The Romanian Deadlift

Form talk starts at about 9 minutes into the video. The first 9 minutes explains the rationale behind doing them.

If you’re like me and sit most of the day your hamstrings are probably as tight as an 18 year old Korean girl’s snatch. I started doing Romanian deadlifts as part of an olympic lifting program (MSU Experimental program). They’re great and I can feel my formerly weak and tight hamstrings getting stronger. I’m feeling more explosive out of the bottom of my squats, deadlift numbers are going up and its helping with the snatch and clean+jerk movement patterns. I am by no means an expert, so watch some videos, read some articles or ask a coach to see if you’re doing them right. I am only raising awareness about this exercise.

korean girl


  • Start with a light weight, the RDL is an assistance movement to strengthen and stretch the hamstrings. Don’t do it if you want to throw around big weights, that’s what the deadlift is for.
  • Get into a conventional deadlift stance: feet hip width apart, double overhand grip at all times and a grip just outside your thighs. Lift the weight up and hold it in the hang position. (You can also start from a rack)
  • From the hang position unlock your knees (at no point should you be bending them more than this)
  • Drive your ass back, keep your shoulders tight and your back flat. Driving your ass back will lower the weight for you, don’t try to lower it like a normal deadlift.
  • The bar must be in contact with your thighs at all times, pull it in with your lats.
  • Drive your ass back and lower the bar until your back is completely parallel. You don’t want to have the weight touch the floor as it will break the tension in your hamstrings. The bottom position is when you start to feel your back unlocking.
  • From the bottom position raise the bar back to the hang position making sure your knees are only unlocked and not flexing.
  • Repeat.

There you have it, a relatively simple movement designed to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings. Because it is an assistance exercise do sets of 5, 8 or 10 and do them relatively light. Avoid lifting with your ego at all times, if you go too heavy then you defeat the purpose of the movement. Start light and slowly add more weight. My last session I did 185lbs 3×5 and my deadlift 1RM is 405lbs.

eastern european women romanian model madalina diana ghenea
Romania has more to offer than hot chicks.

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27 thoughts on “The Romanian Deadlift”

  1. Good post, thanks. Most of all the value is in the video, but the comparison of hamstrings with a Koreans 18 year old’s vagina was also very good.

    1. I think this post was unfair to 18-year-old Koreans with loose vaginas. Seriously, have some consideration for other people’s feelings.

    1. To my knowledge there isn’t more injury risk from an RDL compared to a normal deadlift. This is assuming proper form is adhered to at all times. If you’re going to injure yourself in a deadlift its going to be at maximal weights and/or with improper form. The RDL is an assistance exercise performed at submaximal weights for 5-10 reps. I could see you injuring yourself if you:
      – think its a stiff legged deadlift and try to lift with your back. The load should be on your hamstrings not on your back. (the RDL is NOT a stiff legged deadlift)
      – you round your back. You shouldn’t have enough weight on the bar for this to happen. The guy in the video is lifting 225lbs and it looks tough for him, he probably deadlifts much more than 225lb. Round backs can also come from going past your range of motion (RoM will increase over time)
      – have really bad hip mobility or an imbalance in your muscles which would be caused from shitty lifting anyways.
      – you let the bar go out in front of you. More shearing forces on the spine.
      – you use an alternating grip. Again you shouldn’t have so much weight on the bar that you have to use an alternating grip. Use straps if you don’t want to fatigue your grip.

      1. Awesome post, I don’t get why this site has so many hater trolls.
        I think I’ll try this lift tomorrow, and if I like it I’ll integrate it into my routine.
        Keep up the good work.

      2. @XDays – I’m not a hater troll. Have been contributing here for a long time kiddo. Go wash your diapers.

    2. @Old Horndog: Well if this drivel is the kind of input you offer, perhaps you should reconsider offering input at all, because it definitely comes across as trolly. Comments like these quickly annoy lifters. It’s the same type of comment as “Squats are bad for the knees”.

  2. Good stuff. Maybe next time more details on the Korean snatch you mentioned earlier on. Maybe a bit on how to deadlift a Romanian chick. Or a Romanian chick and a Korean chick deadlifing together…or each other. Or how to lift a dead Romanian hooker into a trunk or….too soon?

    1. I prefer the “clean and plow” for my Romanian girls. Clean the girl normally and from there dump her on the nearest pillowy surface. If you have correct technique she should land on her back with her legs spread open. Superset these with your preferred method of explosive hip/glute work.

  3. I’m curious where the popular fixation in recent years on various powerlifts comes from, squats and deadlifts in particular. A lot of Rippetoe’s advice has been explicitly geared to young American Football players. In that sport putting on mass and lower back strength is critical in certain positions. But if deadlifting (romanian or not) and squatting aren’t helping you achieve a specific athletic goal I really have to question the utility. Substantially bulking up muscles in your thighs and midsection will not help you in anything but a couple athletic pursuits. It will actually slow you down for many things, and detract from better sport specific forms of training. Always bet against the “puffed up” fighter.
    More importantly, the aesthetics are bad. Look at Rippetoe and the guy in the red shirt in the video. They have huge asses and bulging muscles around the hip bones. They are clearly strong as fuck but it just doesn’t look good. There are studies confirming that lower body development is irrelevant to female attraction: what women see is the shoulder to waist and waist to hip ratios. Bulking up your thighs, ass, waist, and hips with muscle will impair the ideal ratios.
    Let me qualify: If your one rep max deadlift is under 300# you are weak and will benefit from squats and deadlifts for most athletic endeavors. That’s probably 95% of American men. But if poundage is a lot higher than that I gotta ask: Why increase it? What’s the goal?
    I’m not trolling. I’m speaking from a personal mistake. I spent a few years pushing up my lifts a lot. Then I figured out how badly this training (squats and deadlifts in particular) was actually detracting from capacity in my sport, despite my intentions. Equally importantly, I couldn’t find quality pants and jeans that fit. The expensive designer stuff really is tailored to ideal aesthetic proportions and if you can’t fit into it you should consider making yourself fit into it.
    I just find it curious that power/olympic-lifts turned into this big thing on the internet. Why aren’t dudes talking about their 100m sprint times? I mean really, that’s probably THE ideal form of fitness for a lot of reasons. Just blathering; really not trying to shit on anyone’s hobby.

    1. Sam, I can assure you, those 100m sprinters have some of the most impressive deadlift/squat numbers, 2-2.5 times their body weights. So, you instantly lose some credibility in your last paragraph.
      Bottom line is this: Olympic lifts and other compound movements simply make you stronger and help build muscle, not to mention boost your testosterone. You start seeing the benefits in other exercises and an overall increase in your fitness levels. Combine them with body-weight exercises like push-ups/pull-ups, sprints, a core exercise or two like planks and hanging leg raises, and you are ahead of 95% (if not more) of the male population.

      1. First of all, 2X bodyweight 1 rep deadlift is intermediate. Any healthy dude can build up to that in short order. I have heard this claim that 100m and 200m sprinters do impressive powerlift weights from various web punters, but I can’t believe successful sprinters train much on them without credible citation. I mean, just look at Usain Bolt: that is quite simply not the body of a deadlifter. Look at an olympic lifter or track cyclist for comparison; those guys definitely put up numbers. I have read a couple detailed personal accounts of 400m training regimens and they definitely don’t deadlift. In my own personal experience squats and deadlifts, beyond a low stress supplemental usage, slow one down and reduce endurance. Most critically, they present a huge stressor that detracts from recovery from more specific training.
        I’m tipsy and babbling, and have no quibble with your second paragraph. The vast majority of guys should probably incorporate the deadlift and squat to build a base level of strength. These days I find occasional snatches and weighted pistol squats more than sufficient, having detailed above how concern with deadlift/squat weight in my case proved detrimental.

      2. Sam, you bring up a valid point. People tend to fixate on a certain coach’s dogma without asking themselves what their real goal is. Jason Ferruggia wrote a good editorial way back when (can’t find the link) explaining why for a lot of people a good goblet or kettlebell squat was sufficient and safer than trying to teach them to master the barbell back squat. Figure out your goal, then train to meet that goal.
        Personally, I love RDLs, and increasing my volume of RDLs while dropping my conventional deadlift down to 2x a month has done wonder to fix the anterior/posterior imbalance that was crippling me and leaving me with a ton of lower back pain. I think everyone should RDL their face off, especially if you’re after aesthetics because they build kick ass looking hamstrings.
        Regarding Rip, he doesn’t really give a fuck how he looks, and eats poorly. Go look at Justin Lascek, who was a protege of Rip’s and author of the Texas Method. Follows same principles, eats clean, looks fantastic. Diet is 75-percent of aesthetics in my opinion.

    2. Well, it’s not like powerlifters ignore upper body work. Most people who are into this kind of stuff do various kinds of presses and what not, so there’s absolutely no imbalance whatsoever. You make it sound like as though powerlifters only do squats and deadlifts and nothing else.
      As for clothes, it’s no big deal. Clothing is versatile, it shouldn’t be difficult to find something to fit their meaty legs.
      Also, being able to move around a shit ton of weight just feels great. Makes you feel powerful. And trying to get stronger is an addiction to itself.

    3. Squat, deadlift, do Bench Press AND pull-ups. Over development of your upper body to your lower body can cause injury. If your legs are too weak to support your upper body your ankles and knees will hurt from the stress. The guys in the vid are strongmen, not fitness models, not bodybuilders, they are strongmen. A strongman’s physique is very different from the other examples. Just look at the bodybuilders and fitness models who are BOTH strong and well proportioned. Mike O’hearn comes to mind. Chris Cormier and Flex Wheeler as well. Strongmen make money from lifting, not from aesthetics, BUT their advice to get strong is utilized by trainers of aesthetics.:)

      1. “Over development of your upper body to your lower body can cause injury. If your legs are too weak to support your upper body your ankles and knees will hurt from the stress.”
        The only people I’ve ever seen whose legs were too weak to support their upper bodies were parapalegics, obese or had been laid up in a hospital bed due to a really bad injury.
        How many male gymnasts have bad knees and ankles because their sport is upper-body oriented?

    4. Basically I think because it’s easier to build up squat and deadlift numbers that look impressive to people who don’t know any better, while it’s a lot harder to have a massive bench press and even harder to get to an elite level overhead press, standing or seated. I’ll always say that a 150lb. gymnast holding an iron cross is head and shoulders superior a 230lb powerlifter squatting 460 or deadlifting 550.

  4. I just image searched those three guys and I hate to break it to you but they look ridiculous. There’s a reason they sell bodybuilding supplements to the people who buy bodybuilding magazines and not underwear to the mass market.
    BTW, that sort of musculature is only possible with drugs.

    1. Mike O’Hearn, drug free. You can look up Fitness Models all day.:) They train heavy.:) Even youtube search “Natural Bodybuilders” they train drug free and heavy. And look up the documentary “I Wanna Look Like That Guy.” Regular guy training heavy, drug free.

    2. sam check out Stan Efferding. hes won bodybuilding competitions and has a >2200 total and a bunch of records. The same stuff you’re saying could be said about aesthetics. Chicks dig muscular dudes. If you’re ripped they couldn’t care less how you got that way and you sure don’t need the ideal proportions to attract a woman.
      You’re also assuming the only benefits of lifting are physical. Read “The Iron” by Henry Rollins. Lifting is a great mental exercise too, it builds toughness and discipline. Train for your personal benefit, not to make chicks wet.

  5. Already fucked up my back doing this. I challenged that point he’s talking about where the lower back begins to unlock. My fault too – been doing the exercise correctly for a long time but decided to “push myself.” Idiot…

  6. Best hamstring exercise, period. Don’t waste your time doing leg curls – a lift with no functional benefits. The RDL has been a staple in my workout routines for the past few years.

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