The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is an awesome exercise that nearly every lifter and athlete can benefit from. This exercise can do wonders for improving your strength, power, and overall posterior muscle mass.
If you already perform RDLs in your workout program, then you’re probably well aware of some of the main Romanian deadlift benefits. However, if you’re just getting into working out, then understanding the “why” of this exercise is good to know.
The main benefit of the RDL is that they can be great for building your hinge strength, which can then lead to stronger and larger glutes and hamstrings. They can also be useful for improving hip extension power.
RDL Benefits Takeaways
There are so many Romanian deadlift (RDL) variations that one can perform for benefit. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced lifter, there’s an RDL variation that will align with your needs.
It’s never a bad idea to have some hinge variation in your workouts. The RDL is most commonly performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, and a barbell.
The RDL is primarily going to work the glutes and hamstrings. If you want an additional glute benefit with your RDL, try anchor a resistance band to a rack and placing it around your waist for additional resistance.
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Benefits of Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
As with every exercise, we could get incredibly nuanced with the benefits of RDLs. However, I think if you want to know “why” you should perform RDLs there are generally six major benefits I like to discuss.
Benefit 1: Improved Posterior Muscle Strength
The first and arguably biggest benefit of performing more RDLs in your workout program is how great they can be for improving your posterior muscle strength. The posterior muscles are the muscles on the backside of the body.
With the RDL, there are three groups of muscles that you’ll be primarily strengthening with this exercise and these include:
Since the RDL is a hinge exercise, you’ll be training all of these muscle groups through a lengthened position as you bring the hips back and then a shortened position as you stand back up.
In the context of improving the strength of these muscles through a lengthened context, few exercises work as well as an RDL. This is why you’ll see lifters often perform at least one RDL variation in each of their training blocks.
If your goal is building the strength of your hamstrings, glutes, and erectors, then you’ll want to explore performing different Romanian deadlift variations.
Bonus Tip: If you want even more glutes in your RDL, try adding a resistance band around your waist. Anchor it to a rack, and as you stand back up with your RDL, the band will apply additional resistance to the glutes as they extend.
Benefit 2: Increased Backside Mass
Another RDL benefit that will motivate almost everyone to perform them more often is that this exercise is great for building the muscles on the backside of your body.
Having nice quads is great, but a commanding pair of hamstrings and a strong set of glutes can take your lower body aesthetics to a whole new level. The RDL can be awesome for growing your glutes, hamstrings, and erectors.
- Hamstrings: These are the muscles on the back of your thighs. They are responsible for flexing the knee and extending the hip. During the RDL they lengthen when hinging the hips backwards
- Gluteus Maximus: This is the main muscle of the buttocks. It plays a major role in hip extension, especially during the lifting portion of the RDL.
- Erector Spinae: These are a group of muscles and tendons running along the spine. They are responsible for extending the vertebral column and maintaining desired postures. During the RDL, they work isometrically.
For hypertrophy-focused goals, you’ll want to pick RDL variations that align with your wants and needs. An example of this would be choosing a dumbbell RDL over a barbell RDL if you traditionally prefer or “feel” dumbbell RDLs more.
While there’s a lot of debate around the mind-muscle connection and its influence on hypertrophy — I think regardless of where you land on the argument — finding variations that you feel confident and comfortable with can be huge for gaining mass.
When building the glutes and hamstrings with Romanian deadlifts you’ll want to use a wide range of volumes and intensities and regularly take sets to failure.
On top of this, you may also want to explore using tempo, soft lockouts and adding a resistance band around the waist for an additional glute stimulus. All of these can be awesome tools for increasing time under tension which can influence hypertrophy gains.
Benefit 3: Stronger Sports Performance
I grew up playing hockey and I worked out all of the time, but I’d be lying if I said I did Romanian deadlifts that often, and I wish I did. The RDL can be a fantastic exercise for athletes from all walks of life.
This is why you’ll often see RDLs used in most high school and college strength & conditioning contexts. With endless variations and a plethora of benefits, if you’re an athlete don’t sleep on the RDL.
While every coach’s rationale will be slightly different in the context of “why” they’re programming the RDL throughout different points of the season, there are generally three reasons why RDLs make it into athlete’s workout programs.
1. Enhanced Posterior Chain Development:
The RDL predominantly targets the muscles of the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, which I discussed above.
In the context of sports, the glutes, hamstrings, and lower play a major role in things like running, jumping, and changing directions. Building the posterior chain and improving its capacity can enhance power output, speed, and overall explosive capabilities.
2 Improved Hip Hinge Mechanics:
The RDL emphasizes the hip hinge movement pattern, which is the act of bending at the hips while maintaining a relatively neutral spine. This movement is fundamental in numerous sports actions, from sprinting to lifting opponents in football and combat sports.
If you can get better and executing hip hinges, then you’ll also naturally get better at transferring and creating power through the hips. This can lead to better movement efficiency and even be useful in the context of injury prevention.
3. Enhancement of Core Stability and Balance:
During the RDL, you’ll be training muscles of the core, including the erectors, obliques, and rectus abdominis, as you use these to stabilize the spine. Core stability and being able to access this is vital not just for the RDL but for nearly every athletic movement.
A strong and stable core can enhance balance, force production, and reduce the risk of injury. On top of that, if you perform and program single-leg RDLs then you can get an additional balance and proprioceptive benefit.
Benefit 4: Better Eccentric Loading Capabilities
Another overlooked Romanian deadlift benefit is that they’re great for focusing on and improving your eccentric loading capabilities, especially through the hamstrings and glutes.
I briefly touched on this in benefits one and three above, but I want to elaborate further as to why training eccentrics can be so great, and why exercises like the RDL can be an awesome option for doing so.
Eccentric Muscle Contraction: Lengthening of a muscle. Think of stretching the hamstrings or the biceps when you’re straightening your arm.
1. Eccentrics Are Great for Improving Power Output, Mass, and Strength
Compared to concentric contractions, or the shortening of muscles, eccentrics actually create greater force even though it may not feel like it at times. As muscles lengthen, you’re stretching and putting greater tension on muscle fibers.
This increased amount of tension can lead to greater degrees of stress on the muscles you’re trying to train which can have a ton of carryover for mass and strength gains.
There have been multiple studies that have compared eccentric training to concentric-only training and they’ve suggested that eccentrics may yield better gains. (1) In reality, though, you’ll want a blend of contraction styles.
2. Useful for Injury Rehabilitation and Prevention
One of my part-time professions that I joke about is professional knee rehabber. I’m constantly battling aggravated quad tendons from all of my training, running, and explosive work (ruptured my quad in 2017). Eccentrics are a staple that I use for rehabbing my knees.
There have been studies that have suggested that using eccentrics can be a great tool for working around multiple issues, one of them being, patellar tendinopathy. (2) This is likely due to how eccentrics can also strengthen a tendon’s loading capabilities in addition to its strength.
3. Potential to Improve Your Flexibility and Mobility
I’m a big proponent of using exercises that you’re already doing to work on flexibility and mobility. At the end of the day, most exercises are arguably just loaded stretching.
By training your hips to work through deeper hinges, you can get a nice carryover to potentially improve how flexible and mobile your hamstrings and hips feel. This is also why using variables like tempo can have more than one benefit in the RDL.
Benefit 5: Real-World Carryover
Outside of sports, aesthetics, and strength output, the Romanian deadlift is also an exercise that can have some real-world benefits. The ability to hinge and load the hips is an action that we a lot in our day to day without even realizing it.
For example, think about the last time you did yardwork or chores around the house. How many times did you have to bend down to pick something up and place it back down on the ground gracefully.
Some examples that come to my mind in my personal life include lifting and lowering things like coolers to the ground from my truckbed when cleaning the garage and moving couches when vacuuming under them.
All that said, if you improve your hinge strength with the RDL, you’ll get a lot more than a nice burn on the hamstrings and glutes. You’ll also get improved abilities to navigate routine daily life experiences.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:What is an RDL?
Q:What are Romanian deadlifts good for?
Q:Are Romanian deadlifts worth doing?
The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is one of my favorite exercises to perform and program for clients. This exercise is dynamic and offers a ton of benefits for a wide range of applications.
This exercise is great for building mass and strength in the hamstrings and glutes, and it can have a nice positive benefit for your sports performance and daily life.
If you have additional questions about the RDL whether that be with their mechanics or benefits, drop a comment below or reach out to me via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).
1. Roig, M., O’Brien, K., Kirk, G., Murray, R., McKinnon, P., Shadgan, B., & Reid, W. D. (2009). The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine, 43(8), 556-568.
2. Malliaras, P., Barton, C. J., Reeves, N. D., & Langberg, H. (2013). Achilles and patellar tendinopathy loading programmes: a systematic review comparing clinical outcomes and identifying potential mechanisms for effectiveness. Sports Medicine, 43(4), 267-286.