Romanian deadlifts are absolutely unrivaled when it comes to exercises that strengthen the lower back and hamstrings. So much so, in fact, that very few exercises can even provide half of the same benefits.
Well, we decided to do our research and discovered seven of the best Romanian deadlift alternatives that really work.
Table of Contents
1. Straight-leg Deadlift
The straight-leg deadlift is often confused with the Romanian deadlift, but rest assured, they’re different. The key difference is that this exercise calls for you to keep your back and legs completely straight.
In terms of form, the biggest difference is that the straight-leg deadlift tasks you with bringing the weight all the way to the floor rather than stopping around the ankles. Plus, you can use any type of weight, so a barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbells will do just fine.
Heck you can even use this Adjustable Kettlebell Sandbag by Ludus Imperium. It’s super convenient since you can adjust the weight at a fraction of the cost of what most adjustable kettlebells cost.
- Grip some type of weight (barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbells) in front of you with an overhand grip.
- Keeping your back and legs entirely straight, bend over forward so your body’s at approximately a 90-degree angle and the weight is dangling around your ankles.
- Work up some strength in your hamstrings and your lower back to return to your starting position.
2. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift
If you notice that one leg is doing a little bit more work during your RDL, it might be a good idea to work on each leg independently. That’s where the single-leg Romanian deadlift makes its big entrance.
Since you’re just focusing on one leg at a time, you’re going to be replacing that barbell with a kettlebell or a dumbbell. We recommend the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Weights because of how quickly you can switch from one weight to the next.
Just keep in mind that the single-leg version does call for a lot more balance, so don’t go too heavy too soon.
- Hold a weight in one hand and securely plant the opposite foot on the floor
- Keeping your back and your planted leg straight, begin to lean forward until your body is at a 90-degree angle and the weight is near the floor (your other leg will raise).
- Use your lower back to help you return to your starting position while keeping your balance.
3. Sumo Deadlift
Just like squats, there are plenty of different variations when it comes to the deadlift. So, the sumo deadlift hits all the same muscles as the regular deadlift but also touches on the upper back a little bit more.
The key difference here is in the stance. When you’re preparing for a sumo deadlift, you’ll go a little wider at the feet than you would for a normal deadlift, which will allow you to target the hamstrings and glutes a bit more.
- Use a mixed grip to grasp a barbell in front of you, but position your feet a bit wider than you would for a regular squat or deadlift.
- Push up off the floor with both feet to get into an upright standing position.
- Slowly lower yourself back down until the barbell is resting on the floor.
4. Barbell Good Morning
When doing the RDL, you’re holding the weight in front of you and it sort of forces your upper body downward. When you use too heavy of a weight, that’s what makes it so easy to lose form in the upper back and puts you at risk for injury.
The barbell good morning requires you to balance the barbell on your upper back instead. That way, you can be sure that your upper back is completely straight during the entire motion.
- Position a weighted barbell on your back as if you were going to perform a back squat.
- While keeping your legs and back entirely straight, lean forward as if you were folding your body to a 90-degree angle.
- Recruit some strength in your lower back and hamstrings to return to a fully upright position.
5. Weighted Hyperextension
There’s no doubt that the RDL is great for the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, but it’s always a good idea to hit each muscle group individually as well. So, the weighted hyperextension is one of the best exercises when it comes to targeting the glutes a little bit more.
What’s most beneficial about this exercise is that you can use just your bodyweight. But, you can also begin to grasp a weight (kettlebell or dumbbell) in your hands while doing this exercise when you get a bit stronger.
- Maneuver yourself into the hyperextension equipment grasping a weight plate or kettlebell in your hands (optional).
- Begin with your back completely straight outward and extend your back until your body is completely straight in the machine.
- Keeping your back straight, slowly lower yourself to your starting position.
6. Leg Curl
You might love doing intense powerlifting exercises, but it’s okay to return to the basics every once in a while. You’re obviously looking to improve the strength in your hamstrings, so why not just use a machine built exactly for that?
The best part of using the leg curl machine is that it helps to guide you through the entire movement. So, there’s significantly less strain on your lower back and much less risk of injury.
- Adjust the leg curl machine so that your legs are slightly bent (not entirely straight!) and supported on the padded bar.
- Holding onto the grips with your hands, use the strength in your upper legs to bring the padded section down as far as possible.
- Slowly reduce the tension in your muscles and return to your starting position.
7. Walking Lunge
We know what you’re thinking – Aren’t lunges used to work on the quads? Technically yes, but lunges are actually some of the best exercises when it comes to boosting hamstring strength as well.
And, the deeper the lunge, the more you’re hitting the hamstrings.
With the walking lunge, you can use dumbbells or a barbell (depending on your strength) and easily perform one repetition after another. Like we mentioned before, we recommend the Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Weights. Not only can you switch the weights quickly, but Bowflex gives a two year warranty on these bad boys.
- Support a barbell on your back or have one dumbbell in each hand.
- Take a large step forward and lower yourself down so your front leg is at a 90-degree angle (your back leg will be at a significant angle as well).
- Push up off the ground with the front foot and bring your back leg to the same location as your front leg.
- Repeat with the opposite leg in a forward motion.
Romanian Deadlift Alternatives Conclusion
It’s safe to say that your quest for the perfect Romanian deadlift alternatives is officially over. There’s no need to entirely replace the RDL if you truly love doing them, but it’s always good to add a little variation.
So, try swapping in some of the exercises above to keep your workouts a bit more interesting!