Barbell Romanian Deadlift

How To Do A Barbell Romanian Deadlift
By Alli McKeeFebruary 11, 2016

Barbell Romanian Deadlift Exercise

The barbell Romanian deadlift is a great exercise to strengthen the musculature of the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) and hips, the muscles of the lower, mid and upper back, scapula stabilizers, upper arms, forearms, and core.

Equipment needed:

A barbell should be used for this exercise. A traditional barbell may be used, and to increase the resistance users may add weight plates to each side. Some gyms have fixed weight barbells which are shorter than a traditional barbell and the resistance is not adjustable. These fixed weight barbells often increase in resistance by 5-10 pounds (50 lbs, 55 lbs, 60 lbs, 65 lbs, and so on).

Ability level:


The barbell Romanian deadlift may be too advanced for women who are just beginning to strength train. Beginners may prefer to start with a different deadlift variation which allows them to start with a lighter resistance, or one that is slightly less technical. Great deadlift exercise options for beginners include resistance band deadlifts, band pull-throughs (teaches the hip hinge), kettlebell Romanian deadlifts, dumbbell Romanian deadlifts, and landmine Romanian deadlifts.


The barbell Romanian deadlift is a great option for lifters who have an intermediate level of experience, and who have mastered some of the deadlift variations listed above for beginners. Intermediate lifters should place the barbell Romanian deadlift towards the beginning of the workout as it is important to perform this exercise when you are mentally and physically fresh. If you are also going to be performing heavy conventional or sumo deadlifts, do these first and then opt for some higher rep Romanian deadlifts and with less resistance, or vice versa. If a full body workout is being performed, the barbell Romanian deadlift can be paired with some type of pushing or pulling movement, but don’t pair it with any exercise that will compromise grip strength, or one that will fatigue the core muscles. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps of the barbell Romanian deadlift.


Women who are comfortable with the barbell Romanian deadlift may choose to use this deadlift variation as well as increase their weight/resistance for multiple sets (2-4+) of fewer repetitions (3-6). The barbell Romanian deadlift may also be used as part of a conditioning circuit or barbell complex, but only once a high level of technical proficiency has been achieved. Lifters can also perform negative reps and really focus on the eccentric component, can add chains/bands for additional resistance, or can perform the single leg Romanian deadlift variation. The Romanian deadlift is one of a few barbell deadlift variations. Lifters can also perform the barbell sumo Romanian deadlift where their stance will be much wider and their hands will be on the inside of their legs.

Benefits of Barbell Romanian Deadlifts:

There are many Romanian deadlift benefits. How a woman chooses to use a Romanian deadlift is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much weight is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general barbell Romanian deadlifts can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing lower body strength, primarily in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing upper body strength in the lats, traps, upper arms and forearms
  • increasing core strength in the erectors, scapula stabilizers, and the anterior core
  • building muscle, especially in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing speed and power, which will be beneficial to running, jumping, and other sports specific movements
  • increasing performance in the weight room
  • increasing athleticism and sports specific performance
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • increasing flexibility

How to perform a Barbell Romanian Deadlift:

All of the tips below will give you the technical proficiency to do a Romanian deadlift, and constitute good Romanian deadlift form:

  • Place a loaded barbell on the outside of a squat rack and at about hip height as this makes picking up the bar and setting up very simple. If you are starting from the floor, you want to make sure that you lift the weight into the starting position with the same form as you would during a barbell conventional or sumo deadlift. If you are not using bumper plates or 45 lb weights, you might want to set the barbell up on blocks or weight plates so you don't have to compromise your form to pick up the weight. You want to keep a neutral spine at all times.
  • Your hands should be just on the outside of your legs.
  • Grip the bar so your palms are facing you. If you are lifting a heavy weight and for low reps, you can opt for a mixed grip, but aim to use a regular grip for the majority of your sets.
  • Set your feet so they are about hip width apart and facing straight ahead, and keep a slight bend in your knees. About a 15-20 degree angle is optimal.
  • Before you go, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach), and lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection).
  • Now push/hinge your hips backwards as far as you can (while maintaining a neutral spine and not bending at the waist or rounding the upper back) and slide the barbell down your body so it grazes your legs the entire time. In terms of the hip hinge, you can pretend that a rope is attached around your hips and is pulling you backwards, or pretend that you are trying to reach back with your glutes and touch a wall that is behind you. You should feel tension in your hamstrings the entire time. It is crucial that you maintain a neutral spine at all times.
  • Once you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings, return to the starting position by driving through the mid-back of your feet (but keep your toes down) and pressing your body away from the floor, squeezing your hamstrings and glutes, and pushing your hips forward. Even if you don't feel a stretch in your hamstrings, if you feel your spine rounding, this is a sign that you have gone too low. With this (and many exercises), lower doesn't always mean better.
  • As you return to the starting position, lock out by squeezing your glutes and pushing your hips into the bar, extend your knees by squeezing your quads and hamstrings, brace your core, and actively tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection).
  • Create tension in your upper body by squeezing your upper arms into your arm sides. You can even pretend that you are crushing something in your armpits. Also, bring your shoulder blades together and down and pretend that you are tucking each one in the opposite back pocket of your pants.
  • Keep your chest up for the entire lift but do not over arch your back. You can pretend that you are showing the logo on your shirt to a person who is standing in front of you.
  • Keep your chin tucked and neck in neutral alignment. Many lifters make the mistake of looking up.
  • Reset, and repeat.
  • When you deadlift, wear flat shoes, or bare feet.

Video Transcription: 

To properly perform a barbell Romanian deadlift there are a few key points that you need to remember. First and foremost, the barbell Romanian deadlift is a hinge exercise, not a squat. So you’re going to be picking up the barbell, holding it right up against your legs and pushing back into your hips. You’re not squatting the weight down.

So I have a barbell loaded up here with clips in either side, which is really important because if you’re going to pick up the barbell a little bit off kilter you don’t want the weight sliding off. The other thing you want to remember is before you hinge, you want to make sure your core is nice and braced. You’re going to take a deep breath in through your nose, blow your air out, get your ribcage down and brace your core as you push back into your hips. The weight’s going to drag right down near your legs and, you’ll notice that my spine is nice and neutral so that if I had a broomstick on my back it would touch my tail bone, my upper back, and the back of my head. I’m going to stop when I feel like my hamstrings catch and then I’m going to reverse the motion by bringing my hips and squeezing my glutes. At the top I’m going to make sure not to finish with my spine but finish with my glutes and what I mean by that is when I push back into my hips I’m not going to finish by arching my back, I’m going to finish by pulling my glutes under and squeezing.

So I’ll show you what it looks like. Make sure you pick up the barbell properly. Okay, I’m here, it’s right up against my legs. I’m going to take a nice deep breath in, let my air out, ribs down, embrace my core. As I push back the barbell just going to drag right down my legs. I’m going to maintain a neutral spine and stop when my hamstrings catch and then I’m going to reverse the motion to come back up squeezing my glutes at the top. Push back into my hips, so knees are soft, spine is neutral and core is braced.


Want to learn more about the women’s health and fitness issues you care most about?

Get Access to Our Free 5-Day Courses

Find the most up-to-date and helpful resources for tackling body image struggles, pre- & postnatal training issues, and everything in between.

Whether you’re a health and fitness professional looking to level up your knowledge or a woman wanting to feel stronger, fitter, and more confident, get the advice you can trust from the experts at Girls Gone Strong.

About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

More Resources

envelope-oclosechevron-upchevron-downbookmark-otwitterfacebookchainbars linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram