Deadlift vs. Romanian deadlift | Benefits, how-to, tips

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The deadlift is a compound exercise involving picking up a weight and raising it to the hip level and back. 

Deadlifts are strength training exercises and come with many variations, including the traditional deadlift and the Romanian deadlift. 

Because of their common characteristics, they are often confused with being the same. This article will analyze the peculiarities and differences between each lift. 

Read on.

What are deadlifts?

Deadlifts are weightlifting exercises that help build your hamstrings, glutes, back, and core strength. They are advanced exercises that, when performed correctly, can work your whole body muscles. 

deadlift exercise

Benefits of deadlifts 

If you want to build massive muscle mass in a few weeks, the deadlift is undoubtedly one exercise you should try. 

In addition to this, deadlifts are known to enhance spine stability and improve carriage; they can help get rid of postural imbalance quickly.

Improved core strength is one of the most significant benefits of the deadlift.

Conventional deadlifts vs. Romanian lifts

While both exercises require you to use a barbell, there are significant differences between them. Some of these differences include:

Start position

The traditional deadlift is done by lifting weight from the floor. On the other hand, the Romanian deadlift starts from a standing position.

Range of movement 

Deadlifts have a concentric or upward movement, while Romanian lifts are eccentric in motion.

Movement pattern

While the regular deadlift is seen as a push from the ground using the knees, the Romanian deadlift is seen as pulling from the hips.

Shoulder position 

In the traditional deadlifts, the shoulders are positioned in front of the barbell. However, in Romanian deadlifts, the shoulders are much further behind the barbell.

Muscles targeted 

While the conventional lift targets a large group of muscles, including the trapezius, back, abdominals, glutes, hips, adductors, quadriceps, and hamstrings, the Romanian deadlift focuses more on developing the hamstrings and glutes. 

How to do a deadlift

To do the traditional deadlift correctly, follow this step-by-step guide.

  1. Stand upright with feet hip-width apart.
  2. With your knee bent, lower your hips to reach the bar. Your hand should be slightly wider than the width of your shoulder. 
  3. Get hold of the bar and push your hips back to the point where you feel the tension in your hamstrings. An overhand grip is preferable.
  4. By flexing your armpit, engage your lats and keep your chest forward throughout the whole movement.
  5. Next, lift the bar smoothly off the floor by extending your knees until you are in an upright position. Keep your abs tight and your shoulders engaged as you do this. Bring the bar close to your body.
  6.  Squeeze your glutes and exhale as you come to a standing position.
  7. Slowly lower the bar back to the floor while keeping it close to your body.
  8. Do ten reps. 

Tips for traditional deadlifts

To get the best out of your deadlift, be sure to note the below tips;

  1. Always start with the barbell over the midline of your feet. This will help you feel more balanced and in control of the movement.
  2. Keep the barbell as close to your body as possible. This will ensure your mid and upper back stay neutral (that is, not round) throughout the movement.
  3. Keep your shoulders down, away from your ears.
  4. Be sure to use your glutes and hamstrings instead of your back to lift yourself.
  5. Keep your spine and neck neutral, don’t look up or ahead. 
  6. Push your butt back as you bend down.
  7. Keep your shoulder blades over the barbell itself.
  8. Don’t go into a deep squat. Keep your hips above your knees.

How to do a Romanian deadlift

You can use a dumbbell or a barbell for this exercise. 

To begin: 

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells or a barbell with plates loaded. 
  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbell in front of your thighs with your hands set slightly wider than your thigh.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees very slightly (at about 15 degrees) and hinge forward from the hips.
  4. Lower the bar towards the floor until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstrings. Keep the bars close to your body.
  5. Return to start position while using your hamstring to push the weight back up, squeezing the glutes at the top.
  6. Do 12–15 reps.

Romanian Deadlift tips

  • Keep the spine long and maintain a slight bend in the knees throughout the movement.
  • When lifting bars, lift from the hips, not the lower back.
  • Move the hips back during the descent in a flexed position.
  • Push your butt back as you bend down.

Romanian deadlift mistakes to avoid

Failing to maintain the position of your lower back throughout the movement. 

You do not need to bend over to make the weight touch the ground; the Romanian lift is meant to work your hamstrings primarily, not the lower back. 

Keeping the barbell too far away from your body. This will not allow you to engage the lats properly.

Deadlifts vs. Romanian lift: Which is better?

It is important to note that Romanian lifts require more advanced body movements and posture and may not be suitable for beginners. 

To avoid muscle strain or back injury (if you’re new to weightlifting), you may want to use the conventional deadlift instead of RDL.

However, the Romanian lift places less stress on your lower back and knees and usually involves lighter loads than the regular deadlifts.

Also, because the Romanian lift does more activation on the hamstrings, it is more recommended for people who want to increase their hip mobility. 

While RDL targets the leg muscles, the traditional deadlifts are best for developing the new back.

Final note

Deadlift exercises can be pretty strenuous and may pose more injury threat than other conventional exercises; be sure of your physical fitness before undertaking such training.