How To Romanian Deadlift and What You Aren’t Doing

Are you wanting to learn how to romanian deadlift properly? Do you want to figure out how to take the pressure off your back and start feeling the movement in your hamstrings? Or do you want to learn some of the best alternatives if you are using dumbbells, kettlebells or bands? 

In the blog post I will do all of that. Here is what you can expect:

  • To learn the benefits, tips and tricks and how to do an RDL with good form
  • We will cover common mistakes (hurting back)
  • Go over different variations, alternatives, and progressions you can use

Video Tutorial On How To Do A Romanian Deadlift With Proper Form

  • Start from standing (pick barbell up from rack or dumbbells up from elevated position)
  • Feet directly under your hips 
  • Externally rotate the barbell or dumbbell and squeeze your lats (try and break the bar)
  • Unlock your knees (bend them slightly)
  • Take an inhale and brace your abs down 
  • Push your hips back as if you were going to close a car door behind you
  • Exhale and drive your hips forward and squeeze your glutes


The benefits of doing romanian deadlifts is to master the “hip hinge” and strengthen:

  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Grip Strength
  • Lats
  • Core
  • You name it.

 The RDL is where I start our clients in our strength training program who don’t have the best flexibility in their hamstrings. 

male and female working out
Katie getting ready to lift some weight!

When Doing Romanian Deadlifts Think Of These Things:

Never Use A Mix Grip

You really don’t EVER want to do a mixed grip. That’s bold. But I’m being serious. When you flip your grip you:

  • It exposes your bicep tendon (the palm that is up) at risk for injury.
  • You can use straps if you really struggle with grip strength.

Many people do this because they lack grip strength and see everyone else doing it. Don’t be one of those people. If you want to strengthen your grip add these three grip strengthening exercises to your workout routine. 

  1. Farmer Carry
  2. Plate Pinch Carry
  3. Static Hang
vertical jump
Strength training has carry over to athletic performance.

Set Up With Proper Foot Position

You want your feet corkscrewed into the floor, directly under your hips, in a “power position.” If I told you to jump as high as you could, naturally you would put your feet in this position. That set up was crucial to me getting a 37.5 inch vertical in the photo above. 

Side note:

If you are looking to improve your athletic performance you should check out how we have helped everyday men and women who want to get stronger NFL athletes.

Try This Different Stances

Changing your stance allows you to target different muscle groups. Here are three different stances and all great ways to strengthen and target your hamstrings and glutes.

  1. Romanian Deadlift – feet directly under hips
Stiff Leg Sumo Deadlift

Single Leg Dumbbell RDL

Activate Your Lats When Doing The Romanian Deadlift To Get Stronger

Watch the video to learn how to externally rotate the barbell and create tension through your lats so that the bar doesn’t pull you forward. 

Strong lats will lead to your back being in a safer position, engaging your upper body properly, and even help with getting better at pull ups

Cues for Breathing

You hear people say “squeeze your core” all the time. That never made any sense to me though. “Squeeze it like you are going to get punched.” I knew how to do that but I really didn’t understand why. When I started doing gymnastics in my early twenties I learned the importance of mastering the hollow body and then begin to understand how to “squeeze your core.”

The two things that protect your back are your core and your glutes so when you lift:

  • At the top of your deadlift take a breath of air and hold your breath.
  • Brace your stomach down like I taught in the hollow body video above.
  • As the bar travels down below your knee you are still holding your breath until…
  • You drive your hips through and forcefully exhale.

Romanian Deadlift Muscles Worked & Lifting Phases

Mastering each position of the deadlift.

Three Phases Of A Rep & How To Perform Romanian Deadlifts

 Although the video above isn’t an RDL I wanted to show the importance of mastering each position. You could see there was a slight pause at the knee on the up (concentric) and a slight pause at the knee on the way down (eccentric.)

When you control the lift (eccentric phase), the muscle is being lengthened and the more you are able to control the more effective your muscle growth will be. 

There are three phases of each lift:

  1. Eccentric phase AKA lowering the bar down is the most important part of lifting because it’s what makes you stronger. Have you ever heard people say do negatives to get better at pull ups?  That’s because negatives get you stronger.
  1. Contract. When you are squeezing the muscle for an isometric hold. 
  1. Concentric phase AKA when you are exploding up. 

When performing RDL’s lower down to your knee for three seconds, exhale and drive your hips through the bar. Slow down, explode up. 

high intensity interval training
That’s enough science for me, what muscles do they work?!

Muscles Worked

Alright. Let’s get to the part that matters… What muscles does the Romanian Deadlift work?

The RDL is a hip dominant movement. RDL’s will light up your hamstrings, your erectors (back muscles), glute max, forearms, biceps, traps, and your entire body!

If you want to build lots of muscles 🙂 check out our training programs

Bottom line, do more of them, just avoid the common mistakes below.

Common Mistakes

The most common and most dangerous thing we see is a rounded back. This is no bueno and puts your back at a huge risk of injury. Check out the video to see how you can fix this:

If you are having a difficult time getting into a good position, master this and when you get back on the barbell push your hips BACK as if you were going to close a car door with your bum.

Do not squat when performing romanian deadlifts or any hinge movements. 

squat vs hinge
Hips below knees vs shins vertical

Romanian Deadlift In Crossfit 

All good training programs should have accessory or “succesory” exercises within their training program

Romanian Deadlifts, Bulgarian Split Squats, and Shoulder Rehab are just a few exercises that everyone needs to be doing more of so make sure you are!


Glute Activation & Warm Up Prior To Lifting

Ever have your knees go in when you squat? Do you have back pain? You need to strengthen your glutes. 

A lot of people have an issue getting their glutes to activate. Try this glute activation warm up before the next time you lift.

Two sets:

30 seconds per exercise

  1. Banded Good Morning
  1. Banded Lateral Walk
  1. Side Plank
  1. Banded Pallof Hold
how to romanian deadlift
Compound lifts are awesome.

How Much Weight To Use?

This is all relative to you and what you are capable of, BUT…if you have mastered the position (no rounded back and no squatting) it’s okay to load this movement heavy. 

When you are trying to build muscle it will look more like this:

Three sets:

  1. 8 x Tempo Romanian Deadlift
  1. 8 x Tempo Bulgarian Split Squat Left Leg
  1. Rest x 45 seconds
  1. 8 x Tempo Bulgarian Split Squat Right Leg
  1. Rest x 25 seconds
  1. 20 x Jumping Lunge

RDL Alternative Variations & Others

The romanian deadlift is a “hinge movement” as we have discussed and doesn’t have to be completed with just a barbell. You can use a pair of dumbbells, and even kettlebells. What is important is variance and having the ability to master each of these positions. So give them a try!


Posted Single Leg RDL with Dumbbell’s


Seated Good Morning


Banded Good Morning
Banded Pull Through

What’s The Difference Between The Deadlift & RDL?

The starting position. A romanian deadlift starts at the top, pulled off a rack like the photo below. It’s a great drill to help you work the top half of your deadlift and focus on driving your hips through the bar. 

The romanian deadlift is also a great exercise for beginners trying to learn the deadlift who may not have the adequate range of motion in their hamstrings. Oftentimes people who aren’t able to get into a good starting position either have poor spinal awareness or they are so tight in their hamstrings. The RDL will help, only go as far down before you back begins to round. 

romanian deadlift

Deadlift/RDL Progressions:

A step by step progressive process to lifting is the way you want to approach lifting. Not just progression overload training but also with your quality of movement. Master one position, increase the difficulty, master another, increase the difficulty. Not the other way around. Try something and then work backwards and try to fix poor movement patterns. 

You can read about how we walk our clients through this process with our Getting Started Guide

Go through these movements in order to master the deadlift and rdl.

Step 1

Great exercise to learn spinal awareness. 

Step 2

Before adding weight see if you can master the mechanics of your spine and focus pushing your hips back.

Step 3

Great exercise to strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, back and learn how to move through the hinge pattern properly before deadlifting from the floor.

Step 4

Now that you have mastered the RDL we can begin pulling from the floor. Because the kettlebells are to the side it’s easier to get into a good position. Once we start deadlift the barbell is going to want to pull you FORWARD. 

Step 5

WOOOOOOH! Probably my favorite movement. There is so much carry over to mastering this lift, the Power Clean being a more dynamic lift. However, you always want to master the basics first. 

Our online strength training program uses percentage based programming. This style is what allowed me to deadlift triple my bodyweight without compromising my cardio. A good goal is to be able to deadlift double your weight for men and 1.5 your bodyweight for women. Leave in the comments below what your ratio is!

Step 6

The deadlift is extremely demanding on your CNS (Central Nervous System.) That’s another reason why percentage based strength training is important so we don’t overload you and cause burn out, injury, or plateau. 

The banded deadlift allows us to get a great challenge but our body gets a break from always lifting really heavy. The band trains you to be strong in your lockout. Training you to finish your deadlift strong and the band has the most amount of tension at the top. 

Step 7

Another great drill to strengthen your deadlift is adding a deficit. Do NOT do this if you can’t get into a proper position and have a rounded back. If you don’t have adequate range of motion try this hamstring stretch. If you do, it’s an excellent drill to strengthen your initial pull.  

Do you love progression and see the value of mastering each movement first? We have seen this to help our clients avoid injury, feel accomplished, and see the carry over between exercises. Learn more about how you can just for just $1 by clicking here

RDL vs Good Morning

Both movements are great for your hamstrings, glutes, and strengthening your lower back when done properly. We say the good morning is the best exercise for your lower back you aren’t doing

Barbell Version
Kettlebell Version

RDL vs Hip Thrust

Does your back hurt when performing RDL’s or deadlifts? I have seen this with our clients who have weak glutes and core. Focus on mastering your bodyweight first and try some of the best glute exercises to help strengthen your back. 

We all need to do more of these.
Great for warm ups.
Great for after deadlifting to get blood flow to your lower back to help promote recovery.


I have shared with you all the best tips, tactics and drills on how to do the romanian deadlift. We talked about common mistakes, how to program, and other variations you can add to your training. 

Tired of doing your own programming or following a generic program that isn’t getting you the results you want? 

Ready to get stronger? 

Try our training program. We love helping bring the best out in people. 

how to romanian deadlift
Your coaches Kevin & Katie

Check out other related articles:

Comment below with which take away was most helpful for you!

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