5 Ways to Do Romanian Deadlift for Hamstrings & Glutes

The Romanian deadlift, or RDL, is a great posterior chain movement. When done properly it helps develop full hamstrings and round glutes.

But as with any compound movement, it’s tricky to master the technique. And it can even stress your lower back when done incorrectly.

That’s why I’m going to show you how to do Romanian deadlifts the right way. So you can get the most out of your workouts.

Romanian Deadlift Form

  • Feet shoulder width apart

  • Push hips back & bend knees slightly

  • Lower weight until hamstrings stretch

  • Keep back straight & head up

  • Squeeze glutes at the top

  • Don’t bend your back

  • Don’t roll your shoulders forward

Start with your feet shoulder width apart and the bar sitting at your ankles. Then grab the bar with arms just outside your knees.

Stand up straight with the bar resting on your upper thighs. This is the starting position.

Next, lower the weight by pushing your hips back and bending slightly at the knees. Once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, push your hips forward to bring the weight back up.

Pull your shoulders back and squeeze your glutes at the top.

Your range of motion depends on your hip and hamstring flexibility. Genererally, the bottom of the movement is below the knees but above the ankles.

Muscles Worked

The stretch at the bottom of the range of motion activates the hamstrings.

While the squeeze that the top of the movement activates the glutes.

Variations of Romanian Deadlift

There are several different variations of the Romanian deadlift exercise. While they are all similar, each works the hamstrings and glutes slightly differently.

Barbell Romanian Deadlift

This variation is performed with a standard straight bar. And it’s the most common way to do the exercise.

The barbell allows your body to move freely through the range of motion. Yet your arms are connected for stability.

Romanian Deadlift Smith Machine

A smith machine is a barbell on a set of rails. And it’s usually counterweighted so it’s lighter than a standard barbell.

The benefit of a smith machine is that it dictates the direction of travel, making it easier for beginners. However, it can also impede your natural range of motion.

In addition, some smith machines have stops at the bottom which further limit the range of motion. So you may have to stand on a box or platform.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Using dumbbells allows you to isolate each arm independently. Meaning you have to use more stabilizers in your back as you do the exercise.

In addition, a DB Romanian deadlift allows more freedom in range of motion. Since there’s no bar in front of you.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

A one leg Romanian deadlift is also performed with a dumbbell. Or you can use a kettelbell.

The technique is the same as a standard RDL, except you bend forward on a single leg at a time. Usually doing multiple reps before switching to the other leg.

This variation is excellent for working small stabilizers in the hips, hamstrings, and glutes. But it requires very good balance.

Cable Romanian Deadlift

Lastly, is the cable Romanian deadlift with a low pulley. You’ll use a bar or rope attachment to hold the cable in front of you.

As you push your hips back the cable will extend in front of you. Then pull it back towards you as you squeeze your glutes.

The benefit of this variation is even tension on the glutes and hamstrings. But the resistence is relatively low.

Conclusion

Romanian deadlifts are a good exercise to include in any workout for hamstrings or glutes. I recommend using it on leg day or on a “pull” day in a push/pull routine.

Always use proper form and keep weights moderate to light to avoid straining your lower back.

About the Author

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach

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