How to Romanian Deadlift: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Also known as: RDL

Target: glutes, hamstrings, core

Necessary equipment: barbell

Level: Intermediary

The Romanian deadlift, abbreviated as RDL, is a dumbbell or freestyle exercise that targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core. Done correctly, it’s a great move to add to your lower body strength routine because it works everything in the back of your body (your back chain). However, as a complex movement, involving many joints and muscle groups, it is very easy to perform the exercise with incorrect form, which increases the risk of injury.

In general, if you’re new to this movement, you should work with a trainer or trainer to make sure you’re doing the RDL in good form.


The first benefit of the Romanian deadlift is how many muscle groups you can train at once. This type of compound exercise is considered a functional movement that translates into other areas of life because when you move in everyday life, you’re not using a single muscle — you’re using a combination. of muscle groups for walking. , run, bend, lift, etc

In particular, RDL focuses on your hamstrings, glutes, core, and even your upper back, shoulders, and forearms. By developing strength through these areas, activities of daily living, such as walking and picking up items from the floor, become easier to perform.

Also, unlike other common lower body compound exercises, like the squat and lunge, the RDL focuses primarily on the hamstrings, not the quads. For those who do a lot of squats and sit-ups, the Romanian lift can help “balance” any imbalances that may be starting to form between the strength of the front and back sides of the body. your body.

Eventually, as you develop greater strength and power in your hamstrings and glutes, you’ll see these strength gains carry over into other exercises as well. You’ll be able to lift more, more comfortably, as you go through your traditional strength training routine.

Step by step instructions

All you need to get started is a barbell and dumbbell plate.

  1. Stand tall with your feet roughly hip-width apart. Hold the barbell with both hands directly in front of your thighs, hands shoulder-width apart (slightly wider than your thighs).
  2. Start with a very light knee bend. Roll your shoulders back, pulling your shoulder blades toward your spine to focus on your upper back. Your shoulders should be pulled back like this throughout the exercise.
  3. Inhale and press your hips back. Continue pressing them back (like your hips are spinning), as your torso begins to lean forward naturally toward the floor. It is important to realize that you are not leaning forward at the waist. Body movement occurs only because your hips rotate, not because you actively lean forward. Check to make sure that you still have perfect posture and that your shoulders and back are not rounded forward.
  4. Hold the barbell close to your thighs (almost grazing the front of them) as you swing forward from the hips. If there are several inches between your body and the barbell, roll your shoulders back and pull the barbell closer to your body. Your arms should hang naturally (elbows extended), but they should still be fixed to keep the barbell close to you.
  5. Stop flexing your hips when you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. The bar doesn’t have to touch the floor — in fact, you’re perfectly fine if you stop moving when the bar reaches knee level, depending on your individual flexibility.
  6. Exhale and use your hamstrings and glutes to “pull” your torso back to standing as you actively press your hips forward. You should not use your back or core to pull yourself back to a standing position.
  7. Complete your set and carefully change the bar on the rack.
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Common mistake

The important thing to remember when performing the Romanian deadlift is that the movement starts from the hips. When you press your hips back, your knees should not be simultaneously bent – this is not a squat. In fact, your knees should stay relatively still throughout the exercise.

Likewise, remember to keep your shoulders back and your muscles engaged so your torso maintains perfect posture as your hips hinge.

Round your shoulders

When performing the Romanian deadlift, you should maintain perfect posture through your torso throughout the entire exercise. People often forget that their upper body needs to be kept active. But if your shoulders are facing forward, your upper back will fall toward the floor and your torso will begin to form a lowercase “n” shape.

This is often the reason for the next common mistake – the barbell “hangs” too far from your thighs. All of this together shifts the weight too far forward, putting more strain on your back while reducing the weight on the hamstrings. Roll your shoulders back, pull your shoulder blades toward your spine, and focus on your center of gravity before starting to do the hip hinge. Keep them engaged throughout the exercise, “locked in,” right when you start.

The barbell is too far from your thighs

When people do RDL, it’s common for their hips to swing back, allowing the barbell to simply “hang” off their shoulders, so their arms are perpendicular to the floor. This puts the weight too far away from the body, pulling on the shoulders and upper back, removing the focus on the hamstrings and shifting it to the upper body.

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As your shoulder blades pull toward your spine, the barbell should stay within an inch or so of your thighs throughout the movement. Think of the bar as “grazing” the front of your thighs as you perform the hip rotation. At the lowest point of the RDL, your arms should not be perpendicular to the floor but at an angle toward your shins. Doing the exercise in front of a mirror can help you identify this mistake.

Curved at the waist

Those unfamiliar with “hinge hinges” may have a hard time distinguishing between pressing the hips back — essentially pushing the hips back so that the butt continues to push back while you keep your torso completely. straight — and bend your waist forward.

If you do the exercise in front of a mirror, so that you can see your body from the side, you should see a clear and sharp angle begin to form between the torso and the top of the thigh, with the tailbone being the crux of the movement. corner. If you lean forward from the waist, you won’t see the same kind of sharp angle — you’ll more than likely see a 90-degree angle at the waist, or even a curve forming in the low back as you begin. bend forward. This puts strain on your back.

Do the exercise in front of a mirror and check to make sure that your center of gravity is still active, shoulders back, spine neutral, with movement originating in the hips.

Excessive bending at the knee

People often make the mistake of turning the Romanian deadlift into more of a squat. After starting with a small hip hinge, they immediately bend their knees and begin to squat down. Your knees really shouldn’t bend much during the exercise. The slight curvature you create at the start of the exercise is pretty much the correct bend you should maintain as you complete the exercise.

Look at yourself in the mirror from the side — the whole movement should be done with hip hinges, not knee bends. If you find your knees bent and your glutes pointing towards the floor like in a squat, reset and try again. Continue pressing your hips back further and further to rotate your hips, instead of bending your knees.

Tilt your neck forward

You want your spine to remain in a neutral and aligned position through the entire RDL. Even people who have mastered keeping their spine aligned from their tailbone to the top of their back can make the mistake of looking up and looking straight ahead when moving through the deadlift.

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You want the neck to remain aligned with the spine so that the torso and head form a straight line from the tailbone to the crown of the head throughout the exercise. As such, your eyes should really be looking towards the floor at the end of the movement, rather than straight ahead of you.

Modifications and Variations

Need a modification?

Since the form of the Romania deadlift is difficult to master, it is perfectly acceptable to start with a PVC pipe or a broom handle instead of a barbell when you are just starting out. You’ll still target your hamstrings and glutes, and you’ll have the opportunity to master your form and even train for hamstring and hip flexibility before moving on to a weighted RDL. .

Want to join a challenge?

Try the one-legged deadlift. This move targets each hamstring and glute independently and challenges your balance. Try with warm weights or dumbbells rather than barbells.

Safety and Precautions

Proper form is key to performing the Romania deadlift without injury. If you have a hamstring or low back injury, it’s important to work with a trainer to make sure you’re performing the correct motion. You may also want to stop trying to move if you are actively treating an injury to either of these areas. Doing the exercise in front of a mirror so you can see your body from the side can also be helpful for catching shape errors.

Remember – this exercise is aimed at your hamstrings and glutes – that’s where you’ll feel the “traction” as you perform the exercise.

If you feel the exercise in your lower back or upper body, your form is probably incorrect.

Reset and try again, really making sure you’re keeping the bar close to your thighs as you swing forward from the hips.

This move takes practice to be accurate, but working with a trainer or trainer can help you master it faster and with less chance of injury.


Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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