Progressing from basic to advance: Stick Romanian Deadlift to the Deadlift
The Stick RDL is a regression from the main lift, the RDL, which is also a pre-cursor to the Deadlift. In nearly all cases the RDL should be taught before the Deadlift to ensure the athlete can hinge from the hips. This displays their ability to dissociate their hips from their spine, a very important skill to learn.
Once the individual is competent with the stick placed down their back, they move onto the progression of having the stick situated at the front of the body to simulate the BB RDL. If someone struggles with this, revert back to the Stick RDL or incorporate a further regression drill to teach posterior or anterior hip tilt (i.e. sitting on a basketball or fitball, push ball behind you using only hips, then pull ball to the front of you, using only the hips).
The primary focus should be the hamstrings on the way down, drive hips and knees back, maintaining a slight knee bend. Ensure you have the trunk braced, pushing air into the belly from all angles, not just into the belly, but to the outer edge of the trunk. Keep the spine aligned with the head at all times (unless you’re a weightlifter, you need to be looking ahead for your sport).
Once the stick is mastered at the front, use a barbell and begin to add load, if form breaks, reduce load and build strength and technique before you apply additional loading.
The Deadlift can be taught at this point, or once you feel the individual is ready. You can use the Top/Down approach to teach (from the starting point of the RDL), or from Bottom/Up (from the floor). We prefer to teach from the floor, as we can encourage the lifter to use the bar as ‘leverage’ to set both their shoulder position and hip position by pulling into the bar, without literally picking it up. Once again remain tight in the trunk, ensure hamstrings and glutes take the brunt of the load, not your lower back. Individuals who feel an “aching” sensation in the lower back should stop immediately, get assessed by a strength and conditioning professional (for technique) and physiotherapist (for mobility/injury).
Once you master the deadlift, life becomes much easier and your lifting career can progress to a number of movements such as clean pulls, power cleans, snatch work and more. You can regress deadlifts by starting from a rack at mid shin, or from plates stacked on the platform.
Please note trap bar deadlift will only hinder the progression of your athletes if you have any intention of teaching them the above progression (clean and snatch variants). So before you use a trap bar, master the actual deadlift and then the trap bar can be used later as a tool for your tool box and a simpler variant for taller athletes or people with wrist or other mobility issues. Not every athlete has to do variants of olympic lifts, but if you envision this for your athletes, teach the deadlift first, not visa-versa.
Now go put this to practice and let us know how you go!