Romanian Deadlift: Muscles Worked, Benefits, And More


There is hardly any other exercise more beneficial to build muscles along the back of the body including your hamstrings and glutes than a deadlift, and a Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is an advanced version of it. In this guide, we will explain what is a Romanian deadlift, how to do it, and which muscles it works upon.

Just like the plain variant, Romanian Deadlifts are a full-body exercise that comes with plenty of benefits such as defending your muscles, correcting your posture, helping the tone, and improving your grip strength. But, is the Romanian deadlift better than the traditional deadlift? We’ll also uncover the truth here.

What is a Romanian Deadlift?

A Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a variation of a deadlift (a full-body exercise) in which the body is bent at the hips, the knees are not bent, and the barbell is lowered along the line of the body, close to the shin, but not placed at the bottom. It is a highly beneficial exercise for the back, lower back, and lower body.

The Romanian Deadlift can be performed at the gym, home gym, or anywhere else using a bar and weight plates. This versatile movement should be a part of your routine if your end goals include physique development, improving athletic performance, bettering your stance, or general well-being.

Keep in mind that a Romanian Deadlift is not the same as a “Stiff-Legged Deadlift.” Both exercises are similar and target an identical set of muscles. However, there are key differences between them.

How to do a Romanian Deadlift?

The stance of a Romanian Deadlift is similar to a traditional Deadlift with a double overhand grip. Your scapula should be retracted and the spine must maintain its natural s-shaped curve at the beginning and throughout the exercise. Once you’re ready, you can follow these steps:

Step-1: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and toes pointing in the front. Load the barbell with an appropriate number of plates and position it directly in front of you. There should be an inch of space between your shins and the bar.

Step-2: Now grip the bar with your palms facing you, tighten your entire back, keep the bar close to your body, and push your legs into the ground to lift the barbell to a standing position.

Step-3: Shoot your hips backward and then start leaning forward while still keeping the bar close to your body with a flat back and your chest upward. Try maintaining a small bend in your knees and continue to hinge your torso forward until there is a stretch in your hamstrings.

Step-4: Dig your legs into the ground and push your hips to the bar as you proceed with the second half of the exercise. Pull your chest up and squeeze your glutes to bring your hips back to the bar to return to the upright position.

Step-5: Keep repeating until the set is complete and maintain your posture throughout the reps. Make sure you don’t overreach or slouch the spine, overextend the neck, round the shoulders, and lock the knees.

Note: Make sure that you consult with your trainer first before adding the Romanian Deadlift to your workout routine. It’s a simple movement if you’re a seasoned gym-goer but if you’re someone new, it’s important to take the necessary precautions.

Which Muscles does a Romanian Deadlift work on?

The Romanian Deadlift works on a wide range of muscles of the back and legs. Primarily, it involves the Posterior Chain muscles which include the following muscles:

  • Calf muscles
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus maxima and other Gluteal muscles
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Erector spinae muscles.

It also activates the back extensor, lumbar muscles, and traps. Moreover, the Romanian Deadlift helps to strengthen your grip as it’s a barbell-based exercise. Hence, it’s one of the most crucial exercises for your leg day routine.

Romanian Deadlift muscles worked

Benefits of a Romanian Deadlift:

Since the Romanian Deadlift is a full-body resistance training exercise, it’s highly beneficial for your body. According to David Kingsbury, a renowned fitness trainer from London, a Romanian Deadlift is one of the best exercises for training the posterior chain of your body.

It’s really good for strengthening your back,” David said. “Take a bent-over row – you wouldn’t do that move with 200kg, but you can potentially do a Romanian deadlift with that sort of weight.” Alongside building your back muscles, it also has several other benefits. We’ve listed them below:

1. Strengthens Posterior Chain Muscles: The Posterior Chain includes the structures at the back of the leg and spine. Calf muscles, Hamstrings, and Gluteal muscles are the main muscles that make up the Posterior Chain. Romanian Deadlifts put tension on these muscles and help them gain strength and size.

2. Stabilizes Core Muscles: A Romanian Deadlift will help stabilize your core muscles by making you brace the abs to lift heavy weights. The bracing is needed to prevent the arching or rounding of the lower back.

3. Improves mobility and flexibility: A Romanian Deadlift improves the mobility and flexibility of your hips and unlocks faulty movement patterns which reduce the chances of injuries.

4. Reduces Back Pain: Since Romanian Deadlifts help strengthen back extensors and balance muscles on the back side of the body, they can help reduce your back pain issues.

5. Enhances Grip Strength: The Romanian Deadlift is a barbell exercise, so it helps with strengthening your grip strength, which is further linked with better heart health. A study by the Queen Mary University of London concluded that the better your handgrip strength, the healthier your heart will be.

Tip: You can also perform Romanian Deadlifts with dumbbells.

What is Romanian deadlift

Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift: Key Differences:

The Romanian Deadlift is a variation of deadlift but there are some crucial differences between the two compound movements. Let’s take a look at them in-depth:

Factor Conventional Deadlift Romanian Deadlift
Position A conventional deadlift starts from a bent-over position with the bar kept on the floor A Romanian deadlift starts from a bent-over position with the bar in your hands above the floor.
Cues A conventional deadlift is cued with a push from the floor through the legs. A Romanian deadlift is cued with a pull through the hips.
Form A conventional deadlift is completed with more bend at the knees and hips. A Romanian deadlift is completed by bending at the hips, knees slightly bent, and legs straight during the entire movement.
Muscles Worked A conventional deadlift uses an extensive range of muscles from the leg and back including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and mid-back. A Romanian deadlift works primarily on the Posterior Chain muscles, the back extensors, and the lumbar muscles.
Weight A conventional deadlift allows you to use more weight as the tension is spread throughout your body. A Romanian deadlift requires you to use a lower capacity of weight as it’s an isolation movement that puts a lot of stress on your lower back.

Final Thoughts:

The Romanian Deadlift is an incredible exercise for your leg day as it allows you to strengthen the Posterior Chain muscles and back extensors. It can also help improve your posture and stance, and aid you to perform the conventional deadlift in a better manner.

This deadlift variation also has several other key benefits such as improving your grip strength and reducing your lower back pain by strengthening your lumbar muscles. Hence, it’s a must-have movement for your workout routine. That’s all for this guide. Feel free to ask your queries and doubts in the comments.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the Romanian Deadlift:

How many sets and reps of Romanian Deadlift should you do?:

You can perform three warm-up sets of 10 reps, 8 reps, and 6 reps while gradually increasing the weight, and then perform three working sets of 8 to 10 reps with a weight that can’t lift over 10 reps if your goal is muscle growth (hypertrophy). However, if you’re trying to build strength, do three warm-up sets and then choose a weight that you can’t lift over eight reps, and perform four sets of six reps.

What is a Romanian Deadlift good for?:

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a great exercise to strengthen your posterior chain muscles including the hamstrings, erector spine, gluteus maximus, and adductors. It also helps you to stabilize your core, strengthen your grip, and build your lumbar muscles to reduce back pain.

Is the Romanian deadlift better than the conventional deadlift?:

Both the conventional and Romanian deadlifts are incredible exercises for your workout routine but they target different sets of muscles. To figure out which one is better for your plan, you first need to realize your purpose of including them. If you want to strengthen the back side of your body, the RDL is preferred but if you want an exercise for the engagement of the whole body, the conventional deadlift is better.

Is the Romanian deadlift safe?:

The Romanian deadlift is considered the safest variation of the deadlift as it helps strengthen the posterior chain muscles, increase hip mobility, and activate the glutes. Since they are a type of isolation movement, it is usually performed with a lower weight capacity. When performed correctly, it can even help minimize back pain.

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