How The Dumbbell RDL Is A Great Deadlift Variation

dumbbell RDL

Build strength in your legs and back with this great exercise.

The dumbbell RDL, short for Romanian deadlift, is an exercise many of us have potentially tried. But for those who have not, this alternative exercise is one to really give you a great chance at seeing great gains in your lower body and back while promoting better form. It is challenging, but can be satisfying once you nail this down for developing these muscles will prove to help your results greatly.

Why care about our legs and back? Both of these muscle groups work to promote balance in us either for sport specific or more functional movements and as a result, we are better able to tackle any challenge that comes our way. Having strong legs also promotes power and speed, while a strong lower back will assist with our posture and overall form. The dumbbell RDL is a great exercise to help with both these muscle groups as we seek the best for our gains.


Let’s take a look at the dumbbell RDL and see what makes this exercise so great. From what it is, to muscles worked, the many benefits associated with it, and how to perform it, you will have all the information you need to take this exercise head on. Plus, you won’t be disappointed by the results.

What Is The Dumbbell RDL?

The dumbbell RDL is a great strength building exercise for your lower body and back. This is designed to boost strength, but also power, speed, balance, and explosivity. A nice alternative to the deadlift (1), you don’t lift nearly as much weight, but you do focus on form, allowing for mind-muscle connection work to be done, while also preventing injury.

For those wanting to do more compound movements, by increasing strength in your posterior chain, this helps strengthen those muscles needed down the line. While this exercise can be done with a barbell, using the dumbbell allows you to focus on any muscle imbalances that may hurt your gains and overall results.

Muscles Worked

With the dumbbell RDL, the main muscles worked from your lower body are your hamstrings and glutes, and from your upper body is your lower back. This is a result of engagement pre-movement, as well as during, with your hamstrings and low back feeling a stretch throughout while your glutes are engaged for balance and better stability.  By focusing on the posterior chain, you also allow yourself a better foundation for those compound movements that may come up on other training days (2).

Other muscles that do feel some work done are your core muscles as a result of increased engagement, your traps and forearms from the necessary grip, and your back as a whole since this movement does require real stability. By working so many muscles, you can get your body in tune with itself so when those bigger lifts roll around, you have no problem taking them on.

best dumbbell workouts

Benefits Of The Dumbbell RDL

The benefits of this exercise, while of course include strength building, will make you want to try this, especially for those athletes looking to take their abilities to the next level.


Benefits of the dumbbell RDL include:

  • Increased strength: Build more strength in your hamstring, glutes, and low back, as well as other muscles needed for the movement.
  • Promote balance: As a challenging exercise, and one that requires your core engagement for stability, you can build a better foundation for balance that translates to other parts of your workouts (3).
  • Promote better form: Needing to put a real emphasis on form, you can build mind-muscle connection and stay free of injury (4).
  • Learn better hip mechanics: Our hips tend to be vulnerable and learning how to properly use them, especially with weight attached, can be a game changer in the long run.
  • Nice deadlift variation: Slide this into your workout for a deadlift variation that works to build strength with less weight needed, while still preventing unnecessary injury.

How To Perform This Exercise

Here are the steps for performing the dumbbell RDL. As said before, while this can be done with a barbell in similar fashion, using dumbbells allows you to build better grip strength and tackle any unfortunate muscle imbalances.

  1. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your grip will be overhand.
  2. Engage your core as you get ready to begin the movement. Be sure to keep your chest up.
  3. Bending slightly at the knees, hinge from your waist and lower the weights to the ground. Your arms will be straight and you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and low back.
  4. When ready, slowly return to the starting position while keeping your core engaged.
  5. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

shaker bottles

Best Way To See Increased Growth

For those of us looking to see increased growth, looking to those supplements that can help us is incredibly important. For some essentials, a pre-workout, intra-workout BCAA, and protein powder are all great to have and will work wonders for our pre-, mid-, and post-workout gains. Other supplements that work well after performing the dumbbell RDL are creatine for boosting strength and size as well as casein protein for that overnight repair as your body looks to recover and heal those worn down leg and back muscles.

Wrap Up

The dumbbell RDL is a great exercise to really focus on your posterior chain while building strength in your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. By putting an emphasis on these muscles you work for power, speed, balance, and explosivity while of course building overall strength. A challenging exercise, this is a great one to replace the deadlift for you will still see gains without the additional risk of injury. Give the dumbbell RDL a try and see how this fits into your routine.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Bird, S.; et al. (2010). “Exploring the Deadlift”. (source)
  2. Ridder, E.; et al. (2013). “Posterior muscle chain activity during various extension exercises: an observational study”. (source)
  3. Iacono, A.; et al. (2016). “Core stability training on lower limb balance strength”. (source)
  4. Calatayud, J.; et al (2016). “Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.