Fitness tip – Snatch-grip RDL

Fitness tip – Snatch-grip RDL

by Evigan Xiao 27 Jan 2020

Deadlifts are commonly touted as being one of the best exercises to build the posterior chain, particularly the back. When executed in the form of a Romanian deadlift, the constant tension serves as a tremendous stimulus for the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. But what about the upper back? While the muscles north of the lumbar do have to work hard to maintain control of the bar, you never really “feel” it. If you really want to push the limits of your upper back strength in a hinge movement, employing a wider grip along with another simple modification will get you where you want to go!


If you’ve ever watched weighlifting, either on television or in training, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the term “snatch-grip”. For the uninitiated, a snatch-grip is the wider grip used by weightlifters when attempting the snatch movement along with its other variations.


The snatch-grip deadlift is one such example. Instead of hoisting the bar overhead like with a regular snatch, the snatch-grip deadlift is completed at full extension of the hips with the bar resting in front, much like the conventional deadlift.


Employing a wider grip on the barbell does two things: it positions the barbell slightly higher up on the torso and requires a greater activation of the lats to keep the barbell in line with the body. In orderto properly execute, the snatch-grip deadlift, the lifter has place a greater amount of emphasis on contracting the lats and holding tension throughout the movement in order to prevent the barbell from drifting away and causing the lower back to round.


However, there is a caveat with the snatch-grip deadlift. The reduced distance between the barbell and the shoulder joint means that lifter will have to start in a position of greater hip flexion. Some lifters might find it difficult to adopt such a position without having the pelvis lose its neutral position. To address this, one can perform the snatch-grip deadlift in the format of a Romanian deadlift!


The first step lies in finding the appropriate grip width:



  1. Take a wider grip on the barbell and stand at full extension.
  2. Dip slightly at the knees.
  3. Adjust your grip so that the barbell is resting along the crease of your hip.


As with the Romanian deadlift, set the rack hooks at a height so that the barbell sits right above your knees. Make sure you observe the usual cues when taking the bar out of the rack (shoulders drawn downwards, braced core and squeeze out with the glutes) and take a few small steps back.



From this position, push your hips back and down and lower the bar, making sure that your shins remain vertical while keeping tension on your hamstrings and glutes. Focus on keeping maximum tension in your upper back as you keep the barbell drawn into your body. Once you reach the fully stretched position (this will vary from person to person), contract your glutes to bring the barbell back up.


Performing deadlifts with a snatch-grip is one of the best ways to light up your ENTIRE back during a training session. You definitely won’t be able to use as much weight, but you can rest assured that you upper back won’t develop into a weak link. If you wish to turn the snatch-grip deadlift into a power or strength movement but can’t pull from the floor, you can rest them on blocks or risers instead to suit your current mobility level. Either way, this movement has quite the pull when it comes to building strength and muscle!