Let’s begin by discussing the traditional deadlift. This exercise is one of the most popular with athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and workout enthusiasts alike. In fact, deadlifting is part of the “big three” group of exercises, including bench presses and squats.
If you’ve ever walked into a gym, you’ve probably seen the traditional deadlift being done. Primarily, performing a deadlift consists of the weight trainer lifting a pre-loaded barbell off the ground up to their hip or torso level while keeping the bar perpendicular to the floor. While simple in overall technique, deadlifting takes a lot of strength and skill to master; angle, bar position, body placement, length of time, and repetition all play roles in proper completion of a deadlift.
Depending on fitness and training goals, sometimes weight trainers will defer to other modified deadlift variations, which can include:
- Stiff leg deadlift
- Trap bar deadlift
- Romanian deadlift
- Landmine deadlift
- Smith machine deadlift
- Dumbbell deadlift
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Romanian deadlift, how to maximize the technique, and what its benefits are to weight lifters.
How the Romanian Deadlift Differs from the Traditional Deadlift
While from the same family, the traditional deadlift and Romanian deadlift differ in both technique and benefit. Determining which one to use boils down to what the weight training goals are of the lifter. Several key differences between the two deadlift variations are:
- Muscles – The traditional deadlift offers broader muscle targeting of glutes, hips, back, trapezius, adductors, hamstrings, and quadriceps. The Romanian deadlift focuses more centrally on hamstrings, forearm flexors, and glutes.
- Execution – The traditional deadlift begins by lifting the bar from the floor. In contrast, the Romanian deadlift starts from the standing position.
- Method – Pushing the barbell off the floor using your knees is used for the traditional deadlift. The Romanian deadlift works through the hip area using a pulling motion.
Is Romanian Better than Traditional?
Between traditional deadlifting and the Romanian version, one doesn’t stand out as better than the other; both deadlift versions offer their own unique benefits and drawbacks. Some weight training experts believe that a better experience performing traditional deadlifting can be gained from mastering the Romanian deadlift first and gaining more positional strength.
Benefits of the Romanian Deadlift
Mastering the Romanian deadlift definitely comes with benefits. Here are a few reasons many weight lifters choose to focus their efforts with this exercise:
- Balance – Some trainers experience an improvement in positional balance and stability due to strength building in the posterior and anterior.
- Activity Enhancement – Standard daily movements, such as walking and bending over, can be improved.
- Improved Exercise – Many traditional exercises utilize the same groups of muscles. Some find it easier to carry them out once they’ve built strength and muscle through mastering the Romanian deadlift.
How to Do the Romanian Deadlift
To benefit from performing the Romanian deadlift, correct performance is crucial. Grab your barbell and follow these four steps:
- While standing firmly with your feet spread apart at hip-distance, bend and grab your barbell using an overhand grip. Lift barbell to hip level.
- Bend your knees slightly, position your shoulders towards your shoulder blades, and keep your spine straight.
- Take a deep breath and begin lowering the barbell towards the floor while pushing your hips backward.
- Exhale while pushing your hips forward and bringing the barbell back to hip level. Be sure to engage your knees instead of your back while performing this maneuver.
Different Romanian Deadlift Variations
Now we’ve reviewed how to complete the standard Romanian deadlift exercise, but there are actually different variations. Let’s take a look at the three other ways you can perform the Romanian deadlift:
- Dumbbell Split-Leg Romanian Deadlift – Place one foot behind you flat on the floor while holding two dumbbells. You’ll then proceed to lower the dumbbells to the floor while keeping your back straight.
- Stiff-Leg Romanian Deadlift – In this variation, you’ll lift while holding a non-bending leg stance instead of allowing for bending in your knees.
- One-Leg Romanian Deadlift – Using a barbell and keeping your back straight, you’ll lean forward to lower the barbell while lifting one leg behind you.
Three Common Mistakes Made
While the steps to complete the Romanian deadlift are pretty straightforward, mistakes can lead to an ineffective workout or even injury. Below are three examples of common mistakes lifters make while performing this exercise:
- Bending Incorrectly – By bending too much at the knees or the waist, you risk not completing the set correctly or becoming injured. With too much bend, you’ll be performing squats. And by bending at the waist, you can damage your spine by accumulating too much strain.
- Incorrect Shoulder Stance – Be careful not to “round out” your shoulders, or rotate them forward, during the exercise. By allowing this to happen, you risk holding the barbell too far away and reducing the impact on your hamstrings.
- Looking Up or Straight Ahead – When you look up or straight ahead while performing the deadlift, it can cause misalignment with your spine and tailbone. This action can lead to injury and not completing the rep correctly.
Tips to Maintain Proper Form
It can be challenging to maintain proper form during the Romanian deadlift exercise. Check out these expert tips to stay on track with both the Romanian and traditional deadlift:
- Don’t over-bend your hips; this limits how much you can lift. Keep your hips in a “hinge” position instead. You can do this by slightly bending your knees and keeping your spine straight.
- Instead of looking up or straight ahead, look down towards the floor while engaging in the lift. Doing this will help you keep your spine straight and in a more neutral position.
- Keep the barbell in the right position, hold it to where your armpits are over the bar, and be positioned over the center area of your foot.
- Get a good grip on the barbell by using the entirety of both hands, including thumbs, and holding it tightly.
- Keep your knees bent to where they are just over your feet and matched with your hip-width. By doing this, you’ll be able to perform the lift more efficiently and with better results.
One of the most important reasons for mastering the Romanian deadlift is to avoid injury. Incorrect usage of this weight lifting technique can harm your knees, hips, back, shoulders, or neck. Here are some tips to keep in mind for avoiding injury:
- Keep your barbell as close to your thighs as possible to reduce strain on your lower back.
- Avoid locking your knees to keep too much strain off your hips and lower back.
- Always warm up to loosen joints and ligaments before lifting. This action can significantly reduce your chances of pain or injury following your workout.
- Consider using lifting straps for additional support while lifting.
Incorporating the Romanian Deadlift Into Your Routine
When first incorporating the Romanian deadlift into your workout routine, it’s best to start small and consult with a trainer when possible. How many repetitions you do and how often will depend on your desired routing and set goals. But if you’re looking for a great way to start, try doing three sets of four to six reps.