Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: Benefits, Muscles Worked, and More

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
November 14, 2022

The lower body is involved in a variety of movements both in daily life and in athletic endeavors, and as such often requires some level of training so as to reduce the chance of injury and to improve their general function for the exerciser.

While there are a variety of exercises available for the training or rehabilitation of the legs, the dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a particular favorite of many athletic coaches and physical therapists owing to its low equipment requirement, relative ease of use and training effectiveness.

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a posterior chain compound exercise primarily performed, fittingly, with a pair of dumbbells held in both hands of the exerciser.

It is considered an excellent lower body compound exercise, both for athletes and for casual gym goers, as it can improve the utilization of form in other exercises, the general function of connective tissue and the muscular strength of the exerciser.

What is the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a closed kinetic chain compound exercise meant to strengthen or rehabilitate the various muscle groups located along the posterior chain, also known as the back of the legs, the buttocks, and the back of the torso.

This exercise is primarily performed standing up with a pair of dumbbells gripped in the exerciser's hand, and requires that the exerciser be capable and flexible enough to bend at the hips and knees, of which may be difficult for untrained members of the population or individuals with injuries.

dumbbell Romanian deadlift

As always, it is important to perform the dumbbell Romanian deadlift with the proper form so as to reduce or prevent the chance of injuries, increase the total training stimuli on the intended muscles as well as ingrain the movement pattern in the exerciser’s neurology.

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift may even aid in the exerciser’s control of their lower body, of which may be difficult for untrained or otherwise sedentary individuals to perform at will. This, in turn, may be applied to other exercises that require more direct activation of the muscle groups isolated by the dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

How is the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Performed?

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is performed by first planting the exerciser’s feet approximately shoulder-width apart and a pair of evenly weighted dumbbells gripped in both of their hands. Keep in mind that maintaining a straight spine by keeping the exerciser’s back and neck flat is vitally important so as to reduce the chance of injury while performing this exercise.

This may be facilitated by retracting the scapula, fixing the exerciser’s head forward and ensuring that their chest is puffed outwards so as to keep the spinal cord in a braced yet neutral position.

The exerciser must then bend at the waist and knees simultaneously, allowing their torso to fall forwards somewhat as the dumbbells are brought towards the ground in a slow and controlled movement. The heels of the exerciser should remain flat on the ground at all times, as any raising of the feet may indicate hamstring inflexibility.

dumbbell romanian deadlift steps

A good queue for the exerciser to pay attention to is a stretching feeling along the back of the legs, especially in the muscles beneath the buttocks as well as the buttock muscles themselves.

Once the dumbbells have reached approximately half way below the knee, depending on the exerciser’s own personal biomechanics, they must then enter the concentric portion of the exercise by reversing the movement.

This is done by the exerciser simultaneously straightening both their hips and knees, essentially returning the starting position as they squeeze their gluteal muscles and retain the same straight spine as before.

This completes a single repetition of dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Who Should Perform the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift, when performed with proper form and an appropriate amount of weight, is suitable for the vast majority of the healthy population. However, certain individuals with injuries, inflexibilities or a certain training focus may be better off choosing different exercises to perform instead.

Individuals with hip injuries, quadricep femoris impingements, a history of patellar dislocations, lumbar spine injuries or any other sort of injury involving the tissues located throughout the legs and lower back should first consult a physical therapist or similar qualified professional prior to performing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Additionally, individuals with inflexible hamstrings and gluteal muscles in particular should take care before performing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, as a lack of flexibility in these particular muscle groups can result in injury owing to the stresses placed upon them during the exercise. It is best to warm up and thoroughly stretch these muscles prior to exercising them.

In the case of athletes wishing to train their posterior chain, however, certain other types of exercises may provide a more impactful and intense training stimuli, of which may be more beneficial to their training regimen, depending on the particular goals of the athlete.

What are the Benefits of the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift provides a myriad of positive effects to the exerciser if performed properly, ranging from improved bone density to a noticeable improvement in athletic ability, depending both on the intensity of the exercise as well as the method of training utilized therein.

Health Benefits

Much like the majority of weighted resistance exercises, the dumbbell Romanian deadlift provides significant positive changes to the human body when performed repeatedly over the course of many workout sessions, such as the strengthening of joints, the reinforcement of musculoskeletal tissue, and the improvement of the circulatory system.

However, this is not to say that dumbbell Romanian deadlifts do not provide short-term improvements, even after a single repetition, as it can impart certain anabolic hormone improvements as well as an increase in cellular insulin sensitivity, both of which improve the general health of the exerciser in totality.

Posture Benefits

Considering the fact that the lumbar spine and gluteal muscle groups are the base of correct posture in humans, exercising the muscles surrounding these areas aids in distributing the weight of the torso evenly across the body, thereby improving posture and reducing the chance of posture-related injuries.

Athletic Benefits

Perhaps the largest beneficial effect from the dumbbell Romanian deadlifts are the athletic performance improvements imparted by the exercise. 

The posterior chain is responsible for a large portion of the explosive power generated during certain movements primarily used in athletic endeavors, such as the act of jumping, of which generated significant force from the gluteus maximus and nearby muscle groups.

Thus, the addition of dumbbell Romanian deadlifts to an athlete’s training program can be directly responsible for noticeable advancements in their athletic abilities and general performance during sports by triggering muscular hypertrophy in the posterior chain as well as improving neuromuscular fiber recruitment on command.

Training Benefits

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift can improve other areas of training by improving the general brain-muscle connection to the posterior chain and its subsequent musculature. This can aid in maintaining proper form during heavier and more intense compound exercises, such as the ordinary barbell deadlift.

Additionally, the natural motion of maintaining a straight spinal cord and braced core while under mechanical stress that is ingrained into the muscle memory of the exerciser while repetitively performing this exercise.

This may also aid in the rehabilitation of muscular imbalances in certain muscle groups of the body, as the nature of dumbbell exercises can act as a unilateral training stimulus despite both sides of the body acting simultaneously during this exercise.

What Muscles are Involved in the Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is classified as a compound exercise and as such involves the usage of more than a single muscle group in order to perform. This can be beneficial in training regimens that require large scale muscular recruitment or in individuals with only a short window of time in which they may perform their exercises.

The main muscle groups acting as primary movers in the dumbbell Romanian deadlift are the various muscles in the hamstrings, namely the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris, which is not to be confused with the biceps brachii that is located on the anterior portion of the upper arms.

Included also as primary mover muscles are gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, all of which provide significant driving force and a stretching reflex to the exercise during both the concentric and eccentric portion of the movement.

As stabilizers, the many smaller muscles located throughout the forearms help balance the dumbbells as the exerciser bends forward, during which the erector spinae and abdominal stabilizers are also brought into play in order to stabilize the torso and reduce the chance of the exerciser injuring themselves.

What is the Difference Between the Barbell and Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift?

Primarily, the barbell Romanian deadlift acts as a more bilateral exercise owing to the nature of a barbell being only a single object, forcing both sides of the exerciser’s body to work together as the exercise is performed. 

While this may also apply to the act of performing a dumbbell Romanian deadlift, the unique weight distribution of utilizing two separate weighted dumbbells alters the biomechanics of this exercise incrementally.

romanian deadlift

Additionally, the use of dumbbells while performing the Romanian deadlift aids in ensuring a reduction of injury by providing a more balanced distribution of mechanical stress over the exerciser’s torso and spinal cord, of which will also decrease the odds of developing muscular imbalances over the course of multiple training sessions.

However, this may be offset by the use of a barbell while performing the Romanian deadlift, of which will allow a somewhat more intense level of training stimuli to be applied to the exerciser as a larger amount of weight may be used with both sides of the body acting in tandem during the exercise.


1. Lars L Andersen, Michael Kjær, Christoffer H Andersen, Peter B Hansen, Mette K Zebis, Klaus Hansen, Gisela Sjøgaard, Muscle Activation During Selected Strength Exercises, Physical Therapy, Volume 88, Issue 6, 1 June 2008

2. Kavadlo, Al (17 November 2009). "Squats and Deadlifts". Al Kavadlo.

3. Sangwoo Lee, Jacob Schultz, Joseph Timgren, Katelyn Staelgraeve, Michael Miller, Yuanlong Liu, An electromyographic and kinetic comparison of conventional and Romanian deadlifts, Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, Volume 16, Issue 3, 2018, Pages 87-93,ISSN 1728-869X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesf.2018.08.001.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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