Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

3 Variations to Help You Build Glutes & Hamstrings

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: November 4, 2021

The Romanian deadlift is one of the best exercises for building hamstrings and glutes. But let’s be honest, doing the same exercises over and over gets old.

So I will show you how to do a few different variations of this exercise using dumbbells. The dumbbell Romanian deadlift adds variety and helps you hit your hamstrings in a new way.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

What Is A Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

If you’re not familiar, the Romanian deadlift or RDL is a posterior chain exercise usually performed with a barbell. It’s like a traditional deadlift, except you bend more at the hips than the knees.

A dumbbell Romanian deadlift is when you perform the RDL exercise with a dumbbell in each hand instead of a regular barbell.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Muscles Worked

As a posterior chain movement, the dumbbell Romanian deadlift works several muscle groups on the backside of your body, including your back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

However, the primary muscle groups targeted are the hamstrings and glutes. In the sections below, I’ll show you specific variations to emphasize your hamstrings.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift vs Barbell

For the most part, the dumbbell Romanian deadlift is the same exercise as the barbell version. However, there can be a slightly different movement path and range of motion with dumbbells.

Specifically, the separation between the dumbbells means you can potentially keep them closer to your body, unlike a barbell that can rub against your thighs and shins.

Also, dumbbells are smaller in size than barbell weight plates. The reduced diameter means you can go lower before the weights hit the floor and get more stretch through your hamstrings.

Finally, dumbbells require a bit more balance and coordination compared to a barbell. So you work more stabilizer muscles with a dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift vs Barbell

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Benefits & Limitations

While the differences mentioned above point out the benefits of doing Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells, there are some drawbacks.

For one, you can’t move as much weight with dumbbells compared to the barbell. That means you could be limited on maximum strength and size gains.


  • More control over movement path
  • Greater potential range of motion
  • Improve balance and stability


  • Can’t go as heavy compared to barbell RDL

How To Do A Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

To begin, grab a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Next, bend forward at the hips while keeping your back straight.

Lower the dumbbells just in front of your thighs and bend your knees slightly. Keep going down until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.

Now, stand back up by squeezing your hamstrings and driving your hips forward. Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps before dropping the dumbbells.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Grab the dumbbells and stand with feet slightly less than shoulder-width
  2. Bend forward at the hips while keeping your back straight
  3. Lower the weight just in front of your thighs, bend your knees slightly
  4. Stand back up by squeezing your hamstrings and driving your hips forward
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Video

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Form

When performing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, it’s vital to use proper form to protect your back and activate your hamstrings.

First, make sure you don’t let the weight get too far in front of your body. Think about pushing your hips back as your upper body bends down. This keeps the weight close to your legs.

Second, keep your back straight throughout the exercise. If your back curves forward, you’ve probably reached the limit of your hamstring flexibility.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Starting Position
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Bottom

In addition, try not to bend too much at the knees. As you lower the weight, bend your knees only slightly to keep the tension on your hamstrings.

Lastly, stand up straight and drive your hips forward at the top of the movement. Then hold for a second and squeeze your glutes.

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Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Variations

Below are some exercise variations that help you isolate your hamstrings while adding variety to your RDL workouts.

Single-Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

With this variation, you stand on one foot while doing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift. Your other foot then extends out straight behind you to act as a counterbalance.

Sometimes this is called the drinking bird exercise because your body looks like the famous toy bird that drinks from a glass.

Toe Elevated Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Another dumbbell Romanian deadlift variation involves elevating your toes on weight plates. With your toes up, your hamstrings stretch more.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Alternatives

If you want to change it up, you can use any DB Romanian deadlift alternatives below.

Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift

You can also use kettlebells in place of dumbbells for a Romanian deadlift. Simple grab the handles and perform the exercise as demonstrated above.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

As mentioned, the barbell Romanian deadlift is the classic version of the exercise. With this variation, you can go heavy to maximize posterior strength and size gains.

Smith Machine Romanian Deadlift

If you don’t have a barbell, you can also do Romanian deadlifts on a Smith machine. The important part is that you position your feet where the bar stays close to your body during the movement.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff leg deadlift or SLDL is similar to the Romanian deadlift except you keep your knees relatively straight. With the SLDL, your hips bend more and your back gets more horizontal to the floor.

As a result, you should use a lighter weight on the stiff leg deadlift compared to a Romanian deadlift.

Good Morning

The good morning exercise is essentially an RDL with the weight on your shoulders. And it’s an excellent alternative to hit your hamstrings differently.

Romanian Deadlift vs Good Morning Exercise

The barbell and dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are both staple exercises for building the back half of your lower body. But good mornings offer different loading using the same body mechanics.

With good mornings, the bar moves further from your body. This distance means your hamstrings work harder even with less weight. Click below to learn more about the benefits of this exercise.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better body. And if you found this article informative, make sure you check out the other great workout tips below!

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By |November 4, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
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