to make sure it didn’t get the best of you.

In short, it’s totally cool if you disagree with our training approach, just don’t misrepresent what or how I’ve communicated it here. Have a great New Years!


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