RDL Exercise

A Guide to Romanian Deadlifts: Techniques, Benefits & Variations


Romanian Deadlift (RDL) – Overview

Lower back pain is a common concern among people of all ages worldwide and there are numerous reasons why one can have back pain. While it is practically impossible for training professionals to identify all possible reasons for backache, one of the most common reasons is a weaker core. Perhaps, the best weight technique that you can try for a stronger core and lower body is the Romanian deadlift.

It is a traditional barbell weight lifting technique that, when done in the right way, helps strengthen all the muscles along the spine and in your lower body including your glutes, hamstrings, and adductors.

Whether you are an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, you can incorporate Romanian deadlift in your daily workout routine and strengthen your lower body and core. 

Romanian Deadlift vs. Conventional Deadlift - Which Is Better?

Romanian deadlifts are a variation of conventional deadlifts. However, there is a difference in the technique. Romanian deadlifts target your hamstrings and glutes more compared to the traditional deadlift that focuses more on quads and mid-back. Moreover, Romanian deadlifts exert less pressure on your lower back so it is ideal for people with a backache.

Conventional deadlifts are considered as a push off the floor using your knees whereas, with Romanian deadlift, there is a pull from the hips. Also, the shoulders are more in front during a Romanian deadlift compared to how the shoulders are positioned during a conventional deadlift.

The Romanian deadlifts and conventional deadlifts, both target back and leg muscles. However, you cannot claim which variation is better. Your preference for the type of deadlift technique you incorporate in your workout depends upon your weight goals, training needs, and overall level of fitness.

RDL Exercise

Romanian Deadlift demonstrated by @david_iian

Which Muscles Work During the Romanian Deadlift?

The Romanian deadlift focuses on a number of muscles in your back and lower body. Primarily, it targets your hamstrings and glutes, along with erector spinae, mid and upper back muscles, trapezius, and forearms. 

Benefits of the Romanian Deadlift

As an excellent weight training exercise, the Romanian deadlifts come with a number of benefits including

 Improved performance of lower back and body
 Increased pull strength
 Reduced risk of injury
 

How to Perform the Romanian Deadlifts Safely and Correctly?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the Romanian deadlifts safely and in the correct manner.

 With hands around shoulder-width apart, use your palms to grip the barbell firmly. Your feet should be hip-distance apart and slightly bent at your knees. Your chest should be lifted high and pulled towards the back pockets so you maintain the extension of the spine as you push your tailbone in the direction to hinge at your hips. Make sure your chin is tucked into the neck so you maintain a safe position.

 Maintain the length of the spine as you lower the weight towards the floor. Make sure you feel tension at the back of your thighs. It typically happens when the weight bar is around knee-height. Keep your eyes on the ground and not in the mirror.

 As you return to the standing position, push both your heels towards the floor and press your hips forward and pull back on the knees. Let your weight bar return towards the front of your thighs as you engage your hamstrings and adductors.

 Make sure your spine is long and your knees are slightly bent throughout the movement. 


This is the basic Romanian deadlift that you can perform with a barbell. You can also try some of the following variations of this exercise.

 Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

For this variation, you will balance on one leg as you bend forward. However, you will not be lifting weights in this variation. Make sure that the leg that is in contact with the ground is firmly established and slightly bent at the knees.

Now extend both arms forward and as you lift your feet off the ground, slightly bend your knee and fully stretch your leg behind your body with toes pointing towards the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds before you return to the original standing position.

You can perform this variation using a medicine ball or a stick that can support the leg you are moving. You can also use dumbbells with a single-leg variation. The repetitions will provide the same benefits as mentioned above. 

 Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 

In this variation, you will follow the exact same procedure as you do when using a barbell, however, instead of bending down to lift a bar, you will be holding a dumbbell in each of your hands.

With your core tight and back straight, you lower yourself while bending your knees until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. This acts as a cue that you need to return to your normal position. 

Romanian Deadlift Exercise For Working Out At Home

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift demonstrated by @barhuma_kool

Common Mistakes

While the Romanian deadlifts are completely safe for your lower back and legs, they can be dangerous if you make one or more of the following mistakes. Therefore, it is important to beware of some of the common mistakes that you may make as you perform the Romanian deadlift.

Performing it Through an Incomplete Range of Motion

This is perhaps the most common mistake that people make while performing the Romanian deadlift. Very often people lower the bar to around the knee level before they return back to the original position. While it makes the movement a lot easier, it does not provide the complete benefit to your muscles.
When it comes to the Romanian deadlifts, completing a full range of motion is far more important than the amount of weight you lift. 

Starting Off with Weight that is Too Light

Typically, people use a lighter weight when performing Romanian deadlifts compared to the weight they use for performing conventional deadlifts. Again, this can reduce the benefits you get when you perform this workout.  

Mix the Technique of RDL with Conventional Deadlifts

With the Romanian deadlift, your knees should be slightly bent whereas, with conventional deadlifts, you have to bend your knees as you lift the weight. This is the primary difference between the two variations. It is quite common for people to confuse between the two techniques. As a result, they might end up getting lesser benefits.

Only when you avoid these mistakes, you can get the best out of this exercise without damaging your spine. 

Tips for Beginners

Ideally, when you first start the Romanian deadlifts, you should focus more on improving the strength of your hip muscles along with using lighter weights. As you gain strength, you can add more to the weight and add perfection to your technique.

Final Words

The Romanian deadlifts are often considered to be an intense weight lifting workout. However, with the right technique and regular practice, you can improve your muscle strength and mass to a great extent!

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