Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift, What’s The Difference?

The deadlift is one of the best weight training workouts you can do to improve your strength and fitness.

And I absolutely love doing the deadlift.

Here’s why.

It gives a full-body workout, so if you only have time to do one exercise, it better be the deadlift.

It stretches the back muscles which for me are always super tight. 

They include the upper, lower back, hamstrings and glutes.

It will also increase your strength and muscular endurance significantly, especially in those areas.

Last but not least, it will improve your athleticism, making you a better athlete or weekend warrior. 

All that and more makes me really love the deadlift.

So whether you’re looking to build muscles, strength, or lose fat and increase your athleticism, the deadlift is a must do exercise.

But it only helps if you learn to do it right.

There are several different variations of the deadlift (conventional, Romanian, sumo, and trap). 

Of that, we will focus on two of the most popular ones: Conventional and Romanian.

The ones you’ll most likely do.

Let’s start with the regular deadlift.

Conventional (Standard) Deadlift

Deadlift, as its name implies, is a resistance training exercise that you lift “dead weights”.

Dead weight is referred to weight that has no momentum.

In all, the deadlift is an exercise that you lift weights that are on the ground.

Its all about lifting weights off the floor.

It can be as simple as bending down to pick something off the floor.

The conventional deadlift primarily uses glutes when lifting weights off the floor.

Because the traditional deadlift involves the whole body and glutes, it allows lifting of heavier weights than Romanian Deadlift.

You also use the quadriceps a lot more than you do doing the Romanian deadlift.

To do the conventional deadlift starts with the barbell resting on the floor. Set your feet hip-width apart and your toes under the bar slight turning out. Bend down and grasp the bar with a shoulder-width overhand grip. 

Lift your chest, arch your lower back, and position your hips lower than your shoulders. From this position, extend your hips and knees to pull the bar off the floor and stand up. 

Pause in the upright position for a second before pushing your hips back, bending your knees and putting the weight back down on the floor.

That’s it. Pretty simple, right?

Ok maybe not.

Also always keep these 4 tips in mind:

  • Keep your arms straight, elbows locked.
  • Drive your chin toward the ceiling as you lift the weight.
  • Press down on your heels.
  • Elevate your chest.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

Compared to the traditional deadlift, Romanian Deadlift is easier to learn and perform.

It’s mostly due to the difference in its starting point. Traditional deadlift starts by bending down.

With the standard deadlift, you start with the weights off the ground from the low point.

Romanian Deadlift, on the other hand, starts from a standing position with the barbell in your hands and bend down from your hips to a lower point where your flexibility allows you to reach.

In essence, Romanian Deadlift is reverse of the traditional deadlift.

It’s easier to learn if you are new to exercises.

Though it’s beginner friendly, its difficulty level can easily go up by adjusting exercise variables such as reps, sets, and resistance.

The Romanian Deadlift works your hamstrings and lower back much more than the conventional deadlift.

This is because Romanian Deadlift is performed with rather straight legs compared to the traditional deadlift with the knees bend and relies heavily on the quadriceps and glutes.

To perform the Romanian deadlift, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell in front of your thighs, using an overhand shoulder-width grip.

Bend your knees slightly and then keep them rigid throughout your set. Push your butt back, hinge forward from your hips and lower the bar down the front of your legs as far as your flexibility allows. Push your hips forward and stand back up.

Take Home Message

Target muscles are the main difference between the two exercises.

The one pick will depend on your exercise goal.

If you’re looking to lift more weights for strength and muscle gain, then the conventional deadlift may be a better choice because you can lift more weights with the standard deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift will help you improve your strength, as well as flexibility in the hamstrings and glutes.

But you won’t be able to lift as much weight as the standard or conventional deadlift.

I personally like to do both exercises.

Some days I may do the Romanian deadlift and other days, I may switch it up and do the regular deadlift.

Works Cited:

  • “Romanian Deadlift – Barbell (Underhand Grip).” Core Performance Core Daily. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
  • “Dead Lift.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
  • Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
  • “Five Reasons Everyone Should Deadlift.” Poliquin Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
  • “Take Your Deadlift From Suck to Sick.” Take Your Deadlift From Suck to Sick. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.
Misato Alexandre


After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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