Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypeHinge (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelBeginner
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Forearms, Glutes, Lats, Lower Back, Traps, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group


Hamstrings Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Romanian Deadlift (AKA RDL) Overview

The Romanian deadlift, also known as the RDL, is a variation of the conventional deadlift and an exercise used primarily to target the muscles of the hamstrings and glutes.

The RDL has long been thought of as the “leg” deadlift variation, despite all hip hinge movements primarily targeting the hamstrings. A smart option, to increase training frequency and work on the movement pattern, would be to perform RDLs on your leg day and another deadlift variation on your back or pull days.

The hip hinge is a crucial movement pattern, so it is important to find a variation that is comfortable for you to perform (if able), and work on it.

The Romanian deadlift is best utilized during your leg workouts and/or full body workouts.

Romanian Deadlift (AKA RDL) Instructions

  1. Position the bar over the top of your shoelaces and assume a hip width stance.
  2. Assume a double overhand grip just outside of hip width and deadlift the weight into position at the top with the hips and knees locked out.
  3. Begin the RDL by pushing your hips back and hinging forward until the bar is just below knee height.
  4. Drive through the whole foot and focus on pushing the floor away.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Romanian Deadlift (AKA RDL) Tips

  1. Range of motion in the lift will largely be determined by an individual’s mobility as well as their ability to maintain a neutral spine. Standing on a box or bench is likely counterproductive as most won’t have the mobility to control that much range of motion effectively.
  2. It is typically recommended that you utilize straps or hook grip when going excessively heavy if grip is the limiting factor as you could run into issues with the bar drifting if using mixed grip.
  3. Neck position is highly individual - Some prefer a neutral neck position (i.e. keeping the chin tucked throughout the lift) while others do well with looking slightly up. Here’s some factors to consider:
    • If you’re someone who is more globally extended (i.e. athletic background), then you will likely be able to keep a neutral position more effectively by packing the chin.
    • On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you tend to be more flexion dominant (especially in your thoracic spine - upper back) then it would behoove you to look up slightly as this will drive more extension.
    • Experiment with each and see which one works best for your individual anatomy and biomechanics.
  4. Do not allow the bar to drift away from the body, it should graze your legs during the eccentric portion of the lift.
  5. Make sure you wrap your thumbs around the bar and don’t utilize a false grip. Squeeze the bar as tight as possible like you’re trying to leave an imprint of your fingerprints on the bar.
  6. Your weight will naturally shift to your heels as you hinge; however, it’s important that you keep the weight distributed over your whole foot and don’t allow the toes to rise. To combat this, you should focus on maintaining 3 points of contact: big toe, little toe, and heel.
  7. Ensure the elbows stay locked out. Don’t actively flex the triceps but make sure that your elbow doesn’t break neutral as this can potentially put you at risk for a bicep tear under maximal weights.
Mark Clark
Posted on: Mon, 01/29/2024 - 14:36

Roger thank you for the quick response. Next question can the hack squat with a trap bar or a hack squat machine be substituted for a front squat activity? Is the 3 day workout and diet for beginners and good workout for a 69 yr old man? I have started this a couple weeks ago. Thank you again for the advice

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 01/31/2024 - 11:43

That is why we're here, Mark. We appreciate you being a part of the community.

Either option would work, but I would personally go with trap bar version since it is also free weight. The three day program you referenced is a solid choice. Let us know how it works for you.

Mark Clark
Posted on: Mon, 01/22/2024 - 15:17

Can I utilize a trap bar for front squats? Also can I utilize a trap bar for RDLs?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Sun, 01/28/2024 - 21:26

I don't know about front squats, but you can for RDL's for sure. I actually like that method because the arms are at the sides and you're in the middle of the weight.

Posted on: Tue, 10/24/2023 - 20:11

When doing this exercise with dumbbells, is it better to break the desired weight equally between two dumbbells or use a single one and grip in the middle?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/25/2023 - 08:55

Either way works, Angela. But I suggest doing one in each hand because you can move the weights as you go down or up to feel the weight in the posterior chain better. I like to lower then to the front and move them to the sides as I stand.

Posted on: Wed, 06/15/2022 - 20:55

Hi there! Is there a difference in form between the Romanian Deadlift and the Dumbbell Straight Leg Deadlift? Thanks!

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 06/16/2022 - 08:12

The RDL focuses more on the glutes and hamstrings together thanks to the slight bend in the knee and how you're supposed to contract the glutes at the top. The DB SDL will isolate the hamstrings a little more since your legs are supposed to be more straight (but not locked out).

Posted on: Tue, 05/03/2022 - 22:10

Thank you so much for the program - it’s great!
is there another exercise I can do instead of the Romanian deadlift? I have a history of back problems and it’s causing lower back pain.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 05/20/2022 - 21:51

Hi, Phoebe. Since I don't know what the back problems are, and I'm not a physician, I suggest you go see a doctor to find out what exercises you can do instead of RDL's.

Posted on: Tue, 12/04/2018 - 14:59

I have a cable machine that I have been using for this lift as well as the standard deadlift. I am not that tall so the cables are slightly too long, meaning that the lift does not kick in until the bar is above my knees. I don't feel I am getting the full benefit from using the machine. Would you recommend dumbbell alternatives instead? If so, could you please link the dumbbell alternatives? Thanks

Rajendra Man Singh
Posted on: Fri, 04/20/2018 - 07:11

In the video, when he is returning to the starting position, he is not bending his knees much. Doesn't that cause any lower back pain or issue?

Posted on: Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:06

He's not even quite returning to the starting position, because the weights started on the floor ;) This is the variation of deadlift I have always done. Stretching hamstrings before helps a lot. I've also done it where I've elevated the barbell a 2-3 inches (some gyms have special deadlift pads). This helped until I got used to it and my hamstrings adjusted.

Felipe Hernandez
Posted on: Thu, 12/07/2017 - 19:07

At my gym the barbells are usually taken would I be able to substitute this with lying leg curls?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/08/2017 - 08:51

Hi Felipe,

Performing this exercise with dumbbells would be a better alternative.

Hope this helps!