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Difference Between Romanian Deadlift (RDL) and Deadlift

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The deadlift is one of the most potent compound exercises in fitness to develop your strength, back, glutes, and legs. It is a complete movement with many variations, such as the Romanian deadlift.

How does the deadlift differ from the Romanian deadlift (RDL)?

The main difference between the RDL and the deadlift is the execution technique and the targeted muscles. Unlike the traditional deadlift, the bar never touches the ground in the Romanian Deadlift. In addition, the Romanian Deadlift emphasizes working the glutes and hamstrings.

What is the Deadlift?

soulevé de terre
The starting position of the Deadlift, Nassim Sahili

The deadlift is a complete polyarticular bodybuilding exercise that simultaneously trains the legs, the glutes, and the back muscles. It is considered to be one of the three fundamental movements in bodybuilding, along with the bench press and the squat.

The deadlift movement can be understood by its English name: "dead" and "lift." The deadlift involves lifting a dead weight from the ground, a common movement in everyday life, such as picking up an object from the ground.

The deadlift is a complex exercise that can lead to many injuries if not performed correctly, even for the most experienced athletes. It is therefore advisable to have a good level of weight lifting before starting this movement and to be trained by a trainer.

What is the Romanian Deadlift?

soulevé de terre roumain
The end position of the RDL, Jeff Nippard

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a variation of the deadlift in which the movement begins in the final position of the deadlift. The RDL targets many of the same muscles as a traditional deadlift, focusing more on the glutes and hamstrings.

It was named after Romanian weightlifter Nicu Vlad when Americans spotted him performing this unfamiliar deadlift variation. Not knowing what to call it, they simply called it the "Romanian Deadlift."

The RDL is a very effective exercise for strengthening the entire posterior chain; it can be used as an aid to the classic deadlift in order to work this particular part of the movement.

Differences Between the RDL and the Deadlift


The deadlift starts with a "concentric" (upward) movement, while the Romanian deadlift starts with an "eccentric" (downward) direction.

Explanation of the Deadlift Movement by Jeff Nipard

The deadlift is usually performed in a gym with an Olympic bar on the floor and weight discs on each side. The movement starts with the hands on the bar, knees bent, and chest forward in order to lift the bar with the strength of the legs, the buttocks, and the back until you are entirely upright while keeping the back straight to avoid injury. The movement ends by resting the bar on the floor, keeping a correct movement.

Explanation of the RDL Movement by Jeff Nipard

Unlike the traditional deadlift, the RDL begins in a standing position. To do this, the bar can be placed on a squat rack lowered to waist level. Once the bar is out, you must place yourself in the final position of the deadlift, lower the bar until you feel a stretch in the back of your thighs, and then come back up, always with your back straight, without ever putting the bar on the ground.

These two exercises have different variations that can be performed with dumbbells or kettlebells.

Targeted muscles

When performed correctly, the deadlift trains all muscle groups because the lower body lifts the bar while the upper body holds it. However, the deadlift focuses on :

  • the legs: quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors
  • the glutes
  • the muscles of the lower and upper back

The Romanian Deadlift trains the same muscles overall but in different proportions. It puts more emphasis on the posterior chain by strengthening the work of the glutes and hamstrings. If you have a delay on these muscles, it can be interesting to integrate this exercise into your sessions to reinforce your deadlift.


The Romanian Deadlift is an exercise rarely used for performance purposes, unlike the classic deadlift. Instead, the RDL is primarily a variation that is useful as an assistance exercise to work the movement differently and strengthen your deadlift performance.

Comparison Table: Deadlift Vs Romanian Deadlift

SpecificationsDeadliftRomanian Deadlift (RDL)
ExecutionThe movement starts on the ground to raise the barThe movement starts standing to lower the bar without ever touching the ground
Targeted musclesLegs, glutes, backMore posterior chain
ObjectivePerformance, hypertrophyAssistance
DifficultyMore technicalMore simple
VariationsSumo deadlift, straight legs, with dumbbell, with kettlebell, RDL, etc… RDL with dumbbell, with kettlebell, unilateral, etc…

Similarities between the RDL and the Deadlift

The deadlift and the RDL are exercises that remain very similar since the RDL is a variation of the deadlift. The execution movement is the same, except that in one case, you start from the bottom (deadlift), and in the other case, you start from the top (RDL).

The muscles worked are the same, in different proportions.

Also, both exercises require the same equipment to be performed. For example, you can use an Olympic bar, a dumbbell, or a kettlebell.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is more complicated between the RDL and the deadlift?

The deadlift is generally more technical than the RDL and, therefore, more difficult for beginners.

However, lifting heavy loads in the Romanian deadlift is more complex compared to the traditional deadlift.

Therefore, the RDL is an interesting exercise for those new to the deadlift to learn the technique while lifting lightly.

Should I perform Deadlift or RDL?

This is a somewhat personal question, depending on your level in weight lifting, your goal, and your body type.

If your goal is to perform well in the deadlift, it may be worthwhile to incorporate RDL into your routine to strengthen a portion of the movement.

If you are new to the deadlift, you may want to start with the Romanian deadlift, which is a little simpler to perform, to get familiar with the execution.

No one can help you better than a certified trainer who will analyze your situation.


The Romanian deadlift can be defined as a popular variation of the traditional deadlift. It focuses more on the posterior chain muscles, so you can include it in your routine if you have a weakness in this area.

However, be very careful when performing these movements. They are very interesting exercises but are still very complex and should be supervised by qualified trainers, especially when you are a beginner. It is very easy to injure yourself or damage your back for life by lifting such heavy loads with poor execution.

Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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