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How to Properly Do a Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells

Don't let the name fool you—this exercise is for everyone. Because the Romanian deadlift (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) engages the muscles in the back of your body that other exercises don't always hit, it's a must-do for anyone looking to get (and stay) strong.

The big difference between the Romanian deadlift and the conventional deadlift is that, during this move, your hips don't go as far down, which loads the hamstrings more, explains Stephany Bolivar, CrossFit coach and personal trainer at ICE NYC.

That's key for women, who tend to have stronger quadriceps muscles than hamstring muscles—a muscle imbalance that's been linked to ACL injuries in female athletes. Having a greater balance between the two muscle groups can also indicate better running performance, according to a study of female runners. (This workout will help you identify and fix other common muscle imbalances.)

Romanian Deadlift Benefits and Variations

Similar to the conventional deadlift, the Romanian deadlift works your posterior chain, which includes your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. This move also involves core engagement, so you'll build strength and stability there, too.

"Because of how high the hips are during this movement, you may not be able to lower the weights as far down as you can in your conventional deadlift," says Bolivar. Don't compromise form for distance traveled just because you have limited mobility in your hamstrings, she advises. (Don't worry, you can improve your mobility.)

If you're new to deadlifting, start out with light weights until you feel comfortable with the movement. From there, you can progressively increase the load. (You can stick with dumbbells or try doing a barbell deadlift.) Need to scale back? Don't lower the weights as far. To increase the challenge, change your foot position to a staggered stance, and eventually, try a single-leg deadlift.

How to Do a Romanian Deadlift

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and knees soft, holding dumbbells in front of hips with palms facing thighs.
B. Keeping spine in neutral position and squeezing shoulder blades, start sending the hips back.
C. Lower dumbbells in front of shins, keeping them close to the body. Once they pass the knees, do not allow the hips to sink further. 
D. At the bottom of the movement, maintain a neutral spine and drive through heels to fully extend hips and knees, squeezing glutes at the top.

Romanian Deadlift Form Tips

  • Keep dumbbells close to the body throughout the movement.
  • Avoid rounding the back at any point.
  • For strength, do 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps, building up to a heavy weight.
  • For endurance, do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

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