RDL exercise: workout guide, benefits, and tips

The RDL exercise (or Romanian deadlift) is an excellent exercise for your posterior chain. It strengthens the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles, which are crucial to preventing low back pain and tightness.

You can do the Romanian deadlift with barbells or dumbbells, and it’s also a good idea to wear weightlifting shoes when you do them because they help protect your knees by reducing pressure on the patella tendon.

While performing the RDL exercise, you should keep your knees slightly bent but not locked, keep a natural arch in the spine, and maintain tension on the working muscles throughout the entire movement.

How to do RDL exercise

The Romanian deadlift is done by bending forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Keep your spine arched and maintain the natural curve of your back while using both legs to stand up from that position.

woman performs rdl exercise in the gym

As your back goes from a bent over to an upright position, the glutes, and hamstrings contract while you maintain tension on muscles in the lower back, forearms, and trapezius. You can do the Romanian deadlift with dumbbells or barbells in your hands.

See the step-by-step guide below:

Step 1 

  • Get a barbell ready and stand with your feet about 60cm apart and the toes pointed forward. 
  • You should position the barbell so that it is over your shoulders when you look straight down. 
  • Your torso must be upright with your arms straight, and the shoulder blade dropped downwards. This allows you to minimize strain in the neck and lock the back. 

Step 2 

  • Bend and hold the barbell with a slightly wide grip, making sure to keep the back flat and slightly over the barbell. 
  • Be sure to brace yourself and ensure balance. 
  • Keep the back flat and use a proper technique that works for you to avoid injuries. 

Step 3 

  • Once the back is set, brace the core and push your hips back while still maintaining a flat back. 
  • Point the knee over the ankles. 
  • You should feel the tension building in the hamstrings and across the shoulder blades, mid and lower back if you do it correctly. 

Step 4 

  • By the time you get to this stage, the hamstrings are contracted, the back is flat, and the barbell is a few inches below the knees. 
  • Next, stand up, keeping the barbell very close to your body.

Step 5 

  • At the top of the movement, contract the upper back, core, and glutes by flexing the mid-back down to the glutes. 
  • You should flex the glutes, and the rib cage kept down to ensure the stability of the lumbar spine. 
  • Repeat according to the number of sets intended. 

Video guide:

What are the benefits of RDL exercise? 

Builds strength in the glutes and hamstrings

The Romanian deadlift is an excellent exercise for increasing the strength in your glutes and hamstrings, which leads to increased muscle mass.

The Romanian deadlift focuses on the hamstring, which helps to boost muscle mass (Hypertrophy). This increased hamstring hypertrophy often increases muscle size, strength, power application, and sports performance. 

Strengthens your back muscles

The Romanian deadlift also helps strengthen the back muscles, which will help you lift more weight and increase your overall power output. This can also help you to avoid injuries such as herniated disks and chronic back pain.

Romanian deadlifts are an excellent exercise for people who are trying to build muscle or lose weight. By strengthening your back muscles and hamstrings, you will lift more in the gym, which is an effective way to build muscle or lose weight.

Increases shoulder mobility and stability

The Romanian deadlift also increases shoulder mobility and stability, which are both critical for optimal performance. By increasing your shoulder mobility, you will be able to do more reps to lift more weight in the gym.

This will help increase your strength and muscle mass even further than before, which is excellent for people trying to build muscle.

Increasing your shoulder stability will also decrease the risk of injury because it helps keep your body healthy by ensuring proper posture and form.

Increases flexibility and range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles

The Romanian deadlift is an excellent exercise for increasing the flexibility and range of motion in your hips, knees, and ankles.

The Romanian deadlift is an effective way to get rid of tightness in the hips, knees, and ankles.

This will help to increase your flexibility which is good for preventing injury while lifting in the gym because it allows you to maintain healthier posture and form, which means you can do more reps with better results.

What are the cons of the RDL exercise? 

Can cause injury if you have bad form – Can cause pain to your knee if your starting position is too low, or you have an excessive wide stance.

Can cause low back pain if not done correctly – If you round your lower back during Romanian deadlifts, it can cause low back pain, which means that the exercise will not be effective or beneficial for you.

The Romanian deadlift can be a great exercise, but only when it is done with good form.

Suppose you use a bad technique when doing Romanian deadlifts, it can cause pain, which will hold you back from doing them in the future. So, take great care and ensure you’re doing the RDL exercise correctly.

What muscles does RDL exercise work? 

Glutes

The glutes are the primary targets of the RDL exercise as you lean forward; the gluteus maximus and lower back muscles contract to move your torso. As you return to the standing position, both of these muscles lengthen.

Hamstrings

The Romanian deadlift focuses on the hamstring muscles. These muscles are located at the back of your thighs and help to extend your hips when you stand up straight after bending over.

Lower back

During the Romanian deadlift, the lower back muscles, erector spinae muscles contract to maintain a straight spine. These are the large muscles along your spine that become tight and sore from lifting heavy objects.

Forearms

RDL exercise has a secondary effect on the forearms. The muscles in your forearm become tight when you hold onto weights or a heavy object. When you hold onto weight, the muscles of your forearm contract to keep the object from slipping from your grasp.

Trapezius muscles

During this exercise, the trapezius muscles in the upper back contract to hold your arms up and shoulders back. The traps become tight when you carry deadlifts.

Middle and upper back

The middle and upper back muscles, or latissimus dorsi muscles, contract to hold your arms up during the Romanian deadlift. These are the muscles along your spine and ribs that tighten when you perform a pull-up.

Tips to effectively perform RDL exercise

  1. Keep the bar close to you during Romanian deadlifts, so there is less stress on your body, and it will be much easier for you to maintain proper form throughout the exercise. If you keep the bar away from you, that can cause injury because of how heavy it is, which means you would compromise your form.
  2. Don’t round your lower back when doing Romanian deadlifts because that can cause injury, and it isn’t the most effective way to do them anyway. A good strategy for this is to imagine you’re trying to shave off a layer of flesh with each rep, so by keeping tension in your body throughout the entire movement, you’ll be able to keep your back straight and do more reps with better reps form.

RDL exercise – Frequently asked questions

What muscles does the Romanian deadlift work? 

The Romanian deadlifts help to strengthen your hamstrings and back. This enables you to lift more weight in the gym and stay healthier overall.

How many sets and reps should I do for Romanian deadlifts?

When doing Romanian deadlifts, people typically perform anywhere from one to three sets of between six and twelve reps.

Which muscles are used in the Romanian deadlift?

The primary muscles used in Romanian deadlifts are the glutes, hamstrings, and spinal erectors. These muscles help lift heavier weights at once, which will help you build muscle faster than ever before.

Is the Romanian deadlift good for women?

The Romanian deadlift is great for both men and women. It is an effective way to build muscle, which can help you lose weight faster than ever before or gain more strength in the gym.

Is Romanian deadlift dangerous?

The Romanian deadlifts are only dangerous if you don’t have the proper form, which is why it’s essential to always focus on your form.