5 RDL Variations That Will Light You Up

Nail your glutes and hamstrings with these powerful Romanian deadlift variations.

The RDL is a hip-hinging movement pattern. Anytime you hinge at the hips, whether it’s an RDL, conventional deadlift, or good morning, you’re mainly going to use a combination of the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes.

That said, plenty of variations can change the training effect and which muscles are primarily recruited.

1. Banded Dumbbell RDL

The band increases the demand on your lower back as your hips extend forward and you reach the lockout position.

2. Banded RDL (Feet Flexed)

This version is very hamstring dominant.

3. Staggered Stance RDL with Hip Circle

The Hip Circle by Mark Bell is a remarkable piece of equipment. If you feel like your glutes are “sleeping” and need a kick in the ass (pun intended), do yourself a favor and get one now.

Contralateral loading (holding the kettlebell in your right hand with your left leg forward, and vice versa) is usually what I recommend with staggered or unilateral variations. It simulates a natural gait or walking motion.

During a regular stride, your right arm swings forward as you step forward with your left leg, and vice versa. If your right arm went forward with your right leg as you walked, it would look pretty weird.

That said, you can still use ipsilateral (same side) loading for RDLs if you prefer.

4. Elevated Dumbbell RDL with Chains

These look cool and make a lot of noise, which is the main part of what makes an exercise effective.

Why chains over bands? They’re both great. Bands offer more of a consistent load whereas chains tend to swing all over the place. You have to work harder to stabilize and engage your lats throughout the entire range of motion.

Why elevated? You can use longer chain links and increase the amount of accommodating resistance.

5. Reverse Lunge or Single-Leg RDL

It’s a two-for-one special. You may have done RDL-to-lunge variations in the past, but this one is different. Here you have constant glute and hamstring engagement. There’s not one point of rest throughout the entire movement.

Initiate by hinging forward into a single-leg RDL. Once you’ve reached the bottom of the hinge, drop your back knee to the floor into a lunge position.

From there, push through your front leg and hinge forward with your back leg coming off the floor. Go back and forth between these two positions and try not to cry.

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