How To Perform The Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells (A Quick Guide)

The Romanian deadlift was invented by the Romanian weightlifter Nicu Vlad ( he performed this exercise with a barbell but it can also be done with dumbbells). Nicu was incredibly strong ( he could front squat 700lbs/ 317.5kg for a double). So when someone is that strong people listen.


This exercise first came about when people saw Nicu doing an unfamiliar exercise.


During this exercise Nicu would:

Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells


1. Unrack a loaded barbell from the lower part of the rack or safety pins and stand with the barbell hanging in his hands.
2. Start the exercise by slightly unlocking his knees and lowering the bar down his thighs in a straight line. The barbell didn’t go any further than a few inches past his knees. The barbell didn’t touch the floor.
3. He would then contract his hamstrings and glutes to bring the bar back up to his hips where it began. He would then repeat the exercise for the required amount of reps
As he was Romanian, this exercise was coined the Romanian deadlift.
This exercise is traditionally done with an Olympic barbell, but it can also be done with dumbbells. And in this article, I’ll be covering the dumbbell form.

The Muscles Targeted In The Romanian Deadlift

The main muscles worked in the Romanian deadlift also called the RDL for short are your hamstrings and glutes. This minimizes the work the hips and quads need to do compared to the conventional deadlift.
Because this exercise starts with a lowering phase and then finishes with a raising phase. This causes more delayed onset muscle soreness compared to a conventional deadlift.

How To Perform The Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells

Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells

1. Pick up some dumbbells from the rack that you can control.
2. Stand up with each dumbbell in your hands. Your palms should be facing your thighs.
3. Unlock your knees slightly and keep your chest up and arch your back just a small amount.
4. Lower the dumbbells down your thighs and push your hips back so that your shoulders are in line with the dumbbells.
5. Make sure you bring the Dummbells as low as you can without your back unlocking out of extension.
6. Once you can go as low as you can while keeping a neutral back angle bring the dumbbells back up to where they started.

Extra Form Tips

1. Focus on controlling the dumbbells on the way down and exploding them up on the way up.
2. You’ll get to a point where your hamstrings, back and glutes are stronger than your grip. You’ll notice this when you’re struggling to hang on to the heaviest dumbbells mid-set. At this point invest in a pair of lifting straps.
3. Keep your lower back straight and your chest up.
4. Always use a full range of motion. If you shortcut your range of motion you’ll be able to lift more weight but it will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. So make sure to always use a full range of motion. Read that again.
5. Breathe properly. Make sure you brace. This can be accomplished by:

  • Taking a deep breath into your diaphragm at the top of the exercise.
  • Tensing your abs like someone is going to punch you in the stomach.
  • Performing the full rep while holding your breath and resetting your breath at the top of each rep.

Bracing will help you stabilise your trunk during the exercise and will give you a boost in strength.

4 Benefits Of The Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells

1. It takes your glutes and hamstrings through a long range of motion which is excellent for muscular development.
2. It will help to increase your strength at the conventional deadlift. This is because the hamstrings and glutes are very important for that exercises as well.
3. Dumbbells can be found in almost any gym in the world, whereas barbells can sometimes be a rarity. This makes dumbbell RDLS an easy exercise to replicate as they can be found in most gyms throughout the world.
4. It trains the hip hinge movement pattern. A hip hinge is where you bend at the hips while keeping your lower back neutral. Many people round their back excessively in daily life. Strengthening this movement pattern can go a long way in preventing injury.

A Romanian Deadlift Focused Leg Workout

1. Leg Press – 8-10 rep range for 3 sets.
2. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts – 8-10 rep range for 3 Sets.
3. Leg Extensions – 8 – 10 rep range for 3 sets.
4. Calf Raises – 8 – 10 rep range for 3 sets.

Notes On The Workout

Always perform a warm-up for the first leg exercise of the day. In this case, it’s the leg press. After that, your body should be warmed up enough to go straight into Romanian deadlifts.
Once you can lift a given weight for 10 reps put it up by 5kg for the leg press and for the RDL use the next dumbbell up and aim for 8 reps for the subsequent set/ sets.
Here’s how your first 3 sets might go when performing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift:


Set 1 – 30kg x 10 reps.

Set 2 – 32kg x 8 reps.

Set 3 – 32kg x 8 reps.

The Bottom Line On The Romanian Deadlift With Dumbbells

  • The benefits of the Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells are pretty much equal to RDL’s with a barbell. Include them both in your routine for the best results.
  • Make sure you practice proper form for this exercise to maximise its effectiveness and to reduce the chance of injury.
  • Eventually, your leg and back strength will outpace your grip strength, when this happens make sure you buy some lifting straps.

Thanks for reading, what’s your favourite type of deadlift? Let me know in the comments below.
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