The Romanian deadlift is a great way to isolate and focus on building hamstring and glute strength. This exercise is different from stiff-legged deadlifts because there is a slight bend at the knee and the bar is lowered closer to the knee. This is thought to put less stress on the low back and focus on the backside of your legs. This exercise is a great way to target your hamstrings with a heavy weight and minimize stress on your lower back.
Muscles Targeted: The prime movers when doing Romanian deadlifts are the hamstrings and gluteus maximus. Your erector spinae is activated to stabilize the load. Your forearms and upper back have to stay tight in order for the bar to move slowly upwards. Depending on how much weight is used, your forearms can start to get fatigued as well. When the weights are heavier it is okay to use a mixed grip to minimize forearm fatigue.
Exercise Instructions: Grab a barbell with both hands using an overhand grip about shoulder width apart and let the barbell hang down in front of your body. Begin this movement by bending at your hips to lower the barbell to the floor and bend knees during the descent. It is very important to keep your back straight and rigid throughout this exercise and let your hamstrings and butt do all the work.
Why This Exercise is Important: Romanian deadlifts are a useful alternative to other hamstring exercises like the stiff leg deadlift. It places less emphasis on the lower back and bending at the knees allows the exercise to really stretch and target the hamstrings more. The Romanian deadlift has a good transfer of strength over to other barbell exercises like the deadlift and squat. For many lifters, their hamstrings are one of the limiting muscle groups in lifting heavier weight. The bent knee posture also is very similar to how we bend over and pick things off the ground in everyday life. This exercise can help make sure that when you bend over to pick up some groceries or a small child that you don’t end up throwing out your back.
Things To Avoid: When performing the Romanian deadlifts, you want to make sure that you pick a nice and heavy weight but nothing that is going to make you use poor form. Make sure that you keep your back flat throughout the movement and don’t let it start to round as you get tired. Keep the bar traveling close to your legs and don’t start falling forward, letting the bar go too far out. This exercise really lets you get a good stretch in your hamstrings, so make sure you don’t short the movement.
Reps and Sets: Romanian deadlifts are best performed when using higher repetitions. These exercises are best at stretching and straining your hamstrings and glutes so go light and really get a feel for the movement when you are doing these. Use this exercise at the beginning of a hamstring workout and perform 3-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions to get the full effect.
Other Exercises To Use: Another movement to substitute for Romanian deadlifts is the good and trusty barbell deadlift. If you want to switch it up but still get a full range of motion and stretch your hamstrings then use kettlebell swing cleans. Barbell squats target the same muscle groups and can be used to work the hamstrings too. View our extensive database of exercise guides for a comprehensive list of exercises that target the hamstrings.
The Romanian deadlift will help to increase flexibility and build strength in your hamstrings and glutes. Use these for higher reps and be sure to use proper form throughout the full range of motion. These are great to use to complement heavier squatting and deadlift movements and can really move you forward if your hamstrings are holding you back. Give them a try and see how they work for you.