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July 26, 2022 6 min read

The deadlift is one of the most popular exercises in the gym, and for good reason. It can be the ultimate strength and muscle builder for your entire body but can be especially beneficial for the muscles of the posterior chain.

It has multiple deadlift variations that can provide similar benefits and others that can be better at isolating specific areas. 

One of these variations that’s another popular exercise is the Romanian deadlift or RDL.

In this variation, you can focus more on your hamstrings and glutes, and the range of motion relies more on the hip hinge versus the knees and the hips with a conventional deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift can be better as isolating certain areas of the body, and you can further emphasize this by using a Smith Machine.

Benefits of a Smith Machine

It‘s no surprise that the Smith Machine doesn't have the best reputation, but it can actually be beneficial depending on your goals.

If your goal is to maximize your strength, sticking to free weights may be your best option. 

However, if your goal is to build muscle, you may want to consider adding the Smith Machine into your fitness routine.

Boosts Muscle Growth

A bodybuilder's goal is to maximize hypertrophy in each area of the body, so as many muscles as possible are visible and really pop out on stage. To achieve this Arnold aesthetic, you need to isolate your muscles by performing single-joint movements or eliminating stabilizer muscles.

The Smith Machine provides more support than barbells or dumbbells, so it can be easier to focus on a specific muscle group at a time. 

Smith Machines can help build muscle by targeting the desired area potentially more than free weights can.

Teaches Form

The Smith Machine provides more stability because the bar is set on a fixed path. 

Some lifters may consider this a drawback while others use it to their advantage. Beginners especially can benefit from this because the fixed path keeps the bar in line and can help teach how a bar during deadlifts should remain in the same path no matter what equipment you‘re using.

Safety for the Lower Back

With any type of exercise, you risk the chance of injury, but there are measures you can take to help prevent it. 

The Smith Machine stays in a fixed path, so you can’t move the bar anywhere besides up and down. 

This can help you focus more on the movements of your hips in a Romanian deadlift and can help you keep your back straight.

If your back rounds due to poor form or the bar losing its path, you can risk straining your lower back, so consult a personal trainer if you’re unsure.

Provides Stability

One of the most common benefits of the Smith Machine is the added stability it can provide. 

This piece of equipment helps eliminate the need for a spotter, so you can go for that one rep max bench press without the fear of dropping the bar on yourself.

Although you may not need a spotter for a Romanian deadlift, the extra stability can help you pack on some heavier weight to get your lower body burning.

Muscles Worked by the Smith Machine RDL

Like the conventional deadlift, the Romanian deadlift works the muscles in your posterior chain, but the stability of the Smith Machine can help emphasize more than others.

Hamstrings

One of the primary muscles worked by the Smith Machine Romanian deadlift are the hamstrings. These are the large muscles on the back of your legs and are the antagonist to the quadriceps. Strong hamstrings can help you run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier.

This muscle group is responsible for the hip hinging motion in the Romanian deadlift and can be strengthened greatly by doing exercises like this under load.

Glutes

The glutes are the biggest muscle in your body and are used in almost every athletic movement like running, squatting, jumping, and deadlifting. This is the muscle group you‘re likely sitting on right now, and they help to extend and stabilize the hip.

Because of the hip hinge motion, the Romanian deadlift can offer more glute activation compared to the conventional deadlift.

Erector Spinae

The muscles that run along your spine are the erector spinae muscles. They help stabilize the spine and contribute to good posture. These back muscles help you stand up straight and keep your back flat during the Romanian deadlift.

Without a strong erector spinae, you may find your back rounding during deadlifts, especially when heavier weight is involved.

How to Do the Smith Machine RDL

 

The deadlift is one of the exercises that can be difficult to do with proper form, especially for beginners or lifters with a weaker posterior chain. 

Poor form could result in an ineffective and dangerous workout, but following this step-by-step guide can get you started.

How to Do the Smith Machine RDL:

  • Stand close in front of the Smith Machine with the bar set at about hip height and your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip with your hands about shoulder-width apart and lift it up and out of the pins.
  • Roll your shoulders down and back to help keep your back flat. Maintain this position throughout.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees as you start to hinge at your hips while keeping your core tight and chest tall. Don‘t bend your knees anymore as you hinge.
  • Through the path, the bar should stay close to your legs. A good tip is to imagine shaving your legs with the bar.
  • Once the bar reaches about mid-shin, press through your heels to start standing back up.
  • Continue to keep your back flat and push your hips forward to end in the starting position.

Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift Alternatives

Whether the Smith Machines are all taken, or you’re just in need of an alternative, there are different variations you can choose from that help target similar muscle groups.

Smith Machine Good Mornings

 

Almost identical to the Romanian deadlift is the good morning exercise. You use the same hip hinge motion, but you’ll hold the weight on your upper back instead of down at your hips.

This can be a good alternative if you’re lacking grip strength, or if you’re looking for a little more back activation.

How to Do Smith Machine Good Mornings:

  • Set the bar at about shoulder height.
  • Get underneath the bar and place it comfortably on your shoulders and upper back.
  • Lift the bar up and out of the pins.
  • Set your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Hinge at your hips while keeping your back flat and core tight.
  • Stand back up to the starting position.

Smith Machine Hip Thrust

 

One of the best exercises you can do for glute activation is the hip thrust. Instead of focusing on a hip hinge motion, you’re relying on hip extension to push the weight up.

This can be a beneficial alternative if your hip hinge still needs some work, or if you want more glute work.

How to Do Smith Machine Hip Thrust:

  • Set a secure bench under the Smith Machine.
  • Set the barbell at a height so that it comfortably rests on your hips when you’re on the bench.
  • Lean on the bench so just your shoulder blades are resting on it and the rest of your body is free to move.
  • Push the bar with your hips to raise it off the pins.
  • Slowly lower the bar with your hips and before you touch the ground, thrust back up to the starting position.

Smith Machine Deadlift

 

In powerlifting, the deadlift is one of the competition exercises along with the bench press and back squat. Whether you’re training for a competition or weightlifting recreationally, you can use the Smith Machine deadlift to your advantage.

This alternative can be beneficial for targeting more of your upper body, increasing your pulling strength, and strengthening your lower body.

How to Do the Smith Machine Deadlift:

  • Stand close to the Smith Machine with the bar set at the lowest pin, so the weight plates touch the ground.
  • Set your feet hip-width apart.
  • Hinge at your hips and bend your knees more than you would an RDL but less than you would a squat.
  • Grab the bar with an overhand grip and set your shoulders down and back.
  • Start to pull the bar, keeping your core tight and back flat.
  • Stand all the way up by extending your hips.
  • Return back down to the starting position.

Final Thoughts 

Conventional deadlifts and free weights can be beneficial for overall muscle and strength, but the Smith Machine can be a great tool for when you need some extra stability or want to maximize muscle growth. 

To help promote more muscle growth, check out the easily digestibleWhey-ISO to pack on the muscle without the fear of gaining fat. 

If you want ultimate gains in your glutes and hamstrings, use the Romanian deadlift in your leg day routine.