The Romanian Deadlift has been a central part of my workout routine for some time. The functionality of the exercise provides different ways to modify the movement. The ability to perform the RDL using one leg at a time makes it functional for our purpose. Bernard has often sought to have each side of my body work independently of the other. The practice seems to help coordinated movement in each of my limbs. Guarding against the stronger side of my body compensating for weakness on the weaker side. It will never be a perfect science, but it does seem to help. The RDL requires a bending at the waist, balancing on one leg, while the other leg moves behind. Hopefully forming a relatively parallel line down the back, continuing down whichever leg comes off the floor. It feels as though, the better balance one might have, the closer to parallel with your back, the off leg can reach. When working on the Romanian Deadlift my off leg doesn’t go nearly that far back. The balance required to lift the back leg substantially off the ground remains in the future. In addition to the balance work with the RDL, the movement also frees up the hands. Which provides Bernard with all kinds of additional tasks for hand dexterity. While leaning forward toward the ground, he can have me do all kinds of cool stuff.
The Romanian Deadlift has been a challenging movement on many levels. The largest challenge has been maintaining balance throughout the exercise. Standing on one foot has been difficult in any circumstance. It has always caused nervous energy when being asked to balance on one leg. With cerebral palsy, the more tools to maintain stability the better life becomes. When one leg gets taken from the toolbox of keeping upright, things get tricky. From the opposite perspective, we can’t improve balance without placing the skill into adverse circumstances. Insert the Romanian Deadlift here. The exercise has proven to be a solid tool for challenging my troubled ability for balance. My balance becoming tested to a greater degree as the upper body moves closer to the floor. With trouble occurring as we near the floor, we began with reaching for elevated objects. One of the first items we used was a purple block. The block was probably six inches in height. My challenge was holding the block in one hand, as the RDL was performed, the block had to touch the floor. Once contact with the floor was made, I was required to stand back up without the loss of balance. We moved from holding the purple block, to picking things off the floor. The movement turning on more lights in the brain, adding complexity to the RDL.
Doing the Romanian Deadlift while lifting something off the floor was going to be challenging. The exercise was going to apply pressure to my ability of maintaining balance. As the RDL was being done on one leg at a time. While leaning over on one leg the other would lift off the ground moving behind. The other challenge would be dexterity of my hands. The hands have always felt most impacted by my CP. They are challenging to use most of the time. Some days find my hands lacking more cooperation than other days. One of the main complication has been the manipulation of my fingers. Any grasping of an object can be challenging. Which makes it the ideal movement for Bernard to work with me on. Even better has been working on finger functionality while adding other movements. So, Bernard set small traffic cones on the floor of the gym. My challenge was to perform the RDL, while balancing on a single leg, and pick up the cone. It was a challenging task, causing me to reach down slightly lower than with the purple block. My fingers needed to grab the cone from the top, wrapping them around the top, pinching the cone to remove it from the floor. Then, staking the cones, while moving across the floor. The exercise designed had many moving parts. The most challenging continued to be balancing on my single leg. The second progression of the RDL was complete. Our next step would require reaching to the floor.
Our next step with the RDL would be reaching all the way to the floor. This was going to be challenging. As it would require maintaining one legged balance for an extended amount of time. The balance time would also be extended by the object on the floor. Whatever Bernard was going to have me lifting would require hand dexterity. When the object changed the challenge with my hand would change. We began picking objects off the floor with our hopscotch pads. The small circular pads we used in creating the hopscotch pattern. They were small and rested flat on the floor. This meant getting my fingers under the pad would be challenging without space between pad and floor. The exercise took some work to learn the balance. Many times, I was unable to maintain balance long enough to get a good grip on the pad. Maybe getting slightly halfway to the floor before using my other foot to save my balance. It took learned composure to keep steady throughout the movement. Learning to stay focus on engaging the muscles used in steading my body. Once stability was maintained, learning to work my fingers in order to lift the pad came more easily. The most challenging aspect was maintaining balance as the movement progressed. Then, it was on to a new wrinkle.
As we continued on with the RDL progression in the following week, Bernard added to the challenge. He wanted to further challenge my hands and brain with the movement. In addition to setting out the hopscotch pads, he set a group of six highlighter pens on the floor. He also added rules to grasping the hopscotch pads. Instead of having the ability to grasp the pads using one hand, the pad had to be lifted using two. Lifting the hopscotch pads in this manner brought more coordinated movement into the exercise. Getting fingers from both hands under the pads before lifting, would require extra concentration, while remaining stable. Once through the pads, reaching for the highlighter would be the next challenge. Removing the highlighter from the floor would request of my hand a different angle. Instead of sliding fingers under a pad, the highlighter pens would be pinched. The pinching motion similar to those used for picking up the small traffic cones. The highlighter would have a finer movement of the fingers. Simply due to its small rounded shape. Our highlighter pen test brought on instability. Seemingly due to the concentration required to lift a new object. Through the tilts of instability, requiring me to catch myself, and begin again. The ability to pinch the highlighter pen penetrated through, soon it was being done with greater ease. That motion of pinching the pen from the top would be necessary for our next RDL challenge.
We continued working on the Romanian Deadlift. The movement becomes more complex with each challenge met. The most recent form of our RDL was one of the most unique. Bernard set up the RDL in a way that used each hand independently of the other. Each leg was also going to be used independently, but that came as a function of the movement. He looped a string around a twenty-five-pound weight sitting on the floor. The string was connected to a wooden handle. The string connected to the center of the handle, leaving something to hold on each side of the string. The handle was held at about the height of my waist. He set up a stack of about six plates weights. Each weight was two-pounds. My objective was to hold the handle in on hand and execute a Romanian Deadlift while holding the handle. While at the bottom of the RDL, I was required to lift one of the two-pound weights off the pile. After standing back up on both feet, the idea was to place the weight through the wooden handle. The two-pound weight would travel down the string and rest on the twenty-five-pound weight plate below. This progression of the exercise challenged different aspects. The progression of the stacked weights challenged balance. Each time reaching down for another plate was more challenging, as my balance was compromised with the reach drawing nearer to the floor. The final couple plates became most problematic, losing balance a few times, requiring the attempt to restart.
The hands were pressured in a couple different ways during this progression of the RDL. The most challenging was lifting the two-pound weight plate. Lifting each weight off the stack required stability. My arm and hand were required to hold their steadiness as the weight was reached. The weight stack did contain stability because of the two-pounds per plate, but it still felt possible to knock one or two off the stack. In addition to the composure required, as my arm approached the stack, the fingers had to be prepared. This portion was helped by our time spent working with the highlighter pens and the small traffic cones. With each of those objects, the hand had to be used in a pinching motion to lift them off the floor. The highlighter pens requiring a finer movement to grasp. Griping the two-pound weight plate would call for a pinch somewhere between the small traffic cone and highlighter pen. In thinking through the movement before it began, a plan came to mind for how to grasp the weight plate. Two fingers would go into the center circle of the plate, with the thumb placing pressure on the outside ring. The pinch should provide the ability to lift the two-pound plate. The plan worked each time and the plates were balanced throughout each lift, being placed on the wooden handle, then sliding down the string. It was an exciting challenge for the Romanian Deadlift.
The Romanian Deadlift gives Bernard different ways to add modifications. Taking an exercise like the RDL seems important for cerebral palsy improvement. It hasn’t always been simply about learning the movement of each exercise. Then, adding weight in an attempt to get stronger. Our sessions include involving ideas to work on other skills inside the exercise. The hands have always been a large part of my daily challenge. So, when the use of reaching and holding become part of a workout, we are getting after weakness. Teaching the hands to work better with added pressure can make them work better under normal circumstances. This has often been the purpose of Bernard’s creativity. The more lights we can turn on in the brain, meaning multiple things to concentrate on at once, with the muscles under pressure, the more improvement. We are doing it in the controlled environment of the gym, keeping things safe while adding complexity. It gives me the opportunity to truly embrace the challenges put forth. It seems valuable to experience that security as we are challenged to grow.