Romanian Deadlift Vs. Traditional Deadlift: Which Is Better?

There are many deadlift variations available in the gym.

The traditional Deadlift and the Romanian Deadlift are two of the most popular variations.

What are the main differences between the Romanian Deadlift and the Deadlift? 

It is different from the Deadlift because it begins from a standing position engages more glutes and hamstrings.

The Deadlift begins at the bottom and engages more quads and the mid-back.

A deadlift is more effective than a Romanian deadlift.

To target different parts of my athletes’ bodies, I use several versions of the Deadlift.

This article will discuss the differences between the two styles and the benefits.

I’ll also show you how to properly perform each to maximize your strength gains.

What Is The Difference Between A Romanian Deadlift And Traditional Deadlift?

Romanian Deadlift Vs Traditional Deadlift

Let’s start by correcting the nomenclature.

The regular deadlift can also be called “conventional” or “traditional” Deadlift.

Both names can be interchanged.

It can be referred to as a “deadlift,” however.

Romanian Deadlift is also known as the “RDL.”

Despite this, there are key differences that you need to understand between deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts.

  • The Romanian Deadlift begins from a standing position, while the Romanian Deadlift begins from the floor.
  • The Deadlift begins with a ‘concentric’ range (upward motion), while the Romanian Deadlift begins with an eccentric’ range (downward motion).
  • The Deadlift is presented as a push off the floor with your knees, while the Romanian Deadlift can be done as a pull from your hips.
  • The shoulders of the Deadlift should be slightly in front, while the shoulders of the Romanian Deadlift should be much farther in front.
  • Both the Romanian and deadlifts involve hinging from your hips. However, the Romanian Deadlift is more focused on a hinge, emphasizing pushing your hips back when the barbell drops.
  • The Deadlift and the Romanian Deadlift both use similar muscle movements. The Deadlift activates more quads, while the Romanian Deadlift activates more glute and hamstring activation.

Let’s take a closer look at the Deadlift or Romanian Deadlift.

We will discuss how to set them up, do them efficiently, common mistakes, and what muscles were used.

Traditional Deadlift

How To Do Traditional Deadlift

  1. Place your midfoot directly below the barbell
  2. Standing with your feet slightly in front of your shoulders or shoulder-width apart
  3. Grab the bar and hold onto it with your hands, just outside of your shins
  4. Engage your core and take a deep breath. Hold it for a while, then exhale forcefully without letting out air.
  5. Place your hips in the starting position.
  6. Your shoulders should be slightly in front of you and your back straight.
  7. Engage your lats and “flex your armpits.”
  8. Once you are ready, push the floor off with your knees. Make sure that your hips don’t rise higher than the barbell.
  9. If the barbell is below the knees, you can drive your hips forward and lock your hips and knees simultaneously.

Technique Tips For Traditional Deadlift

Successful deadlift technique relies on:

  • Start with the barbell above the ankle. This will ensure that the weight is not in your center of mass. It will allow you to feel more controlled and balanced.
  • Throughout the whole movement, keep the barbell as close as possible to your body. This will allow your upper and mid-backs to remain neutral (i.e., Not round.
  • Think about using your quads for lifting the knee off of the ground. This will increase your speed and power, allowing you to start the movement faster.
  • Make sure you don’t rush your bottom position while doing your reps. Engage your core and lats and keep your shoulders just slightly above the barbell before you start each rep.
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Common Faults In Traditional Deadlift

These Are The Most Common Deadlift Faults:

  • The mid-back should be rounded. It is most likely due to using too much weight. For a complete breakdown, see our How to Keep Your Back Straight While Deadlifting.
  • Your hips will rise too fast off the ground if you do this. This happens because your quads are not engaged to extend your knee to initiate the movement.
  • The barbell is slipping off your body. This can be caused by not placing the barbell on your body or weak lats that cannot control the barbell’s position during the lift.
  • Grip Failure. Grip Failure. It doesn’t really matter how strong your legs and back are if you have weak hands or forearms. For tips on improving grip, see our article Maximizing your Deadlift Grip.

Working Muscles When Performing Traditional Deadlift

These Are The Muscles That Are Used For Deadlifting:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Adductor Magnus, Inner Thigh
  • Hamstrings
  • Erectors
  • Lats
  • Beware of Traps
  • Rhomboids
  • Abdominals & Obliques

Quads are the main muscle group used more in deadlifts than the Romanian Deadlift.

Because the quads are responsible for initiating the knee extension when you begin the Deadlift from the ground, this is the way you should start it.

You can learn more about how each muscle contributes to the Deadlift and how to spot muscular weakness throughout the range.

The Deadlift has many benefits.

Scientific literature has highlighted some of the benefits of deadlifting, including:

  • Building strength and muscle mass for the hips, thighs, and back
  • Enhancing body awareness, coordination, and balance
  • Jump performance
  • Preventing and increasing bone mineral density
  • Rehabilitating your knee after knee replacement surgery
  • Reducing the risk of injury to the ankle, knee, and leg from overuse

The Deadlift can be used by anyone, regardless of whether they are an athlete looking to gain muscle and strength in contact sports, an older person who wants to improve their balance, or someone who has suffered a knee injury and needs to return to normal functioning sooner.

Romanian Deadlift

How To Do Romanian Deadlift

  1. Begin by placing the barbell on the pins of a power rack.
  2. Grab the barbell from just outside your thighs and walk up to it.
  3. You should set the height of the pins so that your knees are slightly bent.
  4. Breathe deeply, brace your core and raise the barbell off the pins. Then, extend the knees to lift the barbell.
  5. Take 2-3 steps to remove the weight from the rack, putting your feet shoulder-width apart.
  6. You can bend your knees slightly and keep it this way throughout the movement.
  7. To bring the barbell to your knees, hinge at your hips. Keep the weight on the heels.
  8. Your thighs should be covered by the barbell, while your shoulders should extend over it.
  9. Imagine driving your hips back and feeling the tension in your glute’s hamstrings.
  10. Squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward when the barbell is below your knee.
  11. Do not extend your knees at all, but keep the slight bend you started with.

Technique Tips For Romanian Deadlift

Successful Romanian Deadlift Technique Relies On:

  • Aggressively swaying from the hips. Your hips should be moving as far behind as possible. This will activate your glutes, hamstrings, and more.
  • You can now ‘feel the ground’ by putting your feet on the floor. Ensure that your weight is on your heels and your hips are behind you to feel balanced.
  • Engaging your lats. This will enable you to keep your barbell on your thighs for the entire movement. It will also prevent your low back and mid-backs from rounding.
  • On the way up, squeeze your glutes. Your hips will be far behind you at the bottom. You’ll need your glutes engaged in bringing your hips back up to the starting position.

Common Faults In Romanian Deadlifts

These Are The Most Common Deadlift Faults:

  • Keep your knees locked at the maximum range of motion. To be able to hinge forward at your hips, you’ll need to maintain a slight bend in your knees.
  • To bring the barbell forward, bend your knees. You want to keep your knees slightly bent at all times. You don’t want the weight to sink by bending your knees more than necessary. This will ensure that your glutes remain loaded throughout the entire movement.
  • Don’t go too low. You should not go below your knees. This will prevent the Romanian Deadlift from becoming a deadlift in which you have to bend your knees to lift the barbell to the ground.
  • Don’t keep the barbell on your back. It will be easier for your mid-back and back to turn if the barbell is lifted off your thighs. You will also feel the most tension in your hamstrings. This is fine, but it means you are losing the ability to engage your glutes as well as your hamstrings.
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Romanian Deadlift: Working Muscles

The muscles used in the Romanian Deadlift look similar to those discussed previously for the Deadlift.

The Romanian Deadlift activates glutes hamstrings to a greater extent than the Deadlift.

The Deadlift does not activate the glutes and hamstrings.

However, the Romanian Deadlift has a greater activation rate.

Many gurus may suggest that the Romanian Deadlift is an excellent choice for training the lower back (lumbar).

Fisher et al. (2013) found that the Romanian Deadlift is better training than the lower back exercises.

The Romanian Deadlift: Benefits

The Benefits Of The Romanian Deadlift Include The Following:

  • Greater glute and greater hamstring hypertrophy
  • Strengthen your hip extension
  • This is a great way to teach the “hip hinge” novice lifters
  • Strong application to other sports movements, like Olympic weightlifting
  • Strengthening and controlling your muscles can prevent hamstring injuries.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift

Now that you understand the differences between Romanian and conventional deadlifts, let us use a few criteria to judge these exercises.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Strength

Although it is possible to lift very heavy weights using Romanian deadlifts, traditional deadlifts are best for building strength.

You can lift heavier weights by starting each rep with the weight on your floor.

It is possible to lower the weight quickly, saving you energy and allowing you to do more pulls.

This is why powerlifters and strongman competitors test their strength using conventional deadlifts instead of Romanian deadlifts.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Hypertrophy

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift

Bodybuilders are trained to increase muscle mass and hypertrophy.

Many bodybuilders include both traditional and Romanian deadlifts into their workouts.

It’s safe to say that both types can help build muscle mass.

Despite this, each movement increases the muscle size in different areas of your body because it is different.

Conventional deadlifts build the entire body.

They are effective and work well with the lower and upper back muscles.

On back training day, bodybuilders will do traditional deadlifts.

On the other hand, Romanian deadlifts are done on leg day because they are a great exercise for the glutes and hamstrings.

Both types of deadlifts can build muscle.

However, they target different muscle groups, so choose the right one for you.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Gains

Conventional Deadlift Vs Romanian Deadlift

You can make traditional and Romanian deadlifts more difficult so you can continue to make long-term gains.

You can lift more weight with the same weight, perform more sets, rest less between sets, and do more reps.

Conventional deadlifts will likely allow you to lift more weight for longer periods.

Conventional deadlifts are more common than Romanian deadlifts.

Your Romanian deadlift progress will likely stall first.

In reality, however, most people never reach their full potential for any exercise.

This makes this comparison irrelevant.

Both types of Deadlift should be possible for most people to continue to make progress over the years.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Variations

Traditional Deadlift Vs. Romanian Deadlift

Change your workouts from time to time and variations on your main exercises to avoid plateaus.

To avoid workout ruts, you can simply change the angle or width of your grip.

Romanian deadlifts can be done with dumbbells, trap bars, dumbbells, or one leg.

There are many variations of the traditional Deadlift.

  • Dumbbell deadlift
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Deficit deadlift
  • Rack pulls
  • Paused Deadlift
  • Trap bar deadlift
  • Snatch grip deadlift
  • Reeves deadlift
  • Partial Deadlift
  • Suitcase deadlift
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Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Safety

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Traditional Deadlift

When choosing exercises, safety is an important consideration.

You want to choose the best exercises for your greatest benefit and the lowest risk of injury.

You should not choose an exercise if the cost is greater than the benefits.

Comparing the safety of traditional vs. Romanian deadlifts is difficult as both could inflict serious injuries if they are done incorrectly.

Because conventional deadlifts are performed from the floor, they require more flexibility than Romanian deadlifts.

This can make them potentially more dangerous.

There is little to no difference between the two exercises.

The main factor that affects safety is the user.

Some people will find the traditional Deadlift safer than the Romanian version, while others may find the opposite.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Conventional Deadlift: Difficulty

Conventional Deadlift Vs. Romanian Deadlift

Conventional deadlifts follow a very common, natural movement pattern.

When someone bends down to pick up something from the ground, they do something similar to a deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift movement, however, is slightly less natural.

Romanian deadlifts, however, are simpler and only involve one joint: the hips.

On the other hand, conventional deadlifts are more complex and require greater coordination from all parts of the body.

Which one is the easiest to learn?

Although it is a close call, the most common Deadlift is probably the conventional one.

This is because it is something that many of us do every day without really thinking about it.

There are technical considerations, such as making sure your hips don’t rise above your shoulders and keeping your lower back slightly arched.

The basic deadlift movement should be something most people do.

Romanian Deadlift Vs. Traditional Deadlift: Which One Is Better For You?

Traditional Deadlift Vs Romanian Deadlift

Each deadlift variation has its own benefits and purpose.

It is impossible to say which one is better.

This all depends on your training goals.

The traditional Deadlift is a better choice if you want to increase your strength, power, and muscle growth.

However, the Romanian Deadlift is a great way to build strength and muscle through your glutes and hips.

It will put less strain on your lower back.

This makes it a better choice for those with weak areas.

It’s also an excellent option for improving hip mobility.

The Romanian Deadlift can be used as an additional exercise to help you get stronger in the standard Deadlift or the squat.

Last Words

Romanian Deadlift Vs Conventional Deadlift

Although they share many of the same benefits as conventional deadlifts, they are two very different exercises.

Romanian deadlifts are primarily a posterior-chain exercise that targets the lower body.

On the other hand, conventional deadlifts are more of an all-body exercise that emphasizes the lower and upper back.

Although conventional deadlifts do work your legs, that is not the reason most people do them.

Squats or leg presses are better choices for lower body training.

Instead of trying to choose between these two great exercises, do both.

When training your legs, do both the traditional deadlifts and the Romanian deadlifts.

This will allow you to reap the benefits of both exercises.

To avoid straining your lower back, it is best to do the Romanian and traditional deadlifts a few days apart due to overlaps.


  • Timothy P. Carnes

    Timothy P. Carnes is a certified personal trainer with a Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science from the University of Florida. With over 8 years of experience in the fitness industry, Timothy is an expert in strength and conditioning, body composition, and overall health and wellness. He also holds certifications in strength and conditioning through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and corrective exercise through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including strength training, body composition, and overall health and wellness tips. Timothy believes that consistency and discipline are the keys to achieving fitness goals, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize their fitness and wellness journey. Through his articles, Timothy aims to empower his readers to take control of their health, enhance their performance, and live their best lives.

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