Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Which of the 2 Lifting Powers Is Best

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Which can help you achieve your goals? Uncover the pros, cons, and the best.

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Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Which Lifting Option Is Best For You?

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Do you need both strength-building giants? We will explore the benefits, drawbacks, and qualities of the two powerhouses and provide you with detailed knowledge that can help you make the best and most informed choice to help you meet your fitness goals.

The Romanian deadlift and the conventional deadlift are excellent compound exercises that target the muscles of the posterior chain muscles and various others in the body.

However, they have distinct differences in technique and emphasis on muscles.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – A Brief Comparison and Key Take Away

Conventional Deadlift

You start with the barbell on the floor in the conventional deadlift. Your feet are typically at hip-width, and you grip the barbell with your hands outside of your knees.

The lift begins with the barbell close to your shins, and you lift it from the ground by extending your hips and knees simultaneously.

The conventional deadlift is a full-body exercise that involves significant engagement of the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, traps, forearms, and core.

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Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

In a Romanian deadlift, you start with the barbell at hip height, either by using a power rack, squat rack, or a set of blocks. Your feet are typically at hip-width, and you grip the barbell with your hands outside of your knees.

The lift begins with the barbell at hip level, and you hinge at the hips while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. You lower the barbell down your legs and then return to the starting position by extending your hips.

The Romanian deadlift targets the hamstrings and glutes. It also engages the lower back, but it places more emphasis on the hamstrings and less on the lower back than the conventional deadlift.
The movement pattern is more controlled and focuses on the eccentric phase of the lift.

Here are some key differences between the two exercises:

Romanian DeadliftDeadlift
It is more focused on the hamstrings and glutes.It is a full-body exercise
The barbell starts at hip height.The barbell starts on the floor.
You perform the RDL with a slightly bent knee, whereas conventional deadlifts involve a more significant knee bend.The movement pattern is more dynamic as you lift the barbell from a dead stop on the floor.
It emphasizes on the eccentric phase and stretches the hamstrings, making it beneficial for hamstring development and flexibility.It emphasizes both the concentric and eccentric phases of the movement.
The concentric phase builds strength and power, while the eccentric phase enhances muscle control, coordination, and injury prevention.

Both exercises have their place in a well-rounded strength training program. The choice between them depends on your training goals, preferences, and any existing physical limitations or injuries.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Target Muscles

Romanian Deadlift Target Muscles

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Erector Spinae
  • Lower Back
  • Adductor Magnus
  • Gluteus Medius and Minimus
  • Calves
  • Forearms

Deadlift Target Muscles

  • Erector Spinae (Lower Back)
  • Gluteus Maximus (Glutes)
  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Adductors
  • Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)
  • Trapezius (Traps)
  • Rhomboids
  • Abdominals (Core)
  • Forearms
  • Grip Strength
  • Gluteus Medius and Minimus

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – The Exercises

How to Perform Romanian Deadlift with Proper Form

romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - barbell romanian deadlift - compound leg exercises

Required equipment: Barbell or dumbbells, weightlifting belt (optional), Weightlifting shoes or flat-soled shoes

Steps to follow
Set-Up
  • Place the barbell on a rack or lifting blocks at about hip height.
  • Load the bar with the appropriate weight.
  • Stand facing the bar with your feet at hip-width.
Grip
  • Bend at your hips and knees to reach the barbell, keeping your back straight.
  • Use a pronated, i.e., overhand grip, with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width.
Positioning
  • Stand upright with your chest up, shoulders back, and your back in a neutral position.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees throughout the exercise.
Initiate the Descent
  • Hinge at your hips while keeping your back straight as you push your hips back.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body as you lower it down your legs.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement; do not squat.
Lowering Phase
  • Continue to lower the barbell by flexing at the hips, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Lower the barbell as far as your flexibility and mobility allow, ideally to just below your knees or slightly above mid-shin level. Avoid rounding your lower back; keep it flat.
Ascent Phase
  • Push your hips forward and stand up by extending your hips.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body during the ascent.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top to fully extend your hips.
Repeat
  • Perform the desired number of repetitions as stated below.

Tips

  • Keep your back flat and your chest up throughout the movement.
  • Maintain a neutral spine, and do not round your lower back.
  • Avoid overextending your lower back at the top of the lift.
  • Keep the barbell close to your body at all times.
  • Focus on the stretch in your hamstrings during the lowering phase.

How to Perform Conventional Deadlift with Proper Form

romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - strength training exercises - conventional deadlifts - best barbell back exercises

Required equipment: Barbell or dumbbells, weightlifting belt (optional), Weightlifting shoes or flat-soled shoes

Steps to follow
Set-Up
  • Load the barbell with the appropriate weight, with the equipment sitting on the floor
  • Approach the barbell with your feet at about hip-width.
  • Ensure the barbell is over the middle of your feet.
  • Your shins should be almost touching the bar.
Grip
  • Bend at your hips and knees to reach the barbell.
  • Use a mixed grip with one hand pronated and one hand supinated or a double overhand grip with both palms facing you.
  • Place your hands just outside your knees.
Positioning
  • Stand upright with your chest up and shoulders back, and keep your back neutral.
  • Your hips should be higher than your knees and lower than your shoulders.
Initiate the Lift
  • Take a deep breath and brace your core.
  • Push your hips back, hinge at the hips, and bend your knees slightly as you lower your body to grip the bar.
  • Keep your back flat and your chest up.
Lift the Bar
  • Push through your heels and engage your glutes and hamstrings to lift the bar off the floor.
  • Keep the bar close to your body as you stand up.
  • Maintain a strong and stable spine throughout the lift.
Finish the Lift
  • Ensure you extend your hips fully as you stand fully upright and keep your shoulders back.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top to finish the lift.
Lower the Bar
  • Reverse the movement by pushing your hips back and bending your knees.
  • Lower the bar under control to the floor, ensuring it touches the floor before starting the next rep.
Repeat
  • Perform the desired number of repetitions as below.

Tips

  • Keep your back flat and your chest up throughout the movement.
  • Maintain a neutral spine. Do not round your lower back.
  • Inhale before you lift, brace your core, and exhale at the top of the lift.
  • Keep the bar close to your body at all times.
  • Ensure your hips and shoulders rise together during the lift.
romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - man training with a barbell

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift – Recommended reps and sets

The number of recommended reps and sets for the Romanian deadlift (RDL) and the conventional deadlift can vary depending on your specific fitness goals, training experience, and the context of your workout regimen.

Below are some general guidelines for rep and set ranges for each exercise:

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) Recommended Reps and Sets

Strength and Power
  • Reps: 3-6 reps per set
  • Sets: 3-5 sets
Hypertrophy or Muscle Building
  • Reps: 6-12 reps per set
  • Sets: 3-4 sets
Muscle Endurance
  • Reps: 12-15+ reps per set
  • Sets: 2-3 sets
Warm-up and Activation
  • Reps: 10-12 reps with light to moderate weight
  • Sets: 1-2 sets as part of your warm-up routine
Rehabilitation and Corrective Exercises
  • Reps: Lower (typically 8-12 reps or as recommended by a healthcare professional)
  • Sets: Varies based on the specific rehabilitation plan

Conventional Deadlift Recommended Reps and Sets

Strength and Power
  • Reps: 1-6 reps per set
  • Sets: 3-5 sets
Hypertrophy or Muscle Building
  • Reps: 6-12 reps per set
  • Sets: 3-4 sets
Muscle Endurance
  • Reps: 12-15+ reps per set
  • Sets: 2-3 sets
Warm-up and Activation
  • Reps: 5-8 reps with light to moderate weight
  • Sets: 2-3 sets as part of your warm-up routine
Rehabilitation and Corrective Exercises
  • Reps: Lower (typically 8-12 reps or as recommended by a healthcare professional)
  • Sets: Varies based on the specific rehabilitation plan

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: The Similarities

Romanian deadlifts (RDL) and conventional deadlifts are compound exercises that share similarities.

  • Compound Movements
    Both the Romanian deadlift and the conventional deadlift are compound movements. They involve multiple joints and muscle groups, making them highly effective for building strength.
  • Posterior Chain Emphasis
    Both exercises heavily engage the posterior chain muscles. These muscles play a significant role in both movements.
  • Core Activation
    Both exercises require a strong and stable core to support the spine and maintain proper form throughout the lifts.
  • Hip Hinging
    You perform a hip hinge movement in both lifts. That involves bending at the hips while keeping the spine neutral. That should help you to maintain proper form and prevent lower back injuries.
  • Grip Strength
    Both exercises challenge your grip strength. They require a firm hold on the barbell or weight throughout the lift.
  • Full-Body Engagement
    The emphasis may vary. Both the Romanian deadlift and conventional deadlift engage various muscles throughout the body.
    That can help improve strength, stability, and coordination.
  • Range of Motion
    Both exercises have a similar range of motion for hip extension and flexion.
    The primary difference is that the Romanian deadlift starts from a standing position with the barbell at hip height, while the conventional deadlift starts from the floor.
  • Functional Strength
    Both exercises can help improve functional strength and performance in daily activities and sports by targeting the posterior chain and improving hip strength and flexibility.
romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - woman strength training with a barbell

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: The Differences

Romanian deadlifts (RDL) and conventional deadlifts are two distinct exercises with differences in technique, starting positions, muscle emphasis, and application.

Starting Position

Romanian Deadlift: In the RDL, the barbell starts at hip height, either by using a power rack, squat rack, or blocks
This means you don’t have to lift the barbell from the floor, and you begin the exercise in a standing position.

Conventional Deadlift: On the other hand, you start the conventional deadlift with the barbell on the floor
That means you must lift it from a dead stop.
That requires lifting the barbell from the floor, a more challenging aspect of the exercise.

Knee Bend

Romanian Deadlift: You maintain a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement in the RDL
The primary emphasis is on the hip hinge and the stretch in the hamstrings.

Conventional Deadlift: You bend your knees to a greater degree to reach the barbell on the floor in the conventional deadlift
That means there is more knee flexion compared to the RDL.

Muscle Emphasis

Romanian Deadlift: The RDL places strong emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes
It also engages the lower back but to a lesser extent than the conventional deadlift.

Conventional Deadlift: The conventional deadlift is a full-body exercise that engages upper and lower body muscles
It is a more dynamic and complete exercise.

Eccentric vs. Concentric Focus

Romanian Deadlift: The RDL primarily focuses on the eccentric phase of the exercise
That involves controlled stretching of the hamstrings and eccentric loading of the muscles.

Conventional Deadlift: The conventional deadlift involves both the eccentric and concentric phases, as you lift the weight from the and lower it back down
It requires power in both phases.

Stress on the Lower Back

Romanian Deadlift: The RDL places less stress on the lower back due to the starting position and technique
It is often considered a safer option for exercisers with lower back issues.

Conventional Deadlift: The conventional deadlift can place more stress on the lower back due to the lifting of the barbell from the floor and the more upright torso position
Proper form is crucial to prevent lower back strain.

Weight Selection

Romanian Deadlift: Exercisers can handle lighter weights in the RDL than in the conventional deadlift
That is because the starting position is higher, and the primary focus is on the hamstrings and glutes.

Conventional Deadlift: The conventional deadlift allows for lifting heavier weights
That is due to its full-body engagement.

man training with a barbell

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is Better for Beginners

The choice between the Romanian deadlift (RDL) and the conventional deadlift for beginners depends on various factors, including the beginner’s goals, experience, and physical condition.

Both exercises offer valuable benefits but have different levels of complexity and potential risk.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) for Beginners

Advantages

The RDL has a less complex setup and starting position since the barbell is at hip height.
It focuses on hamstring and glute development, which can benefit exercisers looking to target these muscles and improve hip flexibility.

Many consider the RDL as less taxing on the lower back than the conventional deadlift.

Considerations

Beginners can often start with lighter weights in the RDL, making it suitable for newbies to resistance training.

Conventional Deadlift for Beginners

Advantages

The conventional deadlift is a full-body exercise that engages a wide range of muscles, making it an excellent choice for building general strength.

It has an excellent functional carryover, which can benefit beginners in their daily activities and other sports.
Lifting from the ground can help develop grip strength.

Considerations

The conventional deadlift has a more complex setup, which may require beginners to pay close attention to their form and take time to learn the proper technique.

The risk of improper form and potential strain on the lower back is higher for beginners, making it crucial to prioritize technique over heavy weights.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better for beginners? For most beginners, the Romanian deadlift may be a better starting point. It allows beginners to work on their hip hinge and develop lower body strength with a reduced risk of lower back injury.

Beginners can gradually incorporate the conventional deadlift into their routine to build strength and athleticism as they become more familiar with the movement.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is Best for Hypertrophy?

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) and the conventional deadlift are excellent exercises for promoting muscle hypertrophy or muscle growth, but they have different emphases and applications.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) for Hypertrophy

  • Hamstrings and Glutes
    The RDL emphasizes the hamstrings and glutes. It’s an excellent choice for targeting these muscle groups, and you can use it to isolate and develop them effectively.
  • Lower Back
    While the RDL engages the lower back to some extent, it places less stress on the lower back than the conventional deadlift.
    That makes it suitable for exercisers who want to focus more on their hamstrings and glutes without overloading the lower back.
  • Isolation
    The RDL is an isolation exercise for the hamstrings and glutes. It allows you to specifically target the muscles, making it great for hypertrophy in those areas.

Conventional Deadlift for Hypertrophy

  • Full-Body Engagement
    The conventional deadlift is a full-body compound exercise. It engages multiple muscles. It can help stimulate muscle growth, helping promote hypertrophy.
  • Functional Strength
    The conventional deadlift builds functional strength. That can help in practical applications in daily activities and sports, making it a well-rounded exercise for muscle development.
  • Grip Strength
    Lifting heavy weights in the conventional deadlift can significantly improve grip strength.
    That can be beneficial for other exercises and sports.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is best for hypertrophy? The choice between the RDL and conventional deadlift for hypertrophy depends on your goals and preferences.

The RDL is an excellent choice if you want to focus on hamstring and glute development.

On the other hand, the conventional deadlift is a valuable option if you are looking for muscle development, prefer a full-body approach, and want to incorporate functional strength into your training regimen.

Many individuals use both exercises in their training programs to enjoy the benefits of isolation and full-body training.

romanian deadlift vs. deadlift - woman training with a barbell

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better for strength building?

Both the Romanian deadlift (RDL) and the conventional deadlift are excellent exercises for building strength, but they have different emphases and applications.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) for Strength Building

  • Hamstrings and Glutes
    The RDL places a strong emphasis on the hamstrings and glutes. It is an effective exercise for strengthening the muscles. They are essential for hip extension and lower body strength.
  • Lower Back
    The RDL engages the lower back to some extent. It places less stress on the lower back compared to the conventional deadlift.
    That can benefit those who want to focus more on hamstring and glute development without overloading the lower back.
  • Isolation
    The RDL is an isolation exercise for the hamstrings and glutes.
    That allows you to target and strengthen those muscles.
Conventional Deadlift for Strength Building
  • Full-Body Engagement
    The conventional deadlift is a full-body compound exercise.
    That comprehensive involvement makes it an outstanding choice for building strength.
  • Functional Strength
    The conventional deadlift builds functional strength that has practical applications in daily activities and sports.
    It is an excellent exercise for developing a well-rounded, strong body.
  • Grip Strength
    Lifting heavy weights in the conventional deadlift significantly improves grip strength.
    That can help in other exercises and sports.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better for strength building? The RDL is an excellent choice if you want to focus on hamstring and glute strength. However, the conventional deadlift is a valuable option if you intend to build general strength, prefer a full-body approach, or want to develop functional strength.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is Best for Sports Performance?

Both exercises can be valuable additions to sports performance training programs, but they serve different purposes and emphasize contrasting aspects of athletic development.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) for Sports Performance

  • Hamstring and Glute Strength
    The RDL is excellent for developing hamstring and glute strength. Strong hamstrings and glutes are crucial for various athletic movements, such as sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.
  • Hip Mobility and Flexibility
    The RDL can help improve hip mobility and flexibility, helping to enhance an athlete’s ability to move through a full range of motion. That can benefit various sports, including basketball, soccer, and martial arts.
  • Isolation and Muscle Imbalance Correction
    The RDL allows targeted work on specific muscles. It can help address muscle imbalances and weaknesses. That may hinder an athlete’s performance or cause injury risk.
  • Injury Prevention
    The RDL can help with injury prevention, particularly in sports that involve lots of running and cutting movements.

Conventional Deadlift for Sports Performance

  • Full-Body Strength and Power
    The conventional deadlift can help develop strength and power.
    It can benefit athletes who need to exert force and power in their sport, such as weightlifting, football, and wrestling.
  • Functional Strength
    Mastering the conventional deadlift can benefit you in several athletic activities. It can help athletes develop functional strength that is transferable to their sport.
  • Grip Strength
    The deadlift significantly improves grip strength, which can help in sports like rock climbing, wrestling, and sports that involve handling equipment.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is best for sports performance? The RDL is the best choice for an athlete requiring targeted strength development in the hamstrings and glutes, improved hip mobility, or correcting muscle imbalances.

Athletes in sports that demand strength and power, functional strength, and grip strength will benefit more from conventional deadlifts.

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Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is Better for Explosive Power

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is not as well-suited for explosive power development as the conventional deadlift.

On the other hand, conventional deadlift is generally the better choice between the two exercises for developing explosive power.

Conventional Deadlift for Explosive Power

  • Full-Body Engagement
    The involvement of multiple muscles in conventional deadlifts allows for a more comprehensive development of strength and power.
  • Functional Strength
    The ability to generate force and power from the ground, a fundamental aspect of the deadlift, is highly relevant to many athletic activities, such as sprinting, jumping, and explosive lifting.
  • Speed and Explosiveness
    Athletes can modify conventional deadlifts to emphasize speed and explosiveness.
    They can incorporate techniques like speed deadlifts or deficit deadlifts into their training to help improve the rate of force development and explosiveness.
  • Power Development
    Power is the combination of strength and speed. Conventional deadlifts allow athletes to work on both elements, making them an ideal choice for developing explosive power.
  • Grip Strength
    The deadlift can significantly improve grip strength, which is a valuable asset in many sports, such as wrestling, rock climbing, and various combat sports.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better for explosive power? The obvious choice for athletes is the conventional deadlift.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: When to Use and Who Should Use Romanian Deadlift

When to Use the Conventional Deadlift

General Strength Development

The conventional deadlift is an excellent choice when the goal is to build overall strength and power.

It’s a full-body compound exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making it a cornerstone of strength training programs.

Functional Strength

The conventional deadlift builds functional strength with practical applications in daily activities and sports.

The conventional deadlift will benefit athletes who need to lift, carry, or exert force in their sport or daily life.

Powerlifting and Weightlifting

Athletes and enthusiasts in powerlifting and weightlifting often use the conventional deadlift as a competition lift.

It is essential for these sports and can help maximize strength in those disciplines.

Grip Strength

The conventional deadlift is an effective way to develop grip strength, which can be advantageous for sports and activities that require a firm grip.

When to Use the Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Hamstring and Glute Development

The RDL is particularly useful for individuals looking to isolate and strengthen their hamstrings and glutes.

The RDL is the best choice if hamstring and glute development is your primary goal.

Muscle Imbalance Correction

You can use the RDL to address muscle imbalances in the posterior chain.

For example, individuals with weaker hamstrings or glutes relative to their quadriceps may benefit from the RDL to improve balance and reduce the risk of injury.

Lower Back Sensitivity

The RDL is a safer option for someone with lower back sensitivity, previous injuries, or lower back issues.

It places less stress on the lower back than the conventional deadlift. It allows you to strengthen the posterior chain without much lower backloading.

Who Should Use the Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

  • Athletes or fitness enthusiasts who want to target and develop their hamstrings and glutes.
  • Individuals looking to correct muscle imbalances in the posterior chain.
  • Those with lower back sensitivity or past lower back injuries who want to strengthen their posterior chain while minimizing lower back strain.
  • People interested in hypertrophy or muscle isolation, particularly in the hamstrings and glutes.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: When to Use and Who Should Use Deadlift

When to Use the Conventional Deadlift

Strength Development

The conventional deadlift is an excellent choice when the goal is to build strength and power. It is a cornerstone of strength training programs.

Functional Strength

The Conventional deadlift can benefit anyone who wants to lift, carry, or exert force in sports or daily life.

Powerlifting and Weightlifting

Conventional deadlift is essential for athletes and enthusiasts in powerlifting and weightlifting sports. It can help maximize strength in those specific disciplines.

Grip Strength

The conventional deadlift is an effective way to develop grip strength.

That can benefit those in sports and activities that require a strong grip.

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Who Should Use the Conventional Deadlift

  • Strength athletes (powerlifters, weightlifters) who require conventional deadlifts as part of their sport.
  • Athletes in sports that demand full-body strength, power, and functional athleticism, such as football, wrestling, and strongman events.
  • Exercisers who want to develop their strength and power.
  • Those interested in enhancing their grip strength for activities like rock climbing or grappling sports.
  • Anyone who values functional strength for everyday tasks and activities.

Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better Overall?

Both exercises have unique benefits and applications, and one may suit you better, depending on your objectives.

The RDL is better if you seek to isolate and develop specific muscle groups, need to correct muscle imbalances, or have lower back sensitivity.

On the other hand, conventional deadlifts will suit you better if you aim to build overall strength and functional athleticism, require full-body strength, or want to improve power.

A well-rounded training program can incorporate both exercises at different times.

Thus, to answer the question: Romanian Deadlift vs. Deadlift: Which is better overall? Your goals, experience and physical condition should guide you in choosing between the two lifting giants.

Final words from LiveLIfe

The Romanian Deadlift is a valuable entry point for beginners and those seeking muscle isolation. On the other hand, the Conventional Deadlift’s explosive triple extension and capacity to build functional strength make it a staple for experienced lifters and athletes pursuing well-rounded supremacy.

Ultimately, the choice between the Romanian Deadlift and the Conventional Deadlift hinges on the athlete’s goals, experience level, and physical condition. Whether one opts for the controlled elegance of the RDL or the dynamic force of the conventional variation, both exercises have a clear mission: to forge strength and resilience.

It is worth remembering that the exercises are not adversaries but allies that can help you achieve your strength-building goals. Thus, incorporating both into a balanced training regimen can help elevate your performance and muscle development.

References

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