RTS Coaching – Whole Foot on RDL’s


One of the key things we focus on at IFAST is feeling your feet when you train.

Feeling your whole foot is critical for optimizing center of gravity, which in turn allows you to load and feel the appropriate muscles when training.

I often joke that strength training is the only sport where it’s beneficial to be on your heels, but sometimes, that concept is taken to far.

In almost every athletic endeavor I think we need to find a balance: You want to feel your whole foot, but at the same time, always have an understanding of where your heel is.

In the video below, I dive into this concept a bit. On exercises like squats and deadlifts it’s important to feel the heels, as the natural tendency is to get pulled forward.

However, on an exercise like an RDL where you’re really trying to push back, I think it’s critical to feet the front part of your foot as well.

A few more takeaways to help dial in your RDL form:

  • Feel the whole foot at the top and bottom of the lift.
  • As you’re shifting your weight back, think about allowing your torso to come forward as well.
  • The first move out of the bottom should be driving the hips forward.

I hope you picked up a thing or two from this post, and if you want more info on RDL technique check out these two awesome articles:

How to RDL

How NOT to RDL

All the best



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  1. Mike, great stuff. This is one of those topics that gets me a little excited. I’m a big, BIG fan of foot feedback!

    Feeling the foot provides tangible, useful proprioceptive feedback. I think it’s actually primal, as our early movements rely heavily on non-verbal sensory “cues”. I also definitely like the tripod foot concept as on overarching guiding principle.

    I like to think of it as “rooting into the floor”, and it provides a great sense of balance and stability.

    Concur that it is helpful to feel pressure through the ball of the foot on an RDL. I actually think there is a bit of a subtle rocking motion on hinges. The quads must provide a brace for the hamstrings and hip to extend. Without a stable brace from the quads, the knees are going to float forwards, which immediately takes tension off the hammies, and it all falls apart.

    I think there are subtle, natural weight shifts in any movement, as different muscle groups in the chain become dominant at particular ranges of motion. For example, you will often see on OLY squatter load the internal knee, and thus foot, out of the hole, and then engage the glutes hard, rocking force over to the side of the foot. The knees and femurs correspond with an “in-hard out” pattern, a bowing.

    This happens naturally and unconsciously as the “above-ground” movement occurs, and generally takes care of itself.

    Interesting that consciously directing, or re-directing, force through a section of the foot/floor, can also be used as a corrective technique, and can often solve problems right quick, when verbal cueing fails.

    By focusing attention on a certain part of the foot, up the chain, you are re-directing force through different muscle groups.

    A while back, I wrote a post on correcting valgus by using small plates under the lateral heel, as a sensory feedback technique. Smash the plates, and watch the valgus automatically correct. You simply cannot apply force through the side heel, and not engage the glutes, incl. medius and the short rotators.

    Palpate the side hip and give it a try from a seated position. Press the outside of the heel into the ground. Note how the side hip stiffens, and the femurs will move to the side and line up over the foot.

    Once someone makes the connection between pressure at the foot, and movement shift up the chain, it gets much simpler for them to self-correct, from rep to rep, even mid-movement.

    Great post, good sir! DB

  2. So simple yet practical. Guilty as charged. Hips/glutes back too far. Thought that was right. Indeed foot proprioception is a very useful cue. Thanks Mike. Hey where’s the big guy, how is he? Um, Little….? 🙂

  3. To clarify your feet should be pointed straight? What are your thoughts on external femur rotation necessary for glute activation (aka feet pointed out some)?

    • Yes, feet pointed forward.

      And toeing out is really just one piece of the puzzle, and not necessarily necessary on an exercise like an RDL. I’ll write something up on this later, as it’s far too vast to give a good answer here 😉

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