The difference between a Classic and a Romanian deadlift is not entirely clear to many, even tho both exercises have different aims and thus target different muscle parts. 


Which muscles are trained in the Romanian Deadlift? 

The hamstring muscles that are trained are composed of:

  • M. semitendinosus
  • M. semimembranosus
  • M. biceps femoris


Hamstrings are biarticular muscles meaning that except for one part (caput breve) they cross both the hip joint and the knee joint.


With Romanian deadlift, you are training pure hip extension where the gluteus and hamstrings contract to straighten out the hips.

The Romanian deadlift must not be carried out with stretched-out legs, because as a result the length will be compensated by rounding out the lower part since the movement length of most of us is simply too short.

The knees should be straight during the exercise. It is by no means advisable to go deeper to achieve more movement length. Furthermore, it becomes increasingly difficult to pass the knees in the movement, and thus the holding work of the anterior thigh muscles increases sharply. 

Beginners often confuse the Romanian deadlift as a variant of the Classic deadlift. However, the Romanian deadlift is not a variant, but an exercise type on its own, which follows completely different principles from the Classic deadlift. Accordingly, the muscle groups that are trained in the Romanian deadlift are also different. 

The Romanian deadlift utilizes the stretching and shortening cycle of the muscle. You could compare it to a rubber band, in which the energy from the complete stretch can be transferred to the backward movement.

Romanian deadlift

  • utilizes stretching and shortening cycle 
  • knees remain slightly bent
  • weight only goes up to chin height
  • exercise focuses more on the hamstrings and buttocks

Proper execution of Romanian deadlift

During the exercise, the pelvic moves back while you move the weight down. The knees stay slightly bent during the exercise.

Keep your arms and dumbbell bar close to the body and try to keep the dumbbells near your legs during the whole movement.  The closer to the body, the better.  The hands holding the bar should be set up shoulder-width apart, while your feet stay parallel to the floor and the pelvis stays tilted during the whole exercise.  Keep a hollow back throughout the whole Romanian deadlift. 

It is important to warm up your body beforehand with low weights!


Who benefits from the exercise?

In the field of body forming, it brings large benefits.  If you would like to train your thigh and buttocks, you are very well served with this exercise. In the hamstrings especially, you can get results that are incomparable to results you would get with other exercises. 

The back extensor is less involved here than in the classic deadlift, but the workout is still clearly noticeable.  The exercise might be attractive for rehabilitation patients or beginners because the weight is close to the body and other muscles do most of the work so that the back extensor can be trained safely. 


Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

If you would like to try the Romanian deadlift at home, you don’t necessarily need a barbell. The same effects can also be achieved with dumbbells.

Just like with the barbell, the dumbbells should be grasped with the upper grip (back of the hand points outwards) and slightly pressed against the thigh during the exercise.

The weights should not be too light, as we are dealing with large and strong muscle groups. For women, 2 x 10 kg dumbbells should work to get started well and for men, 2 x 20 kg is a good weight for the beginning.


References: Rumänisches Kreuzheben: Ausführung | Varianten | Muskeln (

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