If you’re a fitness enthusiast who works out with dumbbells, you should try the dumbbell Romanian deadlift. The Romanian deadlift is one of the best deadlift variations that help develop the strength of the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, gluteus, lower back, and adductors. Doing it with proper form will also strengthen your core and reduce the risk of lower back and hamstring injuries.
In this article, I will share all about the dumbbell RDL. For example, how to do DB RDL with proper form and techniques, what muscles it engages, and its benefits, variations, and alternatives.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Muscles Worked
The dumbbell RDL is one of the best compound exercises for developing posterior chain muscles, such as hams and glute. Let’s see how many muscles work during the DB Romanian deadlift.
It is located on the back of your thigh and has three separate muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. The first two muscles are located medially toward the midline, while the latter is situated laterally toward the outside. These muscles are responsible for the extension and flexion of the knees.
Gluteus or Butt
The Gluteus Maximus is one of the primary muscles engaged during the dumbbell RDL. It is one of the largest muscles of the lower body and is responsible for various activities, such as internal and external rotation of the thigh. Having solid glutes helps reduce low back and hams injuries and allows you to sit for a longer duration.
The Romanian DL isn’t primarily a lower back strengthening exercise but works on it when you bend and extend.
Other than the above three muscles, the dumbbell RDL also works on different muscles, such as the core, hips, and quadriceps, to some extent.
Dumbbell RDL Benefits
Let’s see the three crucial benefits of the dumbbell Romanian deadlift.
1. Helps Us Learn The Biomechanics Of Standing Hip Flexion And Extension
The Romanian deadlift helps us learn the proper movement and biomechanics of standing hip flexion And extension.1ACE Technique Series: Romanian Deadlift by Pete McCall
Learning the proper biomechanics of standing hip flexion and extension helps us in basic exercises like squatting and other deadlift variations. Whether you perform the squats or deadlift, the hip mechanics is important.
2. Strengthen Multiple Muscles Simultaneously
The RDL is a compound exercise that engages various muscles at once, especially the gluteus, hamstrings, and lower back. Strengthening these muscles lowers the risk of injuries and enhances jumping, running, deadlifting, and squatting performance. So if your goal is to increase strength and hypertrophy using the dumbbells only, you can incorporate it into your dumbbell training programs.
3. Enhance Balance and Flexibility
The different variations of DB RDL help improve balance and flexibility. For example, the single-leg RDL requires holding the body weight on one leg, keeping your torso parallel to the floor, and raising your other leg behind. These moves increase your ability to balance your body movements and enhance your flexibility.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Form and Technique
Life is not perfect, but exercises can be; if we follow the proper technique. For example, doing the dumbbell RDL with the appropriate form and technique reduces the risk of injuries and maximizes the results.
Here are some of the basic techniques to help you perform RDL effectively.
Breathing in and out during the pulling or lifting may cause strains or soreness – suggested in several studies. And it is true because when I had no idea about proper breathing during exercises, I often felt uneasy during or after the training. But when I started inhaling (through the nose) just before the lift and exhaling (through the mouth) after the lift, I felt the difference. So try this technique. I hope it will help.
2. Keep Your Back Straight, Chest up, and Core Tight
The common mistake made by most gym freaks is rounding the back during the Romanian deadlift, whether it’s a dumbbell or barbell variation. Keeping your back straight significantly reduces the lower back stress and injuries and properly engages the working muscles.
Moreover, you should keep your chest up and core tight during the movement to perform effectively. Keeping the core tight and chest up reduces the stress on the lower back and allow you to lift heavier.
3. Standing Through Heels
The primary muscle group that works during the RDL is the lower body. It is crucial to push through your heels to return to the standing position. Doing that engages the working muscles effectively and maximizes the results.
4. Avoid Locking out your knees
To avoid putting much stress on the lower back, you shouldn’t lock out your knees because it can be unsafe. So it would be good to fractionally bend your knees when your lower your body down to lift or lower the weights.
How To Do A Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand upright in a shoulder-width stance.
- Keep your arms straight in front of your thighs with your palms facing in.
- Pushing your hips back, slowly bend at your hips and lean your torso forward until your chest is parallel to the floor. You can slightly bend your knees.
- Pushing through your heels, focus on your posterior chain muscles and slowly return to the standing position until your hips are fully extended.
- Keep the dumbbells close to your body throughout the movement.
- Perform the suggested reps and sets.
Types of Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts
You can do different Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells, such as single-leg RDL, split stance RDL, and sumo Romanian Deadlift. I’ve shared the five variations which you can use interchangeably.
1. Single Leg Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
- Grab a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip and stand upright in the hip-width stance.
- Keep your arms straight at your sides with palms facing in.
- Slowly raise your right leg behind as you lower the dumbbell and your torso toward the floor.
- Pause for a moment once your leg and torso are parallel to the floor.
- Return to the standing position in a controlled fashion.
- Do as many reps as possible and then switch to another side.
2. Split-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
- Holding a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip, stand in the split stance.
- Hold the dumbbells in front of your thighs with your arms straight and palms facing the body.
- Lower your torso toward the floor as low as possible without bending your front knee.
- Pushing through your heel, extend your hips to return to the start.
3. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift with Band
- Place the band under your feet and stand on it in the hip-width stance.
- Wrap the opposite side of the bend in your hand and grab a dumbbell in each hand.
- Pull the dumbbell as you slowly extend your hips until you’re standing upright.
- Your arms should be straight throughout the movement.
- You’ll press your heels into the floor to get into standing.
4. DB Sumo RDL
- Holding one dumbbell with both hands, stand upright with your feet two times wider than hip-width. Keep your arms straight so the dumbbell stays in between your legs.
- Bend your hips to bring your torso forward until your chest is parallel to the ground.
- Keep your core tight and back straight throughout the movement.
5. Dumbbell Cross Body Romanian Deadlift
The dumbbell crossbody RDL is the same as usual and provides the same advantages. And the best thing is you can do it with only one dumbbell.
To perform this exercise, you’ll have to change only one thing. You’ll have to lower the weight toward the opposite side of your body instead of the same.
For example, you’ll need to lower the dumbbell toward your right foot if you hold it in your left hand and vice versa.
You can also do the one-leg dumbbell cross body Romanian deadlift to enhance your balance and flexibility while developing strength.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Doing DB RDL
Anyone can make a mistake if they don’t follow the proper technique. I will list a few common mistakes to avoid when you do the Romanian dumbbell with dumbbells.
- The most typical mistake people make rounding the back during the deadlift. Bending your back puts stress on your spine (that can cause injury) and isolates the wrong muscles.
- I’ve seen some people use the momentum while performing the RDL. Although, it isn’t that type of workout that is done at a fast pace. To target the muscles effectively, you need to perform it in a controlled manner, engaging posterior chain muscles.
- Avoid lifting too much weight if you want to perform the exercise efficiently. The RDL isn’t the kind of exercise where you’ll lift a heavy load. Lifting heavy dumbbells can degrade the performance and increase the risk of injury. And there’s no reason to take risks for something that is not important to you.
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Alternatives
- Barbell Romanian Deadlift
- Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Place a loaded barbell in front of you close to your feet.
- Stand upright in the shoulder-width stance.
- Slightly bend your knees and lower your torso to grab the bar with an overhand grip (maintain a neutral spine and keep your chest high).
- Keeping your core tight, push through your heels to return to standing. That is your one repetition.
- To perform the next rep, lower your torso as low as possible with a slight bend in your knees. And without landing the bar on the ground, push through your heels to return to the standing position.
- Repeat as many times as you like.
Dumbbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Place a pair of dumbbells on the floor in front of you, close to your feet.
- Stand straight in the hip-width stance.
- Lower your torso to grab the dumbbells with an overhand grip while keeping your leg stiff. As you lower your trunk, keep your back flat and chest high.
- Now, push through your heels to return to the standing position. That is your one repetition.
- Repeat the same steps but do not land the dumbbells on the floor to do the next repetitions.
Is Romanian Deadlift Good For the Lower back?
The RDL strengthens the posterior chain muscles, including the lower back, but it is not the primary targeted muscle. Yet, it is a good exercise to incorporate with other lower back strengthening exercises to solidify your muscles.
Are Romanian and Stiff Leg Deadlift The Same?
The Romanian and stiff leg deadlift look the same but technically different. The primary difference is the range of motion. For example, during the RDL, the dumbbells aren’t supposed to touch the ground; they stop at the shin level while dumbbells pass your shin and touch the floor during the stiff leg deadlift.
Dumbbell vs. Barbell RDL: Which One is Better?
Dumbbell and barbell RDL are both equally effective. With dumbbells, you can perform the Romanian deadlift in various ways, such as single-leg and crossbody, while the barbell has limited options. Moreover, dumbbells are slightly better than barbells for providing a range of motion and improving your balance and hip hinge movement. On the other hand, the barbell allows you to lift more weight and increase muscular growth. So depending on your fitness goal, you can do one of them or both of them interchangeably.
The Romanian dumbbell deadlift is an excellent exercise to strengthen the various lower body muscles, especially hamstrings.
You can do the different variations as I have mentioned above in this article. The best thing is, it doesn’t require much space, so you can easily do it at home.
However, If you feel pain in the lower back after doing the RDL, use a gym belt as it may protect your back from injuries and allow you to lift heavier weight. If you still feel uncomfortable with this exercise, it would be best to consult a personal trainer.
- 1ACE Technique Series: Romanian Deadlift by Pete McCall