How to Do the Romanian Deadlift for Bigger, Stronger Legs and Glutes

How to Do the Romanian Deadlift for Bigger, Stronger Legs and Glutes

I’m just going to come right out and say it.

Romanian deadlifts, more commonly known as the RDL, are one of the most effective exercises for improving posterior chain growth and function. Considered to be the weaker cousin of the traditional deadlift and sumo deadlift, and often confused with the stiff leg deadlift, it often gets overlooked.

But don’t sleep on this movement monster! It’s amazing for targeting the hammies and glutes. People have seen amazing growth from achieving progressive overload on their RDLs week after week.

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a powerhouse exercise renowned for its ability to target the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back effectively. To execute the perfect RDL, begin with a stance, holding a barbell with a pronated grip. As you initiate the movement, hinge at your hips while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Keep the bar close to your body as you descend, feeling a deep stretch in squeeze your glutes and hamstrings. The key is to maintain a flat back throughout the movement. Once you reach the maximum stretch, reverse the motion by driving your hips forward and standing tall.

Mastering the RDL requires a focus on form and controlled movement. Avoid rounding your back, and engage your core to stabilize your spine. As you progress, add significant stress to your muscle mass by gradually increasing the weight while ensuring perfect form to promote muscle growth and strength.

So, let’s clean up your technique and address those do’s and don’t’s, so you can maximize your growth.

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

The Romanian Deadlift stands as a pillar in strength training, offering an excellent way to develop posterior chain muscles. Unlike traditional deadlifts, the RDL specifically targets the hamstrings and glutes, making it a valuable addition to any leg day routine. Its emphasis on the hip hinge movement ensures maximum activation of these muscle groups, contributing to both size and strength gains.

When incorporating the RDL into your workout routine, start with a weight that allows you to maintain proper form. As you become more comfortable, progressively increase the load to continue challenging your muscles. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced lifter, the RDL provides a versatile and effective means of sculpting your lower body.

Romanian Deadlift Form

Proper form is the cornerstone of an effective Romanian Deadlift. Begin by positioning your feet hip width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and grasp the barbell with a pronated snatch grip. Initiate the entire movement by hinging at your hips, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the descent, feeling a deep stretch in your hamstrings. It's crucial to prioritize a flat back and engaged core to prevent unnecessary stress on your lower back.

To ensure the correct form, practice with lighter weights initially. Focus on the hip movement, gradually increasing heavier weights as your strength and technique improve. Consistent attention to form not only maximizes the effectiveness of the RDL exercise but also reduces the risk of injury.

How To Do a Proper RDL:

  • Start by holding the barbell hip at mid-thigh, shoulder width apart as a starting position.
  • Bend your knees slightly and keep them fixed in position.
  • Lead back with your hips and slowly lower the barbell down your legs while feeling in squeeze your glutes.
  • Lower until the barbell passes your knees.
  • Once at the bottom, lift back up and push your hips forward to complete the lift. Repeat.

Tips for the Hip Hinge Movement

The entire hip is at the heart of a successful Romanian Deadlift. To perfect this technique, emphasize the initiation of the hip hinge movement pattern, from your hips, not your knees. Push your hips back while maintaining a neutral spine and less stress on the lumbar spine, allowing your arms straight torso to naturally tilt forward. Keep a slight bend in your knees to prevent locking them out, ensuring that the hamstrings bear the brunt of the exercise.

As you descend, maintain tension in your hamstrings, feeling a stretch without compromising good posture. Engage your core to stabilize your spine, and visualize pulling your spine straight hips forward as you return to the starting position. Practicing the hip movement with lighter weights will help engrain the proper mechanics, setting the foundation for a powerful RDL.

Variations of Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift offers a range of variations, each providing unique challenges and targeting specific muscle groups. These variations can be tailored to individual preferences and fitness goals, adding versatility to your workout routine.

Hip-Banded Romanian Deadlift

Introducing resistance training bands to the Romanian Deadlift enhances the challenge by requiring greater stability and engagement of the hip muscles. Secure the band around your hips and perform the RDL as usual, feeling the increased squeeze your glutes throughout the movement. This variation is particularly effective for activating the glutes and improving overall hip strength.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian Deadlift adds a balance component to the exercise, challenging stability and targeting each leg individually. Holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, in shoulder width, hinge at the hips while extending the opposite leg straight behind you. This variation on conventional deadlift not only enhances the same muscle groups but also helps address muscle imbalances.

B-Stance Romanian Deadlift

The B-Stance RDL involves placing one foot slightly behind the other during the movement. This asymmetrical stance intensifies the focus on the hamstrings and glutes, promoting unilateral strength development. It's an excellent choice for individuals looking for great exercise to correct muscle imbalances between the left and right sides.

Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift

Using a trap bar for a Romanian Deadlift provides a different snatch grip and body positioning, altering the muscle recruitment pattern. This variation can be gentler on the lower back while maintaining the effectiveness of the same exercise. Experimenting with different variations allows you to tailor your training to specific needs and preferences.

When to Add Romanian Deadlifts into Your Workout

Strategic placement of the Romanian Deadlift in your workout routine is crucial for maximizing its benefits. Typically, incorporating RDLs on leg day is effective, ensuring that your muscles are adequately warmed up and ready for the intense workout. Consider placing RDLs after compound movements like squats, allowing you to target the posterior chain while your muscles are still fresh.

However, individual preferences and fitness goals may vary. Some may prefer including RDLs in full-body workouts or splitting them across multiple training days. Experiment with different placements heavy weights to find the timing that works best for you and aligns with your overall training strategy.

Muscles Worked by the Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is a compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making it a powerhouse for overall body development and overhand grip strength.

The primary muscles worked during the RDL include the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. As you hinge at the hips and lower the barbell, the hamstrings undergo a deep stretch, leading to muscle activation during the ascent. The glutes play a crucial role in extension, contributing to both the lowering and lifting phases of the movement. Additionally, the lower back muscles are engaged in a neutral spine throughout the exercise.

The RDL's ability to target these major muscles makes it an efficient and time-effective choice for those aiming to build strength and size in the lower body.

Romanian Deadlift Workout

Incorporating the Romanian Deadlift into your workout routine can elevate your lower body training and contribute to overall strength gains.

Romanian Deadlift Sets and Reps

For optimal results, include the Romanian Deadlift in your workout routine with an appropriate number of sets and reps. Aim for 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps, adjusting the weight to ensure that the last few reps of traditional deadlift in each set are challenging. This rep range promotes both hypertrophy and strength development, making it suitable for individuals with diverse fitness goals.

Additionally, consider varying the intensity and volume of your RDL workouts throughout your training cycle to prevent plateaus and stimulate continued muscle growth.

Should I Be Able To Touch The Floor While Doing Romanian Deadlifts?

The range of motion in the Romanian Deadlift should prioritize maintaining proper form over reaching the floor. While some individuals may have the flexibility to touch the floor with the barbell, it's not a requirement for an effective RDL.

Focus on the hips backward movement and keeping a flat back throughout the exercise. If touching your feet underneath the floor compromises your good form, it's advisable to stop the descent where you feel a deep stretch in same muscles of your hamstrings. Consistency in executing the RDL with correct form is more important than achieving an arbitrary depth.

How to Know if I'm Performing RDLs Correctly and Safely

Ensuring correct form in the Romanian Deadlift is paramount to reaping its benefits while minimizing the risk of injury.

To evaluate your RDL form, check that your back remains flat throughout the movement. Avoid rounding or arching your spine, as this can lead to unnecessary stress on your lower back. Engage your core to stabilize your spine and ensure that the barbell stays close to your body while doing a mind muscle connection.

Performing RDLs in front of a mirror or seeking feedback from a knowledgeable spotter or personal trainer can provide valuable insights into your form. As you progress, record yourself to track improvements and address any potential issues.


  • Start from the standing position.
  • Initiate the movement by leading your hips back.
  • Keep knees unlocked and in a fixed position for the entire set.

Common Romanian Deadlift mistakes:

  • Don’t allow the weight to touch the floor.
  • Don’t allow your knees to bend further than they were at the start of the movement.
  • Don’t round the lower back.

How Often Should I Be Doing RDLs?

The frequency of incorporating the Romanian Deadlift into your workout routine depends on your training goals and overall training program structure.

For those focusing on strength and muscle building, incorporating RDLs once or twice a week can be effective. Ensure proper recovery between sessions, allowing your muscles to repair and grow. Listen to your body, and if you experience excessive fatigue or soreness, consider adjusting the frequency or intensity of your RDL workouts.

Alternatives to Romanian Deadlifts

While the Romanian Deadlift is a potent exercise, there are Romanian Deadlift alternatives that can complement your lower body training.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

This conventional deadlift is a close cousin to conventional deadlifts the RDL, targeting the same muscles and similar muscle groups. However, in this variation of lifting, the knees remain straight throughout the movement, placing additional emphasis on the hamstrings. This variation provides a different stimulus and can be incorporated to add variety to your training routine.

What Is The Difference Between Romanian Deadlifts and Straight Leg AKA Stiff Leg Deadlifts?

Both lift heavier weights and target the hamstrings of your left and right leg, and glutes, but they differ in their approach. While the RDL involves a slight bend in the knees and emphasizes the hip joint, this deadlift keeps the knees straight throughout the movement. This subtle difference alters muscle engagement, providing a unique challenge to the hamstrings and promoting versatility in your training.

Good Mornings

Good Mornings are another effective exercise for targeting the posterior chain, including the hamstrings and lower back. During this movement, you hinge forward at the hips while keeping a slight bend in the knees, similar to the RDL. Good Mornings provide an alternative stimulus and can be included in your routine to diversify your lower body training.

Romanian Deadlifts vs Good Mornings: Which Should I Do?

Choosing between Romanian Deadlifts and Good Mornings depends on your preferences, goals, and individual biomechanics. Both exercises effectively target the hamstrings and lower back, but the RDL places more emphasis on the glutes due to the hip extensors movement. Experiment with both exercises to determine which feels more comfortable and aligns better with your training objectives.

Pro Tips:

  • Begin by standing proud with chest up with shoulder blades back and down to engage lats. This will improve activation and rigidity through the upper body.
  • Always lead back with hips to begin the movement. This is the biggest and strongest hip extension in the body and the main focus of the RDL.
  • Start with a lighter weight and pause at the bottom of each rep to focus on lengthening each hamstring evenly. 
  • By not allowing the weight to touch the floor, you keep your posterior chain loaded for the duration of the movement.

Getting down your RDL technique can be tricky at the beginning, but when all the benefits and cogs begin to turn, its ability to target and synergize the posterior chain is unmatched. The key is to go light, familiarize yourself with the whole movement pattern, and focus on contractions.

Prioritize these 3 things and you will nail your RDL every time.

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