Difference Between Deadlift and Romanian Deadlift

There is a huge difference between deadlift and Romanian deadlift, but for some reason, people mistake one for the other.

This isn’t a surprise, come to think of it, because both of them are, after all, deadlifts.

There are plenty of variations of the deadlift because the whole point of fitness is to come up with better ways to work different parts of your body and achieve optimal results.

We have the sumo deadlift, trap bar deadlifts, deficit deadlift, hack lift – the list is really long. Understanding the difference between the deadlift and the Romanian deadlift leaves you in a better place to decide what works for you. And also you do not want to embarrass yourself in front of your more fitness-savvy friends.


  • Place a barbell in front of you and slide both feet under the barbell
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Grab the bar with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Tuck your core and inhale deeply, then exhale exhaling without letting out any air
  • Hinge your hips to the start position and keep the back straight. Raise the barbell while and when it gets to the knees, think about driving your hips forward, and locking your hips and knees at the same time


  • Begin this exercise with the barbell on the rack
  • Grab a hold of the barbell just outside of your thighs
  • The height of the barbell should be in such a way that it induces a slight bend of the knees
  • Inhale and tuck your core, lift the barbells off the rack while at the same time extending your knees
  • Take 2-3 steps backward, all while maintaining shoulder-width between your feet
  • Bend your knees ever so slightly. Get used to this knee bend because you will be doing it throughout the exercise
  • Lift the barbell to the knee while transferring your weight to the heels
  • Keep the barbell about your thighs and allow your shoulders to travel over the barbell. If you feel the tension in your glutes and hamstring, you are on the right track.
  • With the barbell just below the knee, give your glutesĀ  a squeeze to drive your hips up and forward
  • Maintain that slight bend of the knee at the top



The first and most obvious difference between these two is the name. The deadlift is the original thing, the OG of all deadlifts from which all variations descend. It may also be described as the conventional or traditional deadlift.

The Romanian deadlift is quite a mouthful. This is why it is sometimes referred to simply as the RDL.


The conventional deadlift starts with the barbell on the floor, where you have to pick it up. On the other hand, you will begin the RDL from a standing position.


A key difference between the deadlift and the Romanian deadlift is that in the former, you start the workout by lifting the barbell up. This movement can be otherwise described as a concentric range of motion.

The Romanian deadlift on the other hand will have you move the barbell downward or employ an eccentric range of motion.

The other difference between deadlift and Romanian deadlift is that most instructors when guiding you to do the deadlift will ask you to use the knees to push off the floor.

When it comes to the Romanian deadlift, you will most likely be advised to generate a pull from the hips.


The right position of the shoulders when doing the deadlift is just a bit in front of the barbell.

To initiate a Romanian deadlift on the other hand will require you to position your shoulders a lot further in front of the barbell.


The conventional deadlift is a bit simple as compared to the variations that you could try. Thus, you can lift more weight when doing the traditional deadlift than you would when doing the Romanian deadlift.

When doing RDL, you can lift up to 40% of your initial d+eadlift between 8-10 reps. The percentage with the deadlift is much higher, can go up to 70% of the 1 rep max deadlift for 8-10 reps.


The conventional deadlift is very lower-body oriented. It engages the traps, your back, the core, hips, glutes, adductors, quads, and hamstrings.

To a lesser extent, the lifting movement may also engage your arms and the area around your core.

The Romanian deadlift works pretty much similar muscle groups in your body. The main difference between the deadlift and Romanian deadlift when it comes to muscles worked is that the RDL has its eyes more on the hamstrings and glutes, while the deadlift focuses a bit more on the quads.

This is not to say that the traditional deadlift does not work the glutes and hamstrings. It does, just not the extent and intensity as the RDL.

The RDL also engages the forearm flexors to a greater extent as compared to the traditional deadlift.


Most exercises involving the barbell require you to engage multiple muscle groups in order to coordinate the sometimes complex routines. The deadlift and the Romanian deadlift are no different.

They both, but more so the RDL, work muscles in both the upper and the lower body. The RDL works muscles in the back and also the glutes and hamstrings.

Both of these exercises also improve coordination, build strength, and are great for preventing injuries related to the hamstrings and hips.


What you might have realized by comparing the difference between deadlift and Romanian deadlift is the fact that they are both great strength exercises and at least one should find its way to your exercise routine.

However, start with the deadlift and master the technique if you are new to deadlifting.

The Romanian deadlift is more intense, needs more experience, and by virtue of its ability to work both the upper and lower body, has more rewards.

But do not just jump into it, you have to start somewhere!