How To Do Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) Proper Form & Technique

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: July 23, 2023
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Double and single-leg Romanian deadlifts are the two best exercises for developing a strong and functional posterior chain.

However, many novice lifters use excessive knee-bending when performing Romanian deadlifts (RDLs), so I decided to make a step-by-step guide on executing the technique correctly.

Based on my experience as a certified personal trainer and 20-hour research, I compiled a list of the most advanced guidelines and advice to follow and perform the RDL technique properly.

After reading the article, you will have sufficient knowledge to perform the Romanian deadlift alone, the most useful variations to include in your training program, and much more.

Quick Summary

  • To learn the proper RDL form, you must keep your hips neutral, fix the knee during the exercise, drive your hips to the ceiling, and learn to force hamstrings and glute muscles to perform the movement without compensation.
  • RDL variations include hip-banded Romanian deadlift, trap bar Romanian deadlift, Deficit Romanian deadlift, single-leg Romanian deadlift, modified traditional deadlift, and more.
  • The most functional and sport-specific Romanian deadlift variation is the single-leg RDL, which targets the same muscle groups but forces your body to use stabilizers to keep the body balanced during the whole movement.

How to Do a Romanian Deadlift Correctly

A person preparing to do a romanian deadlift at the gym

To learn the proper RDL technique, you must know the correct position of your knees (slight bend), neutral hips (appropriate hip extension), and stance (feet hip width), and necessitate proper muscle activation.

Romanian deadlifts, especially the single leg or unilateral version, are among the best exercises to increase athletic performance and functional strength and bulletproof your posterior chain [1].

Before you even think of starting the unilateral version, here is how to perform the bilateral Romanian deadlift correctly and avoid injuries:

  1. Place the barbell on the floor, load it with the appropriate weight so you can perform 8 consecutive reps without resting.
  2. Assume a standing position, feet hip-width, in front of the barbell.
  3. Let your shins touch the barbell and take a pronated grip with your hands, a little wider than hip-width.
  4. Lift the barbell off the floor with a flat back and slightly protracted shoulder blades.
  5. Now the barbell is hanging from your hands in the standing position. Slightly bend your knees and keep them fixed during the whole exercise.
  6. Start the exercise by bending your hips and driving your butt back and up. Don’t bend in your knees and only bend forward in your hips.
  7. Slide the barbell on the surface of your body until your wrists don’t cross the knee level.
  8. When your wrists and the loaded barbell go past the knee level, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  9. Repeat for 8 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 2 minutes between the sets.

"When you’re training, you might tend to forget about the things you cannot see. That’s why many lifters run the risk of overemphasizing their “mirror muscles” like their chest, biceps, and quads. Because you can’t see your back without a lot of twisting and turning (or giving your training partner the camera), you may forget how important it is to build a strong, muscular posterior chain."

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

Romanian Deadlift Variations

A woman at the gym doing Romanian deadlift variations

Here are the best Romanian deadlift variations to include in your workouts.

Hip-Banded Romanian Deadlift

The hip-banded Romanian deadlift is one of the best variations since it will make the concentric phase much harder due to the resistance of the band.

This is extremely useful in progressive overload since you must pick a harder resistance band for each following workout [2].

How to Perform Hip-Banded Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Pick the resistance band that will allow you to perform at least 8 reps without resting.
  2. Place the resistance band on the floor, enter it with both feet. Step on the band with both feet so you take the hip-width stance.
  3. Wrap the other part of the band around your head/neck. If you prefer a slightly modified resistance, you can cross the band in its middle and wrap it around the head, but the exercise technique remains the same.
  4. Start the exercise by lowering your torso towards the ground without bending your knees or rounding your back.
  5. Hold that position for one second when your torso becomes almost parallel to the ground.
  6. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for 8 reps, 3 sets, and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.

Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift

The trap bar Romanian deadlift is another useful variation that will place the weight on different angles and modify the pressure on your posterior chain muscles.

It is excellent as an accessory exercise and can supplement different phases of strength training.

How to Perform Trap Bar Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Place the hex bar on the floor and load it with the appropriate weight so you can perform at least 6 reps without a pause.
  2. Enter the trap bar and take the regular neutral grip with your hands.
  3. Lift the hex bar from the floor while maintaining your back flat and shoulder blades slightly protracted.
  4. Start the exercise by lowering the trap bar towards the floor without changing the position of your knees. Aim to drive your hips back and up as much as possible while bending your torso forward.
  5. When the trap bar passes the level of your knees, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 6 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.

Related Article: Trap Bar Deadlift Workouts

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

A person doing single leg Romanian Deadlifts at the gym

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is the best variation for athletes and people looking to boost their fitness performance.

It will bulletproof your hamstrings and teach your locomotor system to remain stable when on one leg.

How to Perform Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

  1. Place the barbell on the floor, load it with appropriate weight plates so you can perform 6 reps on each leg.
  2. Pick the barbell from the floor while keeping your back flat.
  3. Assume a standing position where the barbell hangs from your hands in the anatomical position.
  4. Slightly bend your right knee and lift the left foot from the ground.
  5. Start the exercise by bending forward with your torso while remaining with the right foot on the ground and driving the left back and upwards.
  6. Stop when your wrists pass the level of your knees and hold that position for one second.
  7. Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  8. Repeat for 6 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.

Romanian Deadlift Alternatives

A person preparing for a romanian deadlift alternative

Here are some popular Romanian deadlift alternatives you may add to your workouts.

Good Morning

Good mornings are another excellent exercise that will bulletproof your hamstrings and build a superior posterior chain [3].

They are useful for beginners, but I recommend more advanced lifters transition to Romanian deadlift variations.

How to Perform Good Mornings

  1. Place the barbell on the squat rack and load it with the appropriate weight so you can perform at least 8 reps without a pause.
  2. Place the loaded barbell on your upper back and unrack it. Take two steps back to have enough space to perform the exercise.
  3. Assume a hip-width stance with the barbell resting on your upper back.
  4. Start the exercise by bending your torso forward without changing the original position of your knees.
  5. When your torso almost becomes parallel to the ground, reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 8 reps, 3 sets, and rest for 90 seconds between the sets.

Hip Thrust

A person doing hip thrusts at the gym with a barbell

Hip thrust follows the bridge movement pattern, which is excellent for building strong glute muscles and explosive hip power [4].

You can also implement this exercise into the complex or contrast training and pair it with exercises such as kettlebell swings or plyo box jumps to build explosive strength.

How to Perform a Hip Thrust

  1. Place the barbell on the floor, load it with appropriate weights so you can perform 8 reps without a pause.
  2. Place a flat bench behind you with appropriate height so you can execute the full range of motion of the exercise, and don’t touch the floor in the bottom position of the lift.
  3. Place your shoulder blades on the flat bench and your legs below the barbell.
  4. The barbell should be at the level of your hips.
  5. Lift the barbell off the floor while maintaining your shoulder blades on the flat bench.
  6. Start the exercise by bending your hips to lower the loaded barbell toward the ground.
  7. When you reach the bottom position, hold it for one second.
  8. Explosively extend your hips to push the barbell to the starting position.
  9. Hold the top position of the lift for one second while forcefully contracting your glutes.
  10. Repeat for 8 reps, 4 sets, and rest for 3 minutes between the sets.

How to Add Romanian Deadlifts to Your Workout

A person lifting a barbell for a romanian deadlift

Romanian deadlift may be considered an isolation exercise because the movement only occurs in one joint.

However, the Romanian deadlift is a demanding, energy-wise exercise requiring multiple muscles to work simultaneously to complete the movement.

This is why I recommend placing those Romanian deadlifts at the beginning or close to the beginning of the workout.

However, suppose you are experiencing and are already familiar with the amount of energy you will spend doing Romanian deadlifts. In that case, you may place them toward the end of the workout.

The general rule is to place compound exercises at the beginning and isolation ones towards the end.

Also, if you are doing a push/pull/leg workout split, you may place the Romanian deadlift on pull or leg day. This will depend on the number of weekly training sessions you have.


How Do You Do an Rdl for Beginners?

To do a Romanian deadlift (RDL) as a beginner, you should start in the same starting position but perform the exercise with an empty barbell.

This will make the whole single-leg Romanian deadlift variation substantially easier and allow you to practice the technique before performing the exercise with heavier weights.

How Do You Know if You’re Doing Rdls Correctly?

You must consider the range of motion, grip strength, position of your spine, and hip-hinge movement pattern to know if you are doing Romanian deadlifts correctly.

The main difference between the conventional deadlift and a dumbbell Romanian deadlift is the position of the working leg, which is completely fixed during the Romanian stiff leg deadlift exercise.

Should Rdl Be Heavy or Light?

It depends on your goal, muscle groups, and proper technique if you should be doing heavy or light RDLs.

To build muscle mass in the posterior chain, you must use progressive overload, meaning you will constantly increase the weight you lift but never compromise your lumbar spine.

What Is the Best Supplement to Grow Posterior Chain Muscles?

The best supplement to grow posterior chain muscles is a high-quality protein powder.

A high-quality whey protein powder will allow you to recover faster from intense workouts and build more muscles in the long run.

Whey protein powder enters the bloodstream quickly, replenishing missing protein sources from your organism and allowing for faster regeneration of damaged muscle fibers.

I suggest reading our guides on the best protein powders for 2023 to pick the product that will suit your needs and personal goals the most:

Let me know if you have any questions about the proper Romanian deadlift.


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