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Increase Your Strength and Mobility with Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift should be a staple in (almost) everyone’s training program. Whether your goals align with physique development, enhancement of athletic performance, or general health, the RDL is a tool worth having in your arsenal.

Furthermore, the Romanian Deadlift can be customized to suit your needs, no matter your current skill level. You can perform this exercise working with limited equipment in your garage, or with heavy weights in your local gym.

The versatility of this exercise is limitless, but it begs the question; how do you properly perform the Romanian Deadlift? Follow along to learn how.

How to Do Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Get into the starting position by deadlifting a barbell off the floor, or by unracking it from a barbell rack.

  2. Inhale, brace your core slightly, and lean forward by hinging in your hips. Keep your knees almost completely extended.

  3. Lean forward as far as possible without rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the barbell to the floor, although it is OK if you do.

  4. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. Exhale on the way up.

  5. Take another breath, and repeat for reps.

Note: you can stand on an elevation (for example a weight plate) if you want to extend the range of motion without hitting the floor.

What is The Romanian Deadlift?

The Romanian deadlift is a classic barbell exercise for strengthening your posterior chain muscles, such as your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

It is usually performed with a barbell, but dumbbells and kettlebells are common variations.

Because the Romanian deadlift is a compound exercise that works several muscle groups at the same time, it can be a time-efficient addition to many training programs.

Romanian Deadlifts vs. Deadlifts

There are two main differences between the Romanian deadlift and the traditional deadlift.

  1. From top to top. The Romanian deadlift starts and stops in a upright, standing position. The standard deadlift starts and stops at the floor.

  2. Knees are locked. In the Romanian deadlift, you lock your knees at a slight bend (about 15°) and only bend at your hip.

By keeping your knees almost completely extended throughout the exercise, you shift almost all of the work to the muscles on the back of your body while unloading your quadriceps.

In the Romanian deadlift the barbell doesn't have to touch the floor, unlike the conventional deadlift .

Comparing Romanian Deadlift to Deadlift Strength

Usually, men and women can lift about 15–25% more weight in the regular deadlift. The Romanian Deadlift is a bit more challenging to lift more.

The standard deadlift has a more effective lifting technique, which uses your quads while also shortens the movement of your hips and back.

Romanian Deadlifts and Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift and the stiff-legged deadlift have similar qualities when it comes to technique. The main difference that the stiff-leg deadlift usually starts and stops with the barbell on the floor.

In the Romanian deadlift, you can reverse the rep before you hit the floor, and only put the bar back on the floor when you have finished your set.

Benefits of Romanian Deadlifts

The Romanian deadlift has so many benefits:

  • Strengthens and develops your posterior chain. Your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back are all worked hard in this exercise. If you want to grow your glutes, hamstrings and lower back, this is a perfect exercise for you.

  • Improve your squat and deadlift. You have to have strong hip extensors to complete the squat and the deadlift.

  • Easy on the knees. The Romanian Deadlift is a hip hinge movement, which is why it is labeled as "easy on the knees". It's also a great way to improve your hip and back strength.

Romanian Deadlift Variations

  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift. It's okay to use dumbbells instead of a barbell for this exercise. You can use either one that your prefer or find more comfortable.

  • Deficit Romanian Deadlift. If your mobility is good, you can stand on a plate or a step when you perform the Romanian Deadlift. This might help you go deeper without hitting the floor.

  • Romanian Deadlifts from Blocks. If your mobility is limited or you just want to avoid reversing a heavy weight in mid-air, you can go ahead and try placing a bar on a pair of lifting blocks, and use them to help stop the downward motion.

  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift. Even though, this is challenging for your balance, this variation can help you with coordination and gaining control of your legs and hips. It can eve help address any side to side imbalances.

  • Smith-Machine Romanian Deadlift. Yes, there is totally a machine for this! By performing a Romanian Deadlift on a machine, you are able to add more stability and can really focus on your form.

Alternatives to the Romanian Deadlift

If the Romanian Deadlift sounds a bit scary, and you're thinking you may not be ready to try out this exercise, you can still work the same muscles by trying alternative workouts.

Good Mornings

The good morning is a hip hinge just like the Romanian deadlift, and works similar muscles.

The biggest difference is that instead of holding the bar in your hands, you’ve placed it over your shoulders. This makes the good morning a bit more like the squat. This might be a better choice if you are familiar with the squat instead of the deadlift.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is another exercise that works similar muscles as the Romanian deadlift. Remember to use lighter weights in this variation with higher reps.

Seated Leg Curl

This variation is great if you want to isolate your hamstrings and avoid loading weight onto your back. Go ahead and try the seated leg curl.

Romanian Deadlift FAQ

Here are quick answers to some of the most common questions about the Romanian deadlift.

  • Do Romanian deadlifts build muscle?

  • Should you go heavy on Romanian deadlifts?

  • Why does my back hurt after Romanian deadlifts?

  • Does Romanian deadlifts improve the squat?

Do Romanian Deadlifts Build Muscle?

Yes, it certainly does! the Romanian deadlift is a great exercise for building muscle in your back and lower body. The Romanian deadlift primarily works your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. This exercise also works your adductors, trapezius, and grip.

Should You Go Heavy on Romanian Deadlifts?

It really depends on your goal. If you want to build muscle strength, I would recommend shooting for 3 - 8 reps. If you do this, make sure you ease into heavy low-rep training. Don't just jump right in thinking you will be okay. If you gradually work your way up, you will decrease your risk of injury.

If you are looking for muscle hypertrophy, I would recommend around 8 - 15 reps. Overall, the Romanian Deadlift seems to around the range of 8 -15 reps. If you want to accomplish this range of reps, make sure your weights aren't too heavy but not too light either.

Why Does My Back Hurt after Romanian Deadlifts?

Just as any exercise, there could be several reasons why your back is hurting after exercising. Here, we go over the two most common:

  1. Doing too much too soon. Sometimes its easy for us to get excited if we started something new, or maybe we have taken a break from exercising and we finally got back into doing it. Try to ease yourself back in, or if you just started exercising, try to ease into it by starting off with lighter weights so you can master your form first.

  2. Technique. Make sure that your spine in a neutral position (“straight”) when performing the Romanian deadlift. Also, make sure you are bracing your core muscles when lifting.

As always, consult your physician if it continues or causes you a lot of pain. I've just seen these two most common reasons why during my time training in the gym.

Does Romanian Deadlifts Improve the Squat?

Most likely, yes. The Romanian deadlift does wonders building muscle in your back and hip extensors - both are involved in the squat. So it would make sense with these two muscles getting stronger, your squat will improve.


Wow, we went over a lot about the Romanian deadlift! I could add more info, but let's save that for another post. We talked about technique, how to use correct form and even other variations that you can do if you're not up for the Romanian Deadlift (which is totally okay by the way!). It's always challenging to add a new routine into your established one, but if your up for the challenge, adding the Romanian Deadlift can provide many benefits. Just make sure that you are bracing your core, not lifting too much and consult a physician if needed.

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