If you were looking for how to do a Romanian deadlift (RDL), you have come to the right place.
In this short guide I am going to give you everything you need to know on how to do a Romanian deadlift.
This is in my humble opinion one of, if not the best lower body exercises you can do for your posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes).
Yet oftentimes people can experience lower back pain, not feel it in their glutes, or just downright don’t know how to properly execute the movement.
We are going to cover all of those things in this article and then some.
I will be providing you with tips, step by step instructional tutorial videos, and more.
Ready to dive in and learn how to do a Romanian deadlift? I know you are, let’s kick it.
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift
What Is The Difference Between A Regular Deadlift vs A Romanian Deadlift?
When it comes to a Romanian deadlift vs a regular deadlift (sumo or conventional) there are a few main differences.
Decreased Range Of Motion
Generally speaking with an RDL there is a decreased range of motion versus a traditional deadlift.
This is because with a traditional deadlift you are pulling the barbell off of the floor, starting from the bottom position.
With a Romanian deadlift you are rather starting from the top position (fully standing) and then going to about your shin levels (more to come on this when we talk about proper form) as opposed to going all the way to the floor.
Decreased Risk Of Injury
Once more, generally speaking, there is a lower risk of injury with an RDL as opposed to a traditional deadlift.
I have seen this anecdotally speaking by coaching literally thousands of clients by now as well as myself!
This is for a few reasons.
Number one piggy backing off of the previous point there is a decreased range of motion and you are NOT picking the barbell up off the ground.
Often times that extra 3-5 inches are where people get injured because they have to lower the barbell and pick the barbell up from the floor.
This can be an anatomically hard position to get into for most people (myself included!) and can lead to rounding your lower back.
This can lead to intensive pulling on your lower back, leading to injury.
If you do not go down to the floor, you are saving yourself from an increased risk of injury.
As well as with an RDL there is usually even just a slight decrease in load.
Therefore there is less overall pressure and stress being put on your body, your low back muscles in particular.
Glute & Hamstring Dominant
When it comes to a Romanian deadlift versus a traditional deadlift, the RDL leads itself primarily a hamstring and glute dominant movement.
A traditional deadlift is a totally body strength training movement. You need to use your quads much more in a deadlift as opposed to an RDL because once again you have to pick the bar up from the ground.
Not to say the RDL is not a total body strength training movement, because you still need to engage your core, use your lats, etc, but it is a much more glute and hamstring bias movement.
Can Be Used As A Strength Training & Hypertrophy Movement
When it comes to how to do a Romanian deadlift, there really is no “wrong” way to do them.
For clarification, hypertrophy just refers to muscle growth. Growing bigger, stronger, more defined muscles.
A traditional deadlift variation will do this, but again, that is more of a total strength body strength training movement.
You aren’t worrying about feeling your muscles working, you are worried about moving that heavy weight from point a to point b.
You also generally are not doing more than 5 reps of a traditional barbell deadlift from the floor because that ends up being incredibly taxing and fatiguing on your lower back.
With an RDL, you can bump the reps up to 6, 8, or even 10 reps.
This makes it a great option for a strength training movement but also a hypertrophy movement for growing your muscles.
More on this to come when we talk about how to program the RDL into your workouts.
With the Romanian Deadlift there are simply tons of variations you can work into your routines.
This helps with not only keeping things fresh and exciting, but also if you have an injury, if you have only certain equipment available to you, etc.
Where as if you are doing a traditional barbell deadlift, if you don’t have a barbell, I guess you are SOL!
With the RDL, you can usually always find a variation to fit your needs.
More on that to come when we cover some of the different variations.
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift : Complete Tutorial
Now that you know the main differences between a Romanian deadlift vs a traditional deadlift, let’s cover how to perform it.
Note, this is going to be talking about doing an RDL with a barbell, but all of the same principles we are going to touch on are used for any variation you complete.
Dumbbells, kettlebell, anything.
Before we talk about the actual movement, we need to cover the most important part of this (or any strength training movement) and that is how to brace your core.
Without properly bracing your core, you are asking for an injury, no matter how “perfect” your movement looks.
Your core protects your lower back. If you do not use it, you will get injured.
- Do NOT think about sucking your stomach in. That is not the correct way to brace your core.
- Think about someone is about to punch you in your stomach and you are going to bear down to brace for that punch. You are pushing your stomach out. Essentially the opposite of what you do at the beach.
- Or think about if you are sitting on the toilet and you are a little constipated and you really gotta push one out. Do this same thing to brace your core, just don’t poop, please!
- When performing a Romanian deadlift, do NOT think you are going down and up. This is where most people mess up.
The more you think you are going down, and then coming back up, the more you will round your lower back. The more you round your lower back, the greater risk of injury.
You have to think you are going BACK with your hips, then forward with your hips. Think about sending your hips back to the wall behind you. If you were trying to touch your butt on the wall, or if someone had a rope wrapped around your waist and was pulling you back.
- Think about using the bar as a paint brush to paint your legs the whole way down and the whole way up.
Aka, keep the bar rubbing against your thighs and shins the entire time. Close your armpits shut and keep your elbows close to your body. Once the bar starts to shift away from your body, that is when you put pressure on your low back.
- Think about showing your nipples to the wall in front of you.
This will prevent you from rounding your lower back. Think hips back, chest forward.
- Keep a slight bend in your knees. Do not lock your knees out, but don’t intentionally bend them. Keep a soft bend in them.
- When standing back up from the bottom, do NOT lift your chest first. This will put a great deal of stress on your low back.
Think about pushing your heels into the ground, pulling from your glutes and hamstrings, and initiating the movement with your hips as opposed to your chest and lower back.
Sets – Perform anywhere form 3-4 sets of this exercise
Reps – Perform anywhere from 5-10 reps of this exercise
Frequency – Perform this exercise anywhere from 1-2x per week
Timing in Workout – Generally speaking you want to perform this exercise within the first 1-2 movements on your workout
As we talked about earlier when it comes to how to do a Romanian deadlift there is no wrong way to do them because there are so many variations.
I will include some of my favorites that I program into my clients programs below.
- All of the same principles apply here with the dumbbells, just be sure to keep the dumbbells close to your body as opposed to holding a barbell
DB 1.5 RDL
This can be a great variation if you want to challenge yourself a bit more or don’t have as heavy of weights!
– Keep the kettlebell directly beneath your body
Single Leg RDL
If you want a challenge, the SLRDL is a great way to do that.
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift : FAQ
I am now going to cover some common questions I get regarding the RDL.
“Eric my back hurts every time I do these, why and how can I fix it?!”
Well, like we touched on earlier, there are a few things when it comes to back pain with the RDL.
My first suggestion would be going back and re watching how to properly brace your core.
So many people do not brace their core correctly which then leads to back pain.
The second most common culprit is not pushing back with your hips but rather bending at your knees.
Remember, think about hips back to the wall behind you trying to close a drawer on a dresser, then bring your hips back forward.
When you bring your hips back forward, do NOT move your chest first. Move your hips first and let your upper body follow in line.
Third would be to remember to keep the weights close to your body.
The farther away the weights are, the more pressure you put on your low back.
This goes in line with making sure your lats are working. I want you to think about squeezing an orange between your armpits and making your elbow pits face the wall in front of you.
“Should I Keep My Knees Straight Or Bent?!”
Keep a slight bend in your knees.
Don’t completely lock your legs out as this is going to make it impossible to keep the bar close to your body and will put a lot of pressure on your low back / knees.
Keep a soft bend in your knees like you are in an athletic stance.
Don’t initiate the movement with a knee bend, initiate the movement with your hips back.
But keep a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement.
As you stand up you can lock your hips and knees out at the same time.
“Should I Squeeze My Glutes At The Top!?”
Yes, but probably not like you think.
Most people think “squeeze their glutes” and they over exaggerate it too much to the point where they arch their back.
Rather than thinking about squeezing your glutes at the top and thrusting forward, think abut something has a rope tied to your glutes from behind.
The left side has a rope pulling from the right side.
The right side has a rope pulling from the left side.
As you stand up, someone is pulling both sides of the rope. This will allow you to squeeze your glutes properly without over arching your back.
Or, you can think about pinching a penny between your butt cheeks!
“Do I Have To Go All The Way To The Ground?!”
No, you do not have to at all.
In fact, it actually is not recommended that you do that.
Your active range of motion of your hamstrings only goes but so far.
Generally speaking (different for individual limb lengths) once you get to about your shin levels with the weight, that is where your active range of motion for your hamstrings end.
So, going past that point is no longer working your hamstrings and glutes, it is working your lower back.
Which is not what we want here.
Therefore, simply stop about about or right below your shin height, and you should be good to go!
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift : Final Word
I hope this article gave you a complete breakdown on how to do a Romanian deadlift.
I believe it to be the Mecca of lower body strength exercises and cannot wait for you to start incorporating it into your routine.
If you want to know how to incorporate the RDL into your workout routine, head HERE To watch my free video on how to create your own workout routine.
If you need some extra help with your programming, feel free to head HERE to see if we may be a good fit for coaching together.
Other than that, hope this article helped you a ton, and chat soon.