Romanian Deadlift vs Deadlift – Introduction
When it comes to the Romanian deadlift vs deadlift, what are the main differences?
First, what is a Romanian deadlift? The Romanian Deadlift is an excellent compound exercise that targets your hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae muscles.
It is also a popular deadlift assistance exercise that isolates the second phase of traditional deadlifts.
Two Phases of a Conventional Deadlift
The first phase is when you lift the weight off the floor.
The second phase is when the bar reaches your knees, and you complete the deadlift by driving your hips forward and standing tall. Or better known as when you lock out.
Therefore, the Romanian deadlift helps you improve your overall deadlift because it makes you stronger in the second phase of your lift.
Also, the Romanian deadlift serves as a stand-alone exercise to target your hamstring muscles and glutes. As such, it is also an effective exercise to use when you warm up for a traditional deadlift workout routine.
Now, let’s dive into the distinctions between the conventional and Romanian deadlifts.
Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift
The Key Differences
The conventional deadlift begins with you, lifting the weight from the ground. You pick the weight up off of the floor to a standing position.
On the other hand, the Romanian variation begins from an upright standing position.
Then, you lower the bar as far as you can go towards the floor and then return to your starting position while maintaining a neutral spine.
Keep your back flat, never round your back when doing any deadlift.
To sum up, the starting position of a Romanian Deadlift is from a standing position with the weight in your hand. Whereas the starting position of the conventional deadlift starts from the floor.
Why Do Romanian Deadlifts?
Whether you are an athlete, powerlifter, or just looking to get fit, the Romanian deadlift can help improve your fitness because it helps you:
- Strengthen your hamstring and gluteal muscles
- Focus on the hip hinge and hip drive to improve your hip mobility
- Balance your leg training
- Take an unnecessary load off of your lower back
- Helps you build explosive power as a runner or sprinter
- Warm up for and improve your regular deadlift
- Improve your overall athletic performance
Your Body is More Than You See in the Mirror
No matter which type of deadlift variation you perform, the deadlift is going to build your ‘posterior chain.’
The posterior chain is the group of muscles along the backside of your body, your lower body, and your upper back. Another way of thinking of the posterior chain is those muscles that you cannot see in the mirror, the back half of your body.
Imagine how much power and strength you lose by neglecting the major muscle groups on the back half of your body.
Many gym-goers spend years, if not decades, training the mirror muscles. The muscles they can see.
Don’t do it anymore. Of course, I had no clue what the posterior chain was back when I was obese.
The only chain I was familiar with was Dunkin Donuts for pop ems.
But, when I finally started to lose weight and introduced squats and deadlifts, boom, those two exercises alone transformed my body and fitness. One explanation is that I was finally doing a total body workout that targeted the posterior chain — the entire back half of my body which was always neglected.
Dumbbell curls, shoulder presses, and seated chest presses are not going to build the strength of the posterior chain muscles.
But any type of deadlift, whether standard deadlifts, deficit deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, or deadlifts with a pair of dumbbells – they will!
Also, a strong posterior chain can reduce the risk of lower back pain and injury. As a result, you will walk taller and feel much stronger.
How to Do a Romanian Deadlift
- Stand with your feet hip-width
- You use a hip-width stance in a deadlift
- As opposed to shoulder width in a squat
- This is because the initial power of lifting the weight off the ground in a deadlift comes from your leg drive off the floor.
- As if you are doing a vertical leg press.
- But here, you will lower the bar from a standing position
- Hold the bar with an overhand grip
- Your hands should be shoulder-width on the bar
- You break at the hips first to lower the bar
- Push your hips back
- Keep your back straight and tight
- Chest out, and shoulder blades pinched towards each other
- Brace your entire core
- When you push your hips back, the bar will start to lower
- Your legs are not perfectly straight as in a stiff leg deadlift
- Instead, you need a slight bend in your knees
- As you lower the bar from a standing position, you keep your knees slightly bent
- When the bar goes below your knees, and you feel the tension in your hamstrings and glutes
- Now is when you squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward
- And return to your starting position
- Standing with the barbell using an overhand grip
- Break at the hips
- Barbell lowers to a little below the knees
- This is your full range of motion, from standing to a little below your knees.
- You are not putting the weight down on the floor.
- Feel the tension in your hamstrings and glutes
- Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward
- Stand up and repeat
Alan Thrall, competitive strongman and powerlifter warns that you should not even begin to deadlift until you master the Romanian deadlift! Watch the whole video to get a great lesson on the most basic deadlift essentials:
STOP Deadlifting Until You Learn How To Romanian Deadlift
A Great Exercise to Warm Up
You can also use bodyweight Romanian deadlifts to warm up. I find it especially helpful before a deadlift workout.
Just use the same movement pattern described above with or even without a barbell.
Do several sets of 8 to 10 reps along with your other deadlift warm-up routine exercises. For example, start with some light cardio, do 8 – 10 back hyperextensions, forward stretches, bodyweight Romanian deadlifts, floor bridge hip thrusts, and bird dog.
See How to Warm Up for Deadlifts Properly in Four Easy Steps for more details.
Always Use Proper Deadlift Form
There are a variety of deadlift variations, and one of the most popular is the Romanian deadlift.
Always focus on the best form, and not how much weight can you lift today. No, keep your mind focused on how proper is your technique.
Always do proper form deadlifts, whether regular, sumo, stiff leg or single-leg Romanian deadlifts.
Otherwise, you can run the risk of injury from doing deadlifts.
So, never be in a rush to lift heavier weights. Instead, be in a rush to go slow, and gradually increase your deadlift weight.
Keep learning as much as possible about how to perform proper form deadlifts.
Like any deadlift or squat movement, Romanian deadlifts are not for the faint of heart.
Be careful! Do I have to repeat it?
Yes, be careful when doing any deadlifts or squats. Especially, full-body compound free-weight movements using higher-weight poundages.
You are not going to be in much danger if you do wrist curls or arm curls with light weights.
However, in the Romanian deadlift or any other deadlift, keep your back tight, brace your abs, back flat with a neutral spine, head slightly tucked, shoulders back, and chest out.
Use a firm grip, and lift with a full breath of air; this will offer your back the best protection against back strain or injury.
See for Yourself!
This is an excellent video of what the Romanian deadlift looks like. The first 2 minutes of the video are mainly about the Romanian deadlift, and then he goes into the stiff-legged deadlift.
How to Perform the Romanian Deadlift
Romanian Deadlift vs Deadlift – Wrapping Up
The Romanian deadlift is a powerful weapon in your strength training toolbox. It will help teach you how to deadlift, and more specifically:
- How to hip hinge
- How to feel when your hamstrings are loaded
- Hip drive
- Excellent deadlift warm-up
- Strengthen your hamstrings and glutes
A tidbit is that the Romanian deadlift also referred to as RDL, was named after a Romanian powerlifter – Nicu Vlad.
See Romanian Olympic Weightlifter Nicu Vlad in action at the 1984 Olympics
You can see that Nicu knew something about Olympic weightlifting, so he is an excellent voice to trust for this great deadlift accessory exercise – the traditional Romanian deadlift.
Learn about the 7 Best Romanian Deadlift Benefits to Maximize Your Athletic Potential whether you’re an Athlete or not!
- Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: Why and How to Do This Important Exercise
- How to Deadlift for Beginners – A Step-by-Step Guide
- Sumo Deadlift vs Conventional: Which Is Better for You?
- The Top 15 Proper Deadlift Form Tips For Beginners
- 15 Safest Deadlift Alternatives to Protect Your Back(Opens in a new browser tab)