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How To Do a Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift, also known as the dumbbell RDL, is a strength training exercise containing a series of motions that target the lower back, core glutes, and hamstrings. Once you know how to do a Romanian deadlift with dumbbells properly, you can improve your balance, boost flexibility, and fortify your muscles. 

How To Do a Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a technique where you keep the legs straighter than a traditional deadlift, with a slight bend in the knee. Instead of lifting a barbell, you use the core and lower back to lift dumbbells while glutes and hamstring support your stance.

Woman holding a set of dumbbells with both hands

Now, if you’re ready to learn the Romanian deadlift with dumbbells, here are simple steps to follow that should help you create the proper form and movements.  

Assume a Standing Position

Place your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the dumbbells in front of the hips with your palms facing inward. Maintain a slight bend in the knees. Keep the spine in a neutral position and squeeze your shoulder blades. 

Engage Your Core and Lower the Dumbbells

Without changing the bend in your knees, use the hamstrings to bend at the hips and lower the torso until it’s nearly parallel to the floor. 

As you continue to push your butt back and keep the hips high, you should feel a stretch in the hamstrings as you lower the weights in front of the shins. Make sure to inhale and hold the weights close to the body for at least five seconds. 

If you feel lots of tension in the butt and the back of your thighs, you’re doing it right; keep going! Pinch the shoulders together and chest tall to maintain a flat back throughout the entire movement. Drive through your heels and stand while squeezing the glutes at the top. 

Return to Standing Position

To reverse the motion, push both heels into the floors, press the hips forward, and pull back on the knees. Allow the dumbbell to return to the front of the thighs. 

A man and a woman holding dumbbells with both their hands

Once you pull back on the knees, you’ll engage the hamstring’s distal attachments and the adductor muscles that help extend the knee when the foot is in a closed-chain position. 

If dumbbells reach your knees, do not bend the knees further. Thrust your hips forward and return to the starting position. 

Repeat As Necessary

If you are new to RDL dumbbell, choose light dumbbells or at least five-pound ones. For strength buildup, do three to five sets of five reps, building up to a heavy dumbbell weight. For endurance goals, execute three sets of 12 to 15 reps. 

Once you become comfortable with your form, you can grab a pair of heavier dumbbells and complete more reps and sets.

Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells Variations

After mastering the basics of dumbbell RDL, it’s time to start trying other variations. Here are the two most popular routines: 

Staggered Stance RDL 

To increase the challenge, change your foot position using the following steps:

  1. For this type of dumbbell RDL, the first thing to do is to step one foot behind you, resting on the foot’s ball and toes for balance. 
  2. Make sure that the back leg’s heel is not on the ground. Think of it as a kickstand — you’re using the heel to keep you steady while focusing on the front leg for the stance. 
  3. Follow the steps on a normal dumbbell RDL, except that you have one foot forward while the second leg is behind for support. 
  4. It’s okay if you feel like you can’t go down as far as touching the floor. Don’t force it at the expense of hurting your back. Go as far as your mobility guarantees good form and breathing patterns.
Woman doing a Romanian deadlift technique with dumbbells

Single-Leg RDL

This one’s more challenging because you’ll be training your body while improving balance. 

  1. After grabbing one or two dumbbells, stand with your legs slightly apart, and knees a bit bent.  
  2. Keep your head in a neutral spine and back straight. 
  3. Lift one knee straight up in front of you. 
  4. Kick the leg back and keep a neutral spine while dropping the weight.
  5. Think of the stance like a dipping animal toy — as the head goes down, the tail goes up. The same applies to single-leg RDL’s stance: as you push your head down, one of your legs goes up. It’s like having a long straight line moving together. 
  6. Get low as your body comfortably allows. 
  7. Contract and squeeze the glute extending your hips.
  8. Lift your knee back up to starting position.

Most Common Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Mistakes

Whether you commit mistakes intentionally or not, keep in mind that they can impact your movements. Worse, mistakes can lead to serious injuries. To ensure you can do dumbbell RDLs safely, avoid these common mistakes: 

Rounding the Back 

This is the most typical mistake people do during a Romanian deadlift with dumbbells. Whenever you make an athletic motion, it’s crucial to stabilize the body before moving. 

Before hinging at the waist, remember to pinch the shoulder blades together to keep the back straight. Likewise, you must tighten the core to make the abs engaged. By doing so, you reduce the risk of injury while doing a dumbbell RDL. 

A pair of dumbbells on the ground

Locking Out the Knees 

While it’s tempting to bend the knees too much during a dumbbell Romanian deadlift, locking out the knees can be dangerous. This mistake can cause the dumbbells to swing far out in front of the knee, applying a lot of stress on the lower back.

Hence, keep your knees slightly unlocked. Focus on holding the dumbbells close to your body as you hinge at the waist.

Looking Up While Moving Down 

Some people keep averting their eyes upwards as they pull at the waist. This mistake puts too much stress on the neck and forces you to arch the lower back. 

The right thing to do is to look towards the floor as you hinge the waist. In this way, you can guarantee proper body alignment during a dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Conclusion 

You can bend lower and train the body harder as you continue to practice doing a Romanian deadlift with dumbbells. Just like with a traditional deadlift or any other exercise, make sure to take things slowly at first, impose safety guidelines, and you’ll eventually see benefits in your physical performance

Robert Lemus is natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.