Dumbbell RDL (How To, Coaching Points, Muscles Worked)


The dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is a lower-body exercise that is used primarily as an accessory movement to help lifters gain strength and hypertrophy for their hamstrings and glute muscles.

In this article, I am going to explain how to properly execute the dumbbell RDL, some coaching points, muscles worked, and give some alternatives.

How To Do Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts

Equipment Needed

  • Dumbbells (Kettlebells can also be used in place of dumbbells)

Step-by-Step Instruction

  • With the two dumbbells or kettlebells at your feet, you should hinge at the waist and bend at the knee, keeping a nice flat back, and lift the dumbbells off the ground.
  • Standing nice and tall, squeeze the shoulder blades back and create tension in the abdomen.
  • Keeping a neutral spine, fixing the eyes forward (DO NOT CRANE THE NECK BACK).
  • Initiate the movement by pushing the hips back, hinging at the waist, and keeping a slight bend in the knee.
  • The eccentric movement will continue until the dumbbells are about 3/4 down your shins.
  • Once the dumbbells are about 3/4 of the way down your shins, start to extend the hips, keeping tension in the abdomen and keeping the upper back nice and tight, straightening the knees until you return to standing in the starting position.

Coaching Points

It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back. Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering the weight) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing the weight back up).

Muscles Worked

  • Hamstrings
  • Glute Muscles
  • Upper and Lower Back

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift Alternatives

Kettlebell Sumo Deadlift

A kettlebell sumo deadlift is an exercise where the lifter straddles the kettlebell with the handle beneath them and performs the deadlift with a “sumo” stance.

Banded Good Mornings

A banded good morning is an exercise where the lifter puts a band around their neck, resting on the traps (remember don’t crane the neck upward), and performs the hip hinge pattern which would be identical to the dumbbell RDL.

This is beneficial for novice lifters looking for a different form of resistance and also serves as a great warm-up movement for the more experienced lifter getting ready for squats and deadlifts.


A hyperextension is an exercise where the lifter locks themselves into a glute-ham raise machine, facing the floor. The athlete should ensure the crease of their hip is at the edge of the pad as they fully extend their body (always remember to have your feet locked in so you don’t faceplant).

The athlete will control themselves down, keeping good tension in the abdomen, until their torso is about perpendicular to the floor. At this point the athlete will perform the concentric movement, using their hamstrings, low back, and glutes to lock in the repetition at the top of the movement.

More Links and Info

Looking for more great Lower Body Lifts? Head over to the exercise library where there is a great collection of exercises with step-by-step instructions. All for free.


Christian Gangitano has 6 years of experience coaching collegiate sports performance. He coached field and court sport athletes at Longwood University, University of Richmond, and Elon University.

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