Also mentioned as RDL, the Romanian deadlift is not limited to encouraging the growth of your posterior body chain but can be flexibly included in many strength-based training programs. Although it is quite readily perceived as a supplementary lift with submaximal efforts or loads, performing it more often has multiple benefits. 

However, there might be certain shortcomings on the part of the trainee, especially if s/he is a beginner, such as poor knowledge of hip-hinge mechanics, lack of control as that necessary for a lifter, or limited flexibility which might impede them from training with RDLs. 

Take a breath of relief because RDL does have alternative exercises to try which targets the same muscle groups, with maybe a little more or less intensity, to provide the trainee with the exercise’s benefits. It repatterns and teaches the practitioner a grasp on the foundational movement. 

What Muscles Does the Romanian Deadlift Work?

If you are training your body to develop sound hip health, hinge action, muscle growth, athletic/ strength endurance, and muscular power, you may not want to miss out on the Romanian deadlift. This powerful workout finds itself getting incorporated in the training regime of most weightlifters, powerlifters, and professional athletes for upscaling their lower body strength which has a major role to play in building stability as well.

Primarily, RDLs target the gluteus, back, inner thighs, and hamstring. However, it also works the trapezius, forearm, and grip strength to develop a better postural control for several different workouts such as squats, conventional or sumo deadlifts, grapple, snatch, and cleans.

Added to muscular hypertrophy of the hamstrings and back, the beginners can learn to improve their forms and technique for maximal and maximal lifts. Since it strengthens the posterior chain, it can boost the power transferred to running or leg strength.

Criteria For An Exercise to Be A Good Alternative To Romanian Deadlift  

To qualify as an effective Romanian deadlift substitute a workout or set of movements involved in the workout has to target the muscle groups that Romanian deadlift targets as well. To repeat what we have discussed previously, the Romanian deadlift targets the muscles including Glutes, Low Back, Adductor Magnus (inner thigh), and Hamstrings. 

Nevertheless, the movements of the Romanian deadlift workout dominantly train the hip extensors. The barbell raised and reversed to the initial position utilizes the power of the hips and works the main pivot joint at the hip’s hinges. Unlike squats that put knees and hips into extending or raising the weight, the Romanian Deadlift keeps the knees relatively stable and unmoved. 

Therefore, squats may not serve as the right alternative to the exercise. What we are essentially trying to point out is that besides targeting the right group muscles, the best Romanian deadlift alternatives must not unnecessarily incorporate heavy movements of knees or other parts over the hip joint.

6 Best Romanian Deadlift Alternatives You Can Add In Your Lower Body Days 

1. Good Mornings 

Good mornings are recommendable only if you have a decent familiarity with complex barbell movements that might include the kinds of the back squat, front squat, or deadlift. It involves strong lifting mechanics where the trainee needs to know how to keep the spine strain-free or neutral while implementing a hip-hinge movement in the right form.

If you have a fair idea of how to maintain the correct lift form and still want better security, you may use a resistance band in place of a barbell. A booty band may allow you more freedom and flexibility to move without fearing that the barbell might fall or hurt you. Focus on experiencing a burn in your glutes and lower back as you perform the exercise.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Hold the barbell to your back just as you would do with a back squat
  2. Tighten and contract the lats while pulling the barbell back
  3. Slightly bend the knees, hinging forward, and folding your torso in the middle.
  4. Stop as you feel an engagement or stretch in your hamstrings or when your back gets parallel to the ground.
  5. Don’t round your back through the movement and utilize the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back for standing up with the weight

2. Loaded Glute-Ham Raises 

If your gym provides access to a GHR machine, the workout can help strengthen the posterior body chain. To go into the deep skin of science, the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris or the leg biceps make up your hamstring muscles that stretch from the medial side to the lateral side of the leg. This Romanian Deadlift alternative works the three muscles extensively besides requiring some engagement of the calves.

This one is an effective RDL alternative to be done with home workouts as well. You need not necessarily have the equipment, a carpet and the underside of your bed or sofa works just fine. What’s more, glute ham raises are one of the best body weight hamstring builders rivaling the efficacy of weighted exercises.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Adjust the footpads and ankle pads to your comfort and security. The height of the ankle pads must be fixed in a way giving a slightly upward angle to your shins as your feet reach the plate, placing your torso vertically.
  2. Place your feet pointing straight down almost hip-width apart. Turn your toes a little outwards to easily hold the form. Push your body up till vertical forcing your arms on the large pad. 
  3. Hold the kneeling position tall and extend your knees slowly to lower your body. 
  4. As your torso gets parallel to the ground, hinge your hips and bend to dip a few inches below the parallel. Don’t release the pressure from the hamstrings or round the lower back.
  5. Stretch your hips to roll your feet into the footplate. Raise your heels off the plate. Pull your body back to an upright position pushing through the big pads. 

3. Seated Leg Curls 

seated leg curl alternative for romanian deadlifts

This workout also requires equipment at the gym to perform seated leg curls. It is essentially useful for powerlifters and gives them improved assistance in their basic or foundational techniques. A leg curl machine is stabilizing in itself and can guide even beginners through the right movement of performing a lift using the lower body strength. This also does risk the lower back to chances of injury. 

Seated leg curls target the hamstrings, glutes, and also core muscles. Since it incorporates hinge movements at the hips and gives a good knowledge of stabilizing the lower body as well as the core, it is an amazing alternative to the Romanian Deadlift.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Adjust the leg curl machine in a way that your legs are bent at the slightest angle and are not completely straight. Make sure that they are supported fairly on the padded bar.
  2. Hold on to the grip bars using your arms and engage the strength in your upper legs and thighs, especially the hamstrings to take the padded section as down as you can.
  3. Gradually release the tension in your leg muscles, slow and controlled to return to your starting position.

4. Kettlebell Swings 

Kettlebell swings are hip-dominant exercises just as Romanian Deadlifts. It demands a full-body movement from the quads, extension of knees to your core and back muscles. The workout also engages the torso, while keeping it stable and placing the spine in a neutral position. The shoulders are also put in work as stabilizers that control the swings of the kettlebell. Basically, a lot of muscle groups from your calves to your arms are engaged as you perform the movement. However, what brings it closer to a Romanian Deadlift is the focus on the hip hinge, which is operated by the glutes and hamstrings.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Stand upright at about one-foot distance from the kettlebell on the ground, placing your feet at shoulder-width distance. Bend at your torso and grip the kettlebell handle with your palms facing the body and torso parallel to the floor.
  2. Lift the kettlebell and keep it free for swinging between your legs. You must bend slightly while doing the movement but keep the spine straight.
  3. Bring your hips forward, squeezing the glutes to swing the weight forward. Make sure it does not rise above your shoulder. 
  4. Allow the weight to be driven back to the way between your legs and keep the swig of the kettlebell fluid.

5. Glute Bridges 

glute bridge alternative for romanian deadlift

Also known as a hip-thrust variant, glute bridges are one of the most effective substitutes to Romanian deadlift, that dominantly target the hip extensor muscles with almost the same intensity. It activates the glutes and hamstrings as much power as the Romanian Deadlift. As the name suggests, glute bridges or hip thrusts require you to push your hips towards the ceiling while engaging the gluteal muscles maximally at the highest possible position. There are multiple variations of the workout but to get closest to the Romanian Deadlift, you’d need to add resistance to the movement using a barbell. 

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Rest your upper back on a raised platform or a bench with you laying with your face up.
  2. Place the barbell across the pelvic region and keep your feet a little outside of a shoulder-width distance, flaring your toes slightly
  3. Set your feet in a position so that when you reach the highest point of the movement your knees are bent at 90-degrees
  4. Push your feet on the floor and drive your hips up to the ceiling. 
  5. Squeeze your glutes enough to acquire a total extension tucking against the pelvis that supports the weight
  6. The upper back and shoulders must push into the bench. Keep your chin tucked as well

6. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts 

A single-leg Romanian deadlift with dumbbells could be seen as a unilateral movement sort of variation to the barbell Romanian deadlift. It works the hips, gluteal muscle, and core in accordance with the movement. It is highly functional in nature and incorporates athletic pace. Nevertheless, it also finds a mention in a number of regimes followed by athletes.

They train each side independently which means you will have to perform them on either side alternatively. It prevents both overtraining or overusing of the ‘stronger’ side besides assisting you in fixing muscular imbalances. There’s also the added benefit of injury prevention and rehabilitation while stabilizing your workout posture.

The Correct Way To Do It

  1. Hold dumbells in each hand and bend your right leg slightly forming the hips square 
  2. Keeping the hips square to the floor for the entire time, place your left leg behind. Hold your spine straight 
  3. Dumbbells should hang before you with arms hanging forward in a natural move.
  4. As your back stays parallel to the floor, employ your right glute to drag your body back upright
  5. Repeat with the reps equally, altering the position of both legs.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Romanian deadlift (RDL) is a strength training exercise that targets the muscles of the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It involves hinging at the hips and lowering a barbell or dumbbells towards the ground while keeping the knees slightly bent and the back straight. You may want to consider doing an alternative exercise if you have a history of lower back pain or if you are looking to target similar muscle groups in a different way.

Some alternative exercises that can target the same muscle groups as a Romanian deadlift include:

  • Good mornings: This exercise involves hinging at the hips and lowering your upper body towards the ground while keeping your legs straight and your back straight. It can be done with a barbell or dumbbells.
  • Stiff-leg deadlifts: This exercise is similar to a Romanian deadlift, but with a greater range of motion and a straight leg position throughout the exercise.
  • Hip thrusts: This exercise involves lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground and lifting your hips up towards the ceiling while keeping your upper body on the ground. It can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or a resistance band.
  • Single leg Romanian deadlifts: This exercise involves hinging at the hip and lowering your body towards the ground on one leg while keeping the other leg off the ground. It can be done with a dumbbell in each hand.

Yes, many Romanian deadlift alternatives can be done with just your body weight. For example, you can do bodyweight hip thrusts or single leg Romanian deadlifts without any additional equipment. You can also use a resistance band to add resistance to bodyweight exercises like glute bridges or single leg glute bridges.

Yes, kettlebells can be a good option for Romanian deadlift alternatives. Kettlebell swings and single leg kettlebell deadlifts are two exercises that can target similar muscle groups as a Romanian deadlift.

Yes, dumbbells can be a good option for Romanian deadlift alternatives. Dumbbell good mornings, dumbbell stiff-leg deadlifts, and single leg Romanian deadlifts can all be done with dumbbells.

Yes, a barbell can be used for Romanian deadlift alternatives such as good mornings and stiff-leg deadlifts. However, it is important to use proper form and a weight that is appropriate for your fitness level to minimize the risk of injury.

The frequency of your Romanian deadlift alternatives will depend on your overall fitness goals and the intensity and volume of your workouts. In general, it is recommended to include exercises that target the muscles of the posterior chain at least twice per week as part of a well-rounded strength training routine. It is also important to allow adequate recovery time between workouts to allow your muscles to repair and rebuild.

Verdict – Can Romanian Deadlift Alternatives Be Just as Effective?

The Romanian Deadlift works a number of muscles. Developing an overall back strength is essential in improving positional strength for other lifts. Those Romanian deadlift substitutes or alternatives to stiff leg deadlifts can help one adapt to the actual lift’s form without risking major injuries. The aforementioned challenging alternative to the Romanian deadlift and targets the hamstrings offer an added benefit of boosting your force production, employing connective tissue, and generating greater muscle growth. 

If you wish to perform some Romanian Deadlift Alternatives at home or without equipment, there’s a fair chance you would reap the best benefits from single-leg glute bridges and floor-lying glute-ham raises. These are the floor-lying variations of hip thrust and glute-ham raise respectively. They are also simple to perform, for example, unlike the popular glute-ham raise, which necessitates a specialized GHR machine, the floor-lying glute-ham raise can be performed without any equipment or loads.

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